The Pulse

Beacon students paddle for P.E., a home run for Valley baseball, and artistic improv from the Cragsmoor Six.

The Pulse


- Advertisement -

Pencils, Paper, and a Paddle?

Gym class means more than dodgeball for Beacon high schoolers


- Partner Content -


Listening to the gleeful shrieks coming from phys-ed teacher Brian Mahon’s 10:50 a.m. aquatics class at Beacon High School, you’d never know that not so long ago, many of the kids dreaded suiting up and coming to the pool. But that was before the kayaks.

Since last November, some 500 juniors and seniors have been introduced to kayaking in a unique program that actually counts for a P.E. credit. “Before this class, we couldn’t get the kids dressed for swimming,” says District Superintendent Dr. Jean Parr. “Now, they fight to get in the water.”


The brainchild of Beacon resident and experienced kayaker Ray Fusco (he organizes the Mayor’s Cup New York City Kayak Championships), the program combines the best of community relations. Not only did Confluence Watersports and Hudson Valley Pack and Paddle provide the equipment (including 24 donated kayaks), but the environmental organization Scenic Hudson volunteered its 25-acre Beacon waterfront park as a place to launch the vessels late this spring (when the students hope to test their skills on a river paddle to Bannerman Island). For landlubbers, Scenic Hudson is also offering environmental education about the river, which high school Principal Edward Mancari tentatively plans to translate into a marine biology credit next year.

- Advertisement -


Offering Phys. Ed. classes that teach life skills is a growing trend, says Mancari. “Maybe you wouldn’t play basketball when you’re 60, but you could certainly kayak, not necessarily on the river, but in a stream or on a lake,” he notes. In Beacon schools alone, students can learn rock climbing, tennis, orienteering, and golf, among other pursuits.


High school senior Hannah Wood remembers when everyone was self-conscious about walking around in bathing suits in swim class. Things are much better now: “With the kayaks, you’re covered up and wear a life vest and spray skirt. And you don’t get your hair wet.” Unless, of course, you tip over — which is the very first thing that Fusco addresses in class. Called the “wet exit,” this procedure for recovering from a capsize involves going underwater.


“I was so nervous the first time I tried it, I was shaking,” admits 11th-grader Nicole Percacciolo. But after a while, she says, it became “no big deal.” In subsequent classes, she learned paddling skills and even played water polo in the compact whitewater kayaks that bob like bumper boats in the pool. Percacciolo is looking forward to kayaking this summer with her uncle, who has been trying to get her involved in paddling for years.

As sports go, kayaking is not expensive, says Fusco. “There’s no participation fee, as with ski resorts. Once you’ve got your gear and the skills, you’re ready.” — Mary Forsell


Hometown Home Run

The Hudson Valley Renegades score big in Gotham


It seems that New York City likes to grab the bragging rights to just about everything — the best city, the best food, the best nightclubs, the best skyscrapers, you name it. So we were thrilled to see that, in their special “best of” double issue in March, New York Magazine actually admitted that there is at least one thing that we do better up north.

Namely, minor league baseball. Dubbing the Hudson Valley Renegades the best minor league team in New York, they wrote: “Of course, the Brooklyn Cyclones and their fancy Coney Island KeySpan Park stadium are hard to beat — but the whole experience can feel a bit on the corporate side (again, it’s called KeySpan Park). For a small-town taste of what minor league baseball should be like, drive an hour and a half north to Wappingers Falls and check out the Hudson Valley Renegades. The stadium is simple, the tickets are cheap, and you’re almost guaranteed to get a seat behind home plate if you want it.”


We wholeheartedly agree. But they fail to mention that going to a Renegades game is chock full of fun that has absolutely nothing to do with bats and balls. Some highlights of the upcoming season (which kicks off June 17): On July 27, they’ll host a “show and tell” — bring something to show the crowd, and you may well go home with a gift; on August 6, cast an early vote for the next U.S. president, and receive a bobblehead doll in the likeness of the nominee you select. (In 2004, fans accurately voted for George W. — will they be right again this year?) Visit for a complete promotional schedule.


Don’t Forget: May 2 is “No Pants Day”!

Ever notice how some holidays — April Fool’s Day, Arbor Day — seem to be mostly ignored by the general populace? Here’s one we’re hoping will catch on: No Pants Day. Apparently begun (natch) by a group of Texas college students, this bizarre rite of spring rolls around on the first Friday in May every year. Celebrants leave their pants — and shorts, skirts, kilts, and any and all other leg coverings — in the closet for 24 hours, braving the elements in just their tighty-whiteys (or perhaps a warmer, more well-constructed equivalent). The point: don’t take your life
too seriously — which, we agree, is tough to do when you’re half naked.


Shop Talk

Madina Park  Wappingers Falls


Jennifer Finn and Nicki Stokosa, both of Wappingers Falls, became friends several years ago while commuting on Metro-North to their Manhattan-based jobs. “It was Nicki who approached me in 2004 to see if Dutchess County was ready for an upscale women’s boutique,” says Finn, who previously worked in corporate marketing for a high-profile fashion house. “She always wanted to open a store. Though I didn’t, when she said it to me, it was like a light bulb went on.”


After more than a year of planning, the posh — though warm and welcoming — store opened its doors in March 2006. At Madina Park Boutique, you’ll find “fun brands, like Velvet and Free People, and collection pieces, like Nanette Lepore, for the more professional style,” says Finn, who notes that their customers are primarily between the ages of 30 and 50. With such a wide variety of designers, price points vary: knits range from $30 to $80 while collection pieces are between $200 and $400. And, of course, you can expect to find pricey denim with fashion-forward labels like True Religion, J Brand, and AG Jeans, to name a few. Although much of what the shop carries can be found at high-end department stores like Saks, about 30 percent of the brands they stock are only available at small specialty shops. “So it’s definitely different than shopping at the mall,” says Finn. “We never wanted to be a boutique that just sold contemporary clothes; and the way we decorated, it feels like you’re in someone’s home.” Plus, you can’t beat the personal service: Finn and Stokosa, formerly a buyer for a large department store, will scramble to deliver what their customers desire. “One of our customers came into the store with a clipping from [The New York Post’s] Page 6, where they had a pre-spring spread showing all of the new looks. It was January and she said to us, ‘You have to order this Robert Rodriguez skirt.’ It wasn’t even in stores yet, but we were able to track it down and order it for her. We ordered three of them and sold them all.”


The duo also work hard to make it the type of place where everybody knows your name. “We have about 15 customers who I now consider my friends,” says Finn. “I know about their whole lives.” They’ve even closed down the store to host a private party for one of their repeat customers, so it’s no wonder women are thrilled about this Dutchess hot spot.

“The women are so glad about the store,” says Finn. “They’re all like, ‘Thank God you’re here!’”

— Elizabeth Stein


Madina Park. 946 Rte. 376,

Suite 10

, Wappingers Falls. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 12-5 p.m. 845-223-6103 or


Acoustic Only

Amp-free music on the Hudson

By Dorothy E. Noe


The quiet Hudson River hamlet of Rhinecliff is so small, the postmaster greets everyone by first name. But the pulse of a strong community spirit is most keenly felt in its century-old, historic library, Morton Hall. The stately brick building has long been home to cookie swaps, art displays, book sales — and now, monthly “acoustic-only” concerts.


The blue-jeaned crowd that packs Morton Hall on Friday nights hears only instruments and/or the human voice — there is not an electrical keyboard, amp, or mega speaker in sight. The concerts are the brainchild of Rhinecliff resident (and library trustee) Richard Kopyscianski. “The real spark for this venue is a bit selfish,” says Kopyscianski, who plays obscure songs on the acoustic guitar à la John Prine. “I found playing at various area open mics — and contending with bar-crowd chatting while I tried to perform — very difficult.” Since October, Kopyscianski has invited a handful of musicians to play at Morton Hall each month. At this point, they are performing in front of foot-tapping, hand-clapping, packed audiences.


The hall’s outstanding acoustics have lured folk-rock banjo player/guitarist Elizabeth Meyer from New York City, New Age pianist Bar Scott from Woodstock, and Red Hook’s Father Charlie Coen and his concertina, among many others.


While the intent is to feature local musicians, Kopyscianski’s goal is to expand the musical offerings beyond guitar and voice. In the future, he plans an eclectic mix of banjo and piano; opera, gospel, and bluegrass singers; maybe even a barbershop quartet.


“The music must be acoustic which is relatively quiet,” he adds. “After all, the library is in the middle of a residential area. Our event concludes by 10:30 p.m., so we don’t disturb the neighborhood.”


Concerts take place on the third Friday of every month at 8 p.m. For more information, contact Morton Hall at 845-876-2903 or Richard Kopyscianski at 845-876-7007.


Brush Strokes of Genius


Six local painters put their skills to work for the environment
u By David Levine

T he Cragsmoor Six sounds like a jazz combo or a radical political group. And it is, sort of, even though the six are in fact professional artists. This month, these half-dozen painters will improvise like jazz musicians in support of a worthy — if not all that radical — cause: Sam’s Point Preserve and the Nature Conservancy.    


The event — called “Brushes with Nature” — takes place at the Preserve (which is managed by the Nature Conservancy). Located to the south of Mohonk and Minnewaska State Park Preserves, Sam’s Point is the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge, comprising 5,400 acres that include a ridge-top dwarf pine barrens (a rare and conservation-worthy ecosystem).


For this fund-raiser, each artist will create 15 small paintings on the spot. The 90 canvases will be linked together, creating one large mural. Although the artists work independently, each will need to collaborate with the others in order to produce a single, cohesive work of art. “It’s a performance piece that is also a visual arts piece,” explains Phil Sigunick, one of the C-6.


The public is invited to watch the performance, enjoy fine food and drink from local restaurants and wineries, and bid on the individual canvases. (Bidding starts at $50.) After the performance, the mural will be disassembled and the canvases presented to the highest bidders. Separate works by each of the artists will also be on display in the Sam’s Point Gallery. Proceeds will be split evenly between the artists and the Nature Conservancy.


The C-6 includes Phil and his wife, Judy, along with Roger Baker, Charles Broderson, Chuck Davidson, and Andrew Reed. They go into the performance without any preconceived plan for their own pieces or the mural as a whole. “It’s all improvisational,” Phil says. “It’s a bloody miracle that we can collaborate this thing into a coherent work of art.”


This group collaborated once before, to raise money for the Ellenville Arts Initiative; afterward, they started calling themselves the Ellenville Six. “But we never felt comfortable with that,” Phil says. “We all live in Cragsmoor, not Ellenville.”

“Brushes with Nature.” May 10 from 4-8 p.m. 845-647-7989, ext. 101.



Our Digital Partners

Learn how to become a digital partner ...

Our Excellence in Nursing Awards take place on May 1!

Our Best of Hudson Valley ballot is open through March 31!

Unveiled: A Boutique Bridal Brunch is February 25!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.