After the flood, a great success for Sugar Loaf

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:56

Arts and crafts hamlet puts on a joyous fall festival against all odds, By Edie Johnson Sugar Loaf — To Sugar Loafers weary of rain and floods, the overwhelming success of their annual festival was like a dream come true. A moving wall of people filled the arts and crafts hamlet for all three days over the Columbus Day weekend. Vendors’ tents from all over the tri-state area lined the streets, and established shops offered crafts of all kinds. A chainsaw woodcarver displayed his works at the south end, next to an array of food trucks. Musicians gathered at the Sculpture Garden at Bertoni Gallery and played in a range of styles, including rock and folk, hip hop, spoken word, and jazz. Friends and strangers chatted as they munched on kettle corn or dipped blooming onion sections into marvelous sauces. A wine tasting and “Eat So They Can Eat” benefit was held Saturday at Dezign Concepts. Nick Zungoli’s photography gallery, Exposures, mounted a new exhibit, “Mekong River.” Zungoli’s photographs of the Hudson Valley are legendary. His new show includes images from the nearly 6,000 photographs he took last year in Southeast Asia. The hamlet’s big success came just in time. The storms of late summer flooded the bypass road at the entrance to Sugar Loaf, closing off the hamlet for weeks. Visitors did not know whether they could get in or out. Business plummeted. Orange County Legislator Dan Castricone and the county planning department stepped in to hasten repairs. Because grant money was already allocated for culvert and other repairs to the entrance, work began almost immediately. Kings Highway was kept closed during the festival to make room for the wave of foot traffic, and also contributed to the party atmosphere. Parking lots spilled over and vehicles stretched down toward Warwick. A new mixed zoning code that allows shop owners to rent living space over their stores, is helping the hamlet to recover economically. More good news is the opening of some new businesses, including a Mexican and continental American Restaurant called the Cancun Inn at the site of the former Sugar Loaf Inn. Next door, Anne Marie’s Country Deli, at the historic Sugar Loaf train station, is celebrating its first successful year. Other new shops include Bliss, an artisan’s co-op in Roemer’s Alley that offers crafters a place to display their works without stressing their bank accounts. Entrepreneurs can rent a table or display shelf for as little as $30 to $80 per month, plus 10 to 15 percent commission (depending on whether they help staff the store). Other shops offer handcrafted jewelry, pottery, organic teas, herbs and honeys, dried flowers, leather works and stained glass classes, and secondhand and retro clothing. Strazza Art Gallery renovates prized antiques and damaged artworks. Then there are the old favorites, like Rosner’s handcrafted soap shop, and the Barnsider Inn Restaurant. The festival fun kept going with pony rides, face painting, and magician’s tricks for the children. This event long ago established itself as the place to go for fall sightseers. It seemed for a moment that the soggy assaults of nature would dampen the fun this year. But plucky Sugar Loafers said the festival must go on — and it did, and will, for years to come.