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For a Few Weeks, Horse Shows Alter a River Town

by SARAH MASLIN, New York Times

Every year, the elite competitive equestrian circuit makes its way around the country, from Ocala, Fla., to Culpeper, Va., to Thermal, Calif. These traveling troupes of privilege and skill also take with them small armies — of trainers, grooms, farriers, veterinarians, even equine acupuncturists and masseuses.

And for the last eight years, this band of competitors and assorted adjuncts have added a somewhat surprising destination to their junket: Saugerties, N.Y., a blue-collar town on the Hudson River about 110 miles north of New York City.

Eight years ago, HITS Incorporated, a company that produces equestrian competitions, built a $15 million showground here; the riders came. More than 3,000 horses and 2,200 competitive equestrians and their entourages descend on this village every summer. And the influx of a moneyed demographic and their free-flowing cash has played a part in transforming the town.

“I feel like Saugerties has won the lottery,” says Daisy Bolle who owns Dig, a high-end clothing shop on Partition Street in the village, which has 3,971 residents, according to the 2010 United States Census.

“When we first came to town, there were a lot of empty stores,” she says. “And now it feels really vibrant. It’s like having the Hamptons in your backyard.”

The Saugerties stage of the circuit has about 300 competitive heats, or classes, at various levels for riders to compete or show in per week, and it runs in three three-week bursts, beginning May 25 and ending Sunday. Olympians like Peter Leone, Nona Garson and Anne Kursinski, as well as top amateurs like Georgina Bloomberg, the daughter of New York City’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, have been regular competitors. Thomas G. Struzzieri, 52, the president and chief executive of HITS, has lived in Saugerties for 13 years and brought the state-of-the-art show grounds here, with its 12 giant barns equipped to hold 1,200 horses on 240 acres, five minutes from town.

“It had a charm I thought my customers might like,” he said of the town. Not to mention that it was also personally convenient. “When you run horse shows around the country, it’s nice to sleep in your own bed once in a while,” he said.

But unlike places like Culpeper, Saugerties is not traditionally horse country.

“It’s a blue-collar community for sure,” Struzzieri said, “but they’ve been really accepting of the horse clients, and they look at it as a great resource.”

But figuring out just how to roll out the welcome mat for the horse set has taken some trial and error.

At Inquiring Minds Bookstore and Cafe, Cheryl Rice, the store’s manager, set up a prominent display of books and manuals on all things equine in May. As of August, few had sold. “Maybe they didn’t have such a need for horse knowledge in book form,” she said, “because they’re already in the business.” Next year she may try horse novels.

At Dig, Bolle filled the shelves with horse-themed jewelry and equestrian print clothes her first year open. None sold, she says. “I think they don’t need the horsey stuff because they have horses,” she said. “What’s better than that?”

What did work was extending her store hours late into the night, a move followed by many other businesses, after realizing the riders’ competition schedules left little room for daytime shopping. On a particularly bustling Saturday night, she says, she has made up to an additional $10,000 from 6 to 11 p.m. “You have to make hay while the sun shines,” she said with a laugh.

The gingerbread ponies with white manes of royal icing flew off the shelves at Hudson Valley Dessert Company on Main Street at twice the rate of cookies shaped like the rest of the barnyard, Constance Bailey, the owner, said. Bailey goes through 150 of the $1 cookies on a horse show weekend, “which doesn’t exactly make us rich, but it makes us friends,” she said.
The influx of athletes, many with citified low-fat and low-carbohydrate tastes, has led her to change her menu. Bailey serves a salad with lime juice instead of dressing and whips up a cream-free soup specifically for when the riders are in town. On show weeks, she orders 300 extra pounds of flour, 45 dozen more eggs and 10 gallons of extra syrup from Breezy Maples Farms.

The riders’ presence accounts for $3,000 in extra business a week, Bailey says.
Down the street at Flanigans Cleaners, decals on the window spell out We Groom the Rider, a slogan the owner, Michael Flanigan, adopted after he realized that he too had a corner to grab in the riding market: the equestrian uniform, a dark jacket with a cotton blouse with a collar called a rat catcher, needs to be always sparkling. He dry cleans more than 2,000 of the shirts alone, at $4.50 apiece, every summer.

It would be difficult to find a business owner in town who does not sing the praises of the summer horse invasion, Flanigan said, but he acknowledged that conflicts had arisen.

Hulking pickup trucks hauling horse trailers caused knots of traffic in the early years and sparked local complaints until places like the hardware store took it upon themselves to hand out maps to the newcomers.

There are also less tangible tensions. The median per capita income in Saugerties is a little more than $20,000, and equestrian competitions are famously the sport of kings.

On a personal level, there can arise the same types of resentments that crop up between working-class residents of the Hamptons and the deep-pocketed set that goes there to play.
In October, Struzzieri plans to open Diamond Mills Hotel and Tavern, a boutique hotel and conference center overlooking the Esopus Creek waterfall, which cost $12 million to $14 million to build and will charge guests up to $400 a night.

“Do I believe that the horse show changed the town? I think it’s worked well in this town,” he said, pointing to economic blows the area has weathered like the shutting in 1994 of the I.B.M. plant in nearby Kingston, N.Y., which employed around 1,500 people. “I think the horse show has been a part of this community finding its way.”

On a Saturday night this summer, clumps of women and girls in pastel polo shirts, tall polished black boots and tan britches with suede patches jammed Stella’s Station, an ice cream parlor on Partition Street. On the opposite side of the counter, a team of young female employees scooped frozen treats, sweating. In the parking lot of the fully-booked Comfort Inn on Route 32 North, off-duty grooms smoked and traded horse stories in Spanish.

Around 10 p.m. two customers lingered at Emiliani Ristorante on Ulster Avenue, huddled close over a plate of linguine, discussing the merits of a chestnut-colored mare. “People will say, Ugh, the restaurants are so crowded when they’re here,” said Bolle, the owner of Dig. “But I say, Yes, but we get to have that restaurant all year round. And if they weren’t here, I don’t know if we would or not.”

Fall is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs

by Mary Beth Breckenridge

When fall is in the air, it's time to put spring in the ground. Autumn is the time for planting the bulbs that will burst into bloom come spring. Sure, it's delayed gratification, but the cheery appearance of crocuses and daffodils at the end of a bleak winter will be worth the wait.

And here's the best part: Planting spring bulbs doesn't take a lot of effort. You dig a hole, you drop in the bulb, and you cover it with soil.

That's the message Dutch bulb growers are trying to get out with their new campaign, Dig.Drop.Done.

"They're so easy to plant. They come with everything they need for the first growing season," said Amy Dube, a flower bulb expert with the Dig.Drop.Done Foundation, an educational effort being backed by members of Holland's Royal Trade Association for Nursery Stock and Flower Bulbs. "You really can't go wrong."

Flower bulbs contain all the nutrients the plant will need to grow and bloom the first year, so there's no need to fertilize newly planted bulbs, Dube said. And because rain is usually plentiful in fall, you probably won't even need to water, other than giving the bulbs a good drink when you first plant them.

Bulb experts usually recommend planting bulbs when nighttime temperatures drop into the low 50s or 40s for two weeks. There's no real need to monitor the weather, though. When it's sweater weather, it's time to plant, said Sally Ferguson, director of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.

 Ideally you want to plant once the soil cools but before the first hard frost, although you can even plant in December as long as you can still dig, she said.

Even if you're not ready to plant, McCulloh recommended buying bulbs as early as you can. If you wait too long, your favorites might be gone, she said. Look for bulbs that are firm, and keep them in a cool, dark place until you put them in the ground.

Don't fret if the papery skin is broken or missing, Ferguson said. It won't affect the bulb's survival.

Choose a planting spot where the soil drains well, since bulbs might rot in conditions that are too wet. Spring-flowering bulbs like sun, but you can plant under trees or shrubs that will still be bare of leaves when the flowers bloom, Dube said.

Some people like to scatter early bloomers such as crocuses on a lawn and just plant them where they drop, knowing they'll bloom well before the grass needs cutting.

The rule of thumb is the planting hole should be about three times the length of the bulb, but it's best to follow the instructions on the packaging, Dube said. You can dig individual holes for each bulb, or dig a wider hole or trench that can hold a number of bulbs.

The bulb should be planted pointy side up, but that's not crucial. The emerging shoot will find its way up and out of the soil, even if you plant the bulb upside down, Dube said.

Mulch is a good idea, but Ferguson recommended waiting until the ground gets cold before adding it. Otherwise, "you're just creating a warm bed for little voles and mice," which might snack on your bulbs, she said.

McCulloh thinks bulbs look best planted in drifts or masses rather than in lines. Plant at least 25, if you have the room, she said.

Ferguson likes to plant in a diamond shape, with the point toward the viewing area. That gives an illusion of abundance, she said.

But stay away from patterns that are too strictly geometric, McCulloh cautioned. "Guaranteed one won't come up, and it'll ruin the whole design," she said.

Consider planting with perennials that share similar growing requirements and will leaf out as the bulbs' foliage dies back, McCulloh and Dube suggested. The perennials will hide the fading leaves, which need to be left in place until they've yellowed. That allows the plants to use the sun's energy to recharge the bulbs with nutrients for the next year.

Some bulbs, such as daffodils and crocuses, can be counted on to reappear and spread year after year. Others, including most kinds of tulips, are better treated as annuals, since they get smaller with each reappearance.

Which bulbs should you plant?
Whatever flowers and colors you like, the experts say.

McCulloh, for instance, is partial to glory-of-the-show, a charming flower the blooms early and comes in pink, white and a vibrant blue she loves. Dube plan to combine pink and orange this year, but she also likes the striking combination of white and black - well, really a very dark purple.

It just depends on what says renewal to you.
Think joy. Think freshness. Think spring.

Keeping critters from digging up your bulbs or munching on your spring flowers can be a challenge. Here are some strategies for discouraging squirrels, deer and other marauders:

-Plant flowers the animals don't like. A few suggestions are daffodils, fritillaries, alliums, scilla, chionodoxa, leucojum and galanthus.

-Wear gloves when you plant. Squirrels have come to associate the scent of humans with food.

-Clean up planting debris, such as the bulbs' papery skin. The scent of that debris can attract squirrels.

-Lay an old screen, some chicken wire or some other kind of mesh over the places where you've planted to make it hard for animals to dig there. Remove it once the ground has settled or frozen. You can even lay a sheet of chicken wire right on top of the bulbs in the ground, before you cover them with soil. The shoots will grow through the wire.

-Deer love tulips. If you must grow them, plant them close to the house, where deer are less likely to feed. However, know that some deer won't be easily deterred.

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Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
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