As a municipality, the Town of Esopus prides itself upon being 40 miles square, hosting a population of 9,500 and being bordered on three sides by water (the Hudson River to the east, the Rondout Creek on the north and the Wallkill River to the west). Its official website touts a mix of terrains, from hemlock-shrouded ponds and lakes, stone-studded and grass-softened creeks and streams and lush woodlands to wide lawnlike fields and clearings, small mountains and striking views in all directions. It notes being home to the likes of naturalist John Burroughs and human rights advocate Sojourner Truth, as well as countless artists and writers and even a presidential candidate: Alton Parker.
Most important, for its bicentennial celebration purposes, is the fact that Esopus – like all our local towns – is made up of a host of hamlets, some large, some blink-and-they’re-gone small: places like Sleightsburgh, Connelly, New Salem and St. Remy along the Rondout; Rifton and Dashville to the west, bordering the Wallkill; the long spread of recently reviving Port Ewen along the Hudson; and, farther south along the river flats and their inner line of rising hills, Esopus, Ulster Park, West Park and Union Center.
“The Town of Esopus has so much to offer our residents and visitors: historic homes and sites, vineyards, apple orchards, fishing, parks and preserves, museums and educational fare and many fine shops, restaurants and farmstands,” the town’s website says. “During the 18th century the Town of Esopus was part of the Esopus colony, the third Dutch settlement in America. The name Esopus was derived from the local Native American language meaning ‘land of flowing water and high banks…’ Join us at events celebrating the historical and natural heritage of the past 200 years! Look forward to narrated bus tours of the Town of Esopus, concerts, picnics, library events, parades, museum exhibits and other townwide activities!”
Things kick off this Saturday, June 4 with a Wallkill River Canoe & Kayak Paddle starting at Perrine’s Bridge and the Woodcrest Community near Rifton (visit www.esopuspreservation.org for full info) and a “River Day” focus on the town at the Hudson River Maritime Museum across the Creek in Kingston to the north; details are at www.hrmm.org. On Sunday, June 5 the fabulous Klyne Esopus Museum along Route 9W south of Port Ewen opens the exhibit “200 Years of Life in Esopus”; visit www.klyneesopusmuseum.org.
Things continue from there all summer long. On Tuesday, June 14 at 11 a.m., a newly designed Town of Esopus flag will be raised at the Town Hall in Port Ewen. On Saturday, June 18 at 12 noon, there will be a Strawberry Social at the Klyne Esopus Museum, including a special showing of the 1959 film Celebrating 150 Years of Esopus. That same day offers the season opening of the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse, with tours departing the Hudson River Maritime Museum at 1 p.m. sharp, as well as a Fathers’ Day Family Fun event at the Town of Esopus Library; visit www.esopuslibrary.org.
Headless Horseman Hayrides, on Route 9W, has a special garden with tours, open June 19 to July 2. There’s going to be a Bicentennial Concert and Picnic at Freer Beach in Port Ewen on June 25, and a historical walk of that same community on July 9. There will be more paddles of the town’s various waterways (and borders) on July 16, August 20 and September 17. On July 31 there will be an outdoor mass and on August 2 an Army Division Band concert, again in Freer Park. A September 24 Fall Fair all around town will lead up to a massive finale on October 1, complete with model tugboat auctions and more town tours. Keep abreast of all that’s going on by checking the town’s website at www.esopus.com/bic_events.html.