Saugerties: Festive Spirit

By   |  Photos by David McIntyre  |     |  Community Spotlight

Saugerties, a compact hillside village and sprawling surrounding town, began being settled by European immigrants in the mid-17th century, over 100 years before the first Euro-settler hit its inland neighbor, Woodstock. Over the centuries, enough development has sprung up along the 10-mile stretch of Route 212 that connects them that it’s sometimes called Saugerstock.

But make no mistake, these are two wildly different communities despite a shared love of art and good food.

Back in 1994, Saugerties agreed to something that Woodstock, a quarter-century earlier, had declined to do: host a music festival. The 25th Woodstock reunion, billed as “2 More Days of Peace & Music” featured a long list of big names from Metallica to Santana. Around 350,000 people—roughly 200,000 more than the organizers had expected—showed up at Winston Farm for what turned out to be a wet, chaotic, memorable weekend. The town was, of course, overwhelmed. It might have put some places off partying forever.

But not Saugerties. There are conversations in the works about commemorating the 30th anniversary of that gathering, a fond memory for more than a few who were there. And Saugerties is, in fact, a town that dearly loves its festivals—although mostly at a far more manageable scale.

“The Chamber of Commerce is organizing a week of smaller events,” says Bob Siracusano, founder/owner of Sawyer Motors and Sawyer Ice Cream Company, christened “Mr. Saugerties” for the boundless well of volunteer organizational and fundraising energy he devotes to the community’s good causes. “They’re having a lot of the local musicians who played at the original festival at various places around town, and the Kiersted House is going to have a big exhibit of photos and memorabilia.”

The Saugerties Scene

Celebrating a massive rock fest at a 1727 stone house is far from the only fun happening in Saugerties this year. Siracusano says the town’s entire packed dance card has come roaring back to post-pandemic life. “One of the bigger events is our car show in July; we expect about 700 cars and around 10,000 to 15,000 spectators,” he says. “Then there’s the Garlic Festival in October. The Kiwanis do that one, and all the proceeds from both of those go to local nonprofits. Then there’s the Mum Festival at Seamon Park, the big Fourth of July parade, the art studio tour in August. Oh, and they’re doing a second annual Snow Moon Festival. They gave $15,000 to the food pantries from last year’s. Between all of that, plus a lot of smaller stuff, I think there are a lot of towns out there that would love to be more like Saugerties.”

Upstate Films now operates the historic Orpheum Theatre and is putting the finishing touches on The Mark, a 99-seat state-of-the-art screening room with acoustical architecture by John Storyk of WSDG. A freshly opened event venue in a restored 19th-century Dutch chapel, The Local, is hosting a wildly diverse series of performances curated by an ownership team with three decades of top-flight event production experience.

Opus 40, the nonprofit organization that oversees the sculptural legacy of Harvey Fite, recently purchased Fite House, his longtime home. The building will undergo renovations and be opened to the public in 2024.

Laura Huron, owner of Bosco’s Mercantile, a home goods store on Partition Street, is bringing in more bedding brands and doing “a little remodel of the atrium and the main room.” She’s rejoicing in the arrival of Enoki, an Asian grocery that’s relocated from Catskill. “The young couple is beyond lovely, and an Asian pantry is a huge win for Saugerties,” says Huron. “I know her mom makes the kimchi every week, and it’s spectacular. We’ll all miss Emerge Gallery, but the owner of that building is a great community supporter, and I’m sure she’ll find the right tenant.” (Robert Langdon’s Emerge Gallery is very much still active in cyberspace.)

Lifelong resident Nina Schmidbaur has transformed Clovelea, a derelict Queen Anne mansion, into the home of a flourishing therapeutic collective of ten practitioners offering mental health and acupuncture. A nonprofit, RYAN House, is working to turn the former Knights of Columbus Hall into a sober living and recovery space.

The Saugerties Real Estate Market

“Like most places around the Hudson Valley, we’re still struggling with very limited inventory,” says Sheena Lepez, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Hudson Valley Properties. “Not a lot of selection, and plenty of buyers still eager for a house. I had an open house on the coldest Saturday in January, and I was surprised by how many came out.”

It’s no mystery to her why people love the town. “We have built-in advantages here. You can get a lot of mountain views and privacy and be just moments from this cool, walkable little village with some great food, great bars, a cinema, a fantastic indie bookstore. Then, of course, we have the river—all of this just a few minutes from Woodstock at a slightly lower price point. What more could anyone need? I’m born and raised here, I’m raising my kids here, and they can walk and bike all over the place.”

Low inventory, high prices, and high interest rates make it challenging to get a piece of this bliss, but Lepez says it can be done. “Find an agent you can trust, who’s going to look out for you. If you wind up in a situation with multiple offers, you want someone there who’s experienced with that scenario and can get creative with the terms of your offer.”

At press time, there were a few fixer-uppers priced under $200,000 and a variety of modest ranches and colonials in better shape listing between $250,000 and $350,000. Between $400,000 to $600,000, one begins to see acreage, larger homes, and village locations. Farmhouses on larger lots and raw land with particularly spectacular mountain views can be had in the $750,000 range, and closer to $1,000,000 there were properties with views and waterfalls. A minimalist three-bedroom contemporary ranch with vast expanses of glass facing Hudson River panoramas was being offered by Hudson River Homes for $1,999,000 as a to-be-built spec house. 

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