82 Hot Summer Picks

What looks good on the entertainment front this season? We posed that question to Polly Sparling, our culture maven. Here are her sizzling suggestions.

82 Hot Summer Picks


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You’ve got some free time and have a yen for a little fun, but don’t have the faintest idea what to do or where to go. We asked our culture maven, Polly Sparling, some probing questions about the season’s bounty of activities, and she came up with a host of suggestions — everything from seeing a classic play to chowing down on lobster — that are guaranteed to add sizzle to anyone’s summer


Where can I hear great music?

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Just about anywhere — the Valley is a hotbed of classical festivals and outdoor pops concerts.


The venerable Maverick Concerts return to Woodstock, opening their season with Mozart (June 24) and ending with Schumann (Sept. 3). In between, you’ll hear string quartets, piano sonatas, cello suites — even Brazilian music
for kids (845-679-8217 or www.maverickconcerts.org).


If you can’t find something that strikes your fancy at the Caramoor International Music Festival, you must be tone-deaf. In its 61st year, the lineup includes bel canto opera, jazz, songs and musical theater works, and “extreme” chamber music — all performed by world-class musicians at the lavish house museum (June 24-Aug. 12; 914-232-1252 or www.caramoor.org).

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The life and music of Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt is center-stage at Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival. Taken together, these two related fests offer eight weeks of opera, orchestral music, theater, dance, cabaret, and film. New this year: performances for kids and families (June 29-Aug. 20; 845-758-7900 or www.fisher­- center.bard.edu).


It’s mostly Mozart at this summer’s Aston Magna Festival: four of their six performances feature works composed by the musical wunderkind. Bard College hosts the series on Friday evenings (June 30-Aug. 4; 800-875-7156 or www.astonmagna.org).


There’s no shortage of outdoor pops concerts, either. Some of our favorites: Midsummer Music with the Westchester Phil­har­monic at LasdonPark in Somers (July 8, 15, 22, 29; 914-682-3707 or www.westchesterphil.org); Summer Sunset Music Series at Cold Spring’s Riverfront Park, with great local performers like Dar Williams and Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams (July 2-Aug. 27; 845-265-3200 or www.cold­spring­cham­ber.com); and the granddaddy of them all, the Music Under the Stars series with the U.S. Military
Academy Concert Band at West Point’s Trophy Point Amphitheatre (June 4-Sept. 2; 845-938-2617 or www.usma.edu/band).


I want to see Broadway-quality theater. Do I have to go to the city?

Forget the train ride — the region is teeming with top-flight summer productions.

Inspired by a Japanese folk tale, The Cat, the Sun, and the Mirror is a family show about a feline detective searching for a special missing person (the sun). Ranging in style from ballads to calypso and jazz, the musical makes its world premiere at the New YorkState Theatre Institute (June 2-16; 518-274-3256 or www.nysti.org).


Barnum, the musical biography of legendary circus showman P.T. Barnum, includes unusual circus-ring staging and songs by Cy Coleman. The energetic production vaults its way into the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford (through July 8; 914-592-2222 or www.broadwaytheatre.com).


In Ulster County, Ellenville’s Shadowland Theatre offers a varied lineup. Told with humor and heart, The Drawer Boy is a drama about a young actor, two aging farmers, and the power of storytelling (June 16-July 9). My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra features 57 songs made immortal by Ol’ Blue Eyes (July 14-Aug. 6). An opera farce full of pratfalls and mistaken identities, Lend Me A Tenor brings the season to a close with a belly laugh (Aug. 11-Sept. 3; 845-647-5511 or www.shadowlandtheatre.org).


Back for its 20th year, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison has a new, state-of-the-art theatre tent and a modern take on two well-loved classics. The season begins with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s comic valentine to all of us foolish mortals (June 14-Sept. 3). Richard Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals — featuring the hilarious verbal eccentricities of the well-known character Mrs. Malaprop — keeps the laughs coming (July 19-Sept. 2; 845-265-7858 or www.hvshakes­peare.org).


The world premiere of Prairie by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Beth Henley, and a mainstage production of Daisy Foote’s Bhutan, are two highlights of the Powerhouse Theater’s upcoming schedule at Vassar College. Details were not final at press time, but look for this series to once again feature high-profile actors and provocative works (June 23-July 30; 845-437-7235 or powerhouse.vassar.edu).


Although they’re not on Broadway yet, don’t be surprised to see some of the young people involved in the Clarkstown Summer Theatre Festival listed in future copies of Playbill. This summer’s show — the popular musical Anything Goes — is produced entirely by Rockland County high school students with help from professional staff (Aug. 4-6, 9-12; www.summertheatrefestival.com).


Other than ballgames and beer fests, are there any events the man in my life might like?

Don’t forget: June 18 is Father’s Day. Treat Dad to a sundae at the annual Ice Cream Social held at Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site in Hyde Park (845-229-6432 or www.vanderbiltgarden.org).


If your guy loves tinkering at the  workbench, he’ll feel at home at “The Hands of Man,” an exhibit and demonstration of antique tools and gadgets at the Water Street Market Antiques Barn in New Paltz (June 18; 845-255-1403 or www.waterstreetmarket.com).




Or get his pulse racing with a trip to HITS-on-the-Hudson, the impressive equestrian facility in Saugerties. Their summer circuit includes seven hunter/jumper horse shows with over $1 million in prize money (845-246-5515 or www.hitsshows.com/saugerties).


And no serious football fan should miss the New York Giants training camp at the University at Albany. Practices and pre-season games get underway in July (518-442-7369 or www.giants.com).


The kids are driving us crazy. How can we keep them amused?

Puppets and kids go together. “The Joyous Art of Marionettes: Remembering Paul Peabody,” currently at the Historical Society of Rockland County in New City, includes a slew of the well-known puppeteer’s creations, as well as a hands-on area for little ones to explore (through June 11; 845-634-9629).


Having a good time while learning is the name of the game at the Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale. Their Springfair Family Fair includes games, music, hayrides, and a petting zoo — as well as a “Growing Green Expo” of eco-friendly products that will interest mom and dad (June 11; 914-723-3470 or www.greenburghnaturecenter.org).


Bop ’til you drop: Jeffrey Friedberg and the Bossy Frog Band — whose original music is featured on Sirius Radio — play four free concerts at the Nyack Farmer’s Market (June 29, July 13, July 27, Aug. 10; www.bossyfrog.com).


Wonder how kids passed the time in Colonial days? Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers sponsors “Sports and Games of the Past.” Learn traditional games, and make one of your own to take home (July 16; 914-965-4027 or www.philipsemanorfriends.org).


What child can resist watching horses thundering across the countryside? The Millbrook Horse Trials brings both international and local riders to town for cross-country and stadium competition; the meet benefits the Dutchess Land Conservancy (Aug. 12-13 and 19-20; 845-677-3002 or www.dutchess­land.org).


And if your spine needs tingling, join master yarn-spinner Kate Dudding for “Tall Tales from Historic Sites” at Albany’s Schuyler Mansion. After a few spooky stories, guests will gather around a campfire for s’mores — and to tell tales of their own (Aug. 26; 518-434-0834).


We like to work up a sweat. Where can we work out, outdoors?

Throughout the summer, Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New Paltz offers a variety of guided hikes, from birdwatching walks to strenuous uphill climbs. Got kids? No problem. Special treks for families with children in strollers and backpacks are on their schedule (845-255-2011 or www.minnewaska.org).


For those who prefer to go with the flow, the Great Hudson River Paddle returns for its sixth year. Experienced (read: very fit) kayakers can take part in the full 10-day jaunt from Albany to New York City. But landlubbers can join in on Day Paddles, which range in length from 10 to 20 miles (July 13-22; www.hrwa.org/ghrp).


Runners will be racing to New Paltz for the Shawangunk Running Camp. This weeklong camp/vacation offers coaching and training for adult runners of any ability, and features Olympian Todd Williams as a speaker (July 16-22; 845-255-8325 or www.gunksrunning.com). Looking for a change of pace from the typical road race? Try the 5K trail run at Locust Grove in Poughkeepsie. The carriage trails behind Samuel Morse’s historic home wind past waterfalls and scenic views of the Hudson — but be ready for an uphill climb to the finish (Aug. 2; 845-454-4500 or www.morsehistoricsite.org).


Those who count Lance Armstrong as a role model will want to join the Great Hudson Valley Pedal. The five-day, 200- mile bike tour starts in Albany, ends in New York City, and stops at historic and scenic sites along the way (Aug. 15-20; 518-434-1583 or www.ptny.org/hudsontour).


We’re in the mood for some good, old-fashioned fun. Any suggestions?

There are a passel of fests offering traditional food and activities. First up: the Clearwater Festival in Croton, which has great music and food — as well as an environmental conscience (June 17-18; www.clearwaterfestival.org). The Old Songs Festival brings three days of folk music to the Altamont Fairgrounds, along with workshops, a crafts show, and lots of stuff for kids to do (June 23-25; 518-765-2815 or www.oldsongs.org).


The charm of the Catskills lures fans to the Mountain Culture Festival in Hunter. Traditional music and entertainment, films, food, and arts exhibits — including over 100 handmade quilts — are all part of this two-day event (July 8-9; 518-263-4908 or www.catskillmtn.org/mcf).


And don’t forget the county fairs. Orange County starts things off with the 166th version of their fair (July 19-30), followed by Putnam County’s 4-H Fair (July 28-30). The racing pigs return to the Ulster County Fair (Aug. 1-6), while antique cars are an attraction at the Altamont Fair (Aug. 15-20). Farmers (and just about everyone else, it seems) flock to the Dutchess County Fair, which boasts over 1,600 animals and half a million visitors each year (Aug. 22-27). To end the summer, take a ride on the tilt-a-whirl at either the Schaghticoke or Columbia County fairs (both of which run from Aug. 30-Sept. 4). And although it’s not called a county fair, the Rockland Country Fair &Farmers Market — featuring entertainment, educational exhibits, food, and fun for kids — sounds like the next best thing (June 11, 18, 25, and July 2).


What’s on tap for history lovers?

Several local municipalities offer tours of their historic districts throughout the summer. Check out the stone houses on Hurley’s Main Street with town historian David Baker (June 25, July 30, Aug. 27; 845-331-0593 or www.hurleyheritagesociety.org); in Kingston, separate tours of the Stockade and Rondout districts are held once a month through October (845-339-0720 or www.fohk.org). And candlelight strolls around historic Huguenot Street — New Paltz’s collection of structures dating from the 1700s — take place on the last Friday of each month through August (845-255-1660 or www.huguenotstreet.org).


Independence Day events abound. Our favorites include the reading of the Declaration of Independence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fishkill; the church housed wounded soldiers during the Revolution (845-896-9884 or www.trinityfishkill.org). Both Van Cortlandt Manor (in Croton) and Sunnyside in Tarrytown celebrate the Glorious Fourth in period style. Patriotic speeches and parades take place at the former, and there will be country dancing and a 19th century–style baseball game at Sunnyside (914-631-8200 or www.hudsonvalley.org).


For Patriot’s Weekends 2006, military reenactors converge on Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (July 22-23) and the riverfront area of Verplanck (Aug. 26-27) for commemoration of maneuvers made during the Revolutionary War (www.hudsonrivervalley.net).


The biggest event of its kind in our area, the Native American Heritage Celebration at Harriman State Park spotlights traditional Native American dance and music, arts and crafts, and authentic cuisine (Aug. 5-6; 718-686-9297 or www.redhawkcouncil.org).

Venture out to Constitution Island for their summer reenactment. The 280-acre site is transformed into a Revolutionary War camp complete with a mock hospital, big guns, and boat rides on the river (Aug. 26-27; 845-446-8676 or www.constitutionisland.org).


Where can we see fireworks?

Middletown lights up the night with a fireworks show preceded by a concert featuring multiple Grammy winner (and local boy) Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra. The show is part of the city-sponsored summer concert series in Festival Square (June 30; 845-346-4195). The next evening, travel a few miles south to Veteran’s Memorial Park in Warwick for their loud and colorful display (July 1; 845-986-3473).


On July 4th itself, why not plan to view the City of Newburgh’s big show from a  perfect — and appropriate — spot: the parkland around Washington’s Headquarters, which will be open to visitors for the evening (845-562-1195).


And you can catch a pyrotechnic extravaganza — as well as concert performances, dragon boat races, a basketball clinic, and a road race — during the Peekskill Celebration, the city’s annual three-day fun-fest (Aug. 4-6; www.peekskillcelebration.com).


We’re gaga for gardens! Tell us where to see pretty plants and shrubs.

During June, garden tours sprout up like daisies (and some include house visits, too). The town of Stuyvesant (Columbia County) shows off its majestic manses and gardens, many with river views, on June 10 (518-758-2879). In Westchester, celebrate Rose Day in Lyndhurst’s restored rose garden (June 11; 914-631-4481 or www.lyndhurst.org). The Hidden City House and Garden Tour gives you a sneak peek at Albany’s finest 19th century homes (June 15; 518-436-7630 or www.historic-albany.org).


In July, the Working Landscapes self-guided tour in Ancram takes visitors to gardens, farms, and artist’s studios in and around the Columbia County hamlet (July 30; 518-398-6435).


What’s up on the local arts and antiques scene?

Plenty. Poughkeepsie’s Barrett Art Center holds a Plein-Air Paint-Out and Art Auction in Millbrook. Watch 50 professional artists — including many well-known Valley painters — create outdoor views on-site; you can then purchase your favorites at the auction (June 3; 845-471-2550). Visit the workplaces of more than 30 Peekskill area artists when that Westchester city hosts its Open Studio Tour (June 10-11; 914-734-2367). Rockland


County’s GaGa Arts Festival is a studio tour of the 50 painters, sculptors, photogs, and other artists in the Garnerville Arts & Industrial Center (June 10-11; 845-947-7108 or www.garne­rville­arts.com). Troy’s River Street Festival showcases works offered by the shopping district’s many arts and antiques merchants, and has food, music, and family activities, too (June 17; 518-273-4532).


Heading to the Catskills? The Greene County Council on the Arts sponsors two group shows: “Journeys in Clay,” an exhibit of functional and sculptural ceramics (June 17-July 30 at Mountaintop Gallery, Windham; 518-734-3104); and “SUPERartists,” a look at comic and sequential art, at the Catskill Gallery (June 24-Aug. 5; 518-943-3400 or www.greenearts.org).


If you’re hoping to do some antiquing, you’re in luck. South Salem’s Antiques in the Churchyard has 120 dealers and an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast (July 4). A few days later, 70 treasure-hunters bring their finds to Lyndhurst in Tarrytown for the Rivertowns Antiques Show (July 8-9; 914-273-4667 or www.cordshows.com for info on both events). And the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair’s “Summer Magic” show includes many of the high-quality dealers who come to town for their annual spring and fall events (July 22; 845-876-6403 or www.rhinebeckantiquesfair.com).


It’s a rainy day; perfect for a museum trip. What’s on exhibit?


Everything from bohemians to bovines (really).

Works by three mid-20th century “bohemian” artists make up “Subterranean Monuments” at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. Works by little-known artists Ray Johnson, Rudy Burckhardt, and Peter Hujar illustrate their influence on the New York School (June 30-Sept. 17; 845-437-5632 or http://fllac.vassar.edu).


“Anxious Objects,” at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, is a juried exhibit of crafts in various media by artists from throughout the region (June 10-Aug. 13; 845-257-3844 or www.newpaltz.edu/museum). The outdoor Storm King Arts Center in Orange County reprises its 2005 exhibit on Richard Bellamy and Mark di Suvero, but with the inclusion of three new large-scale works by the latter (June 7-Nov. 15; 845-534-3115 or www.stormking.org).


“Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region,” the juried exhibit on view at the University Art Museum in Albany, marks its 70th anniversary this year with works by artists who reside within 100 miles of the Capital District (June 29-Aug. 6; 518-442-4038). Hudson native Bill Sullivan, a landscape painter whose work follows in the footsteps of the Hudson River School artists, has a solo show at the Albany Institute of History &Art (June 23-Aug. 13; 518-463-4478 or www.albanyinstitute.org). At the nearby New YorkState Museum, “Op Art Revisited,” featuring abstract works from the early 1960s on loan from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, continues through Aug. 13 (518-474-5877 or www.nysm.nysed.gov).


Heading south to Westchester County, the Katonah Museum of Art offers a pair of exhibits by contemporary artists. “Andromeda Hotel: The Work of Joseph Cornell” is a collection of the artist’s assemblages created between the 1930s and ’60s. “Case Studies: Art in a Valise” features 30 “suitcase-based works” that explore types of travel — with both positive and negative connotations (June 25-Sept. 17; 914-232-9555 or www.katonahmuseum.org). A timely multimedia exhibit on the subject of immigration,


“Crossing the BLVD: Strangers, Neighbors, Aliens in a New America” is the offering at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College (July 30-Jan. 2007; 914-251-6100 or www.neuberger.org).


Finally, there’s “Got Cow? Cattle in American Art, 1820-2000.” The Hudson River Museum’s exhibit includes paintings, sculptures, and photos of Elsie’s appearance in traditional landscapes as well as modern works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein (June 24-Sept. 10; 914-963-4550 or www.hrm.org).


We’re hungry! Are there any food festivals happening?

Just so happens there are. A Taste of Millbrook combines gourmet grub prepared by local restaurants with Millbrook Winery wines and Latin music by Soñando (June 10, 845-266-5093). Those with a larger appetite can chow down on a lobster or steak dinner at the Washington Park Lobster Festival in Albany. This popular fest also has live music, kid’s activities, and a microbrewery competition (June 10; 518-867-4100 or www.albanyrotary.org). And the paesans among us will flock to the St. Joseph’s Italian Festa. They’ve been serving up real-deal pasta and pastry at this popular New Paltz event for the last three decades (July 20-22; 845-255-5635).


New this year: Okra, Beans and Leafy Greens: The African-American Foodways Festival. Sleepy Hollow’s Philipsburg Manor teams up with the Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills for a look at how African culture influenced American cooking. Demos and tastings, as well as entertainment and hands-on activities for kids, are all part of the fun (July 30; 914-631-8200 or www.hudsonvalley.org).


It wouldn’t be summer without fresh local corn. The Hurley Heritage Society’s Corn Festival has cornbread, corn chowder, and (of course) corn on the cob (Aug. 19; 845-338-2193 or www.hurleyheritagesociety.org). But for those who need more substantial fare, the second annual Hudson Valley RibFest in New Paltz serves up music, kids’ fun, and all the smoky, spicy barbecue you can eat (Aug. 18-20; www.hudsonvalleyribfest.org).


Anything you forgot to mention?

As a matter of fact, there is. The Hudson Ferry-Go-Round takes riders by ferry to several river towns for festivals and other fun activities. Enjoy the Ossining Rocks Street Fair, the Haverstraw Arts

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