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In with the Old, In with the New 

Beacon and Fishkill

click to enlarge Looking east along Main Street in Beacon - ROB PENNER
  • Rob Penner
  • Looking east along Main Street in Beacon

A 2009 New York Times article proclaimed Beacon "a city reborn as a haven for art"—finally taking note of the city's blossoming as a cultural mecca. Those in the know, however, are aware of a far more expansive renaissance in Beacon, one steeped in a pervasive, living history. Beacon—and Fishkill, it's complementary and bucolic neighboring town—has its palpable past on display: The simple charm of Fishkill's Trinity Church has held its place on Main Street since 1760, Beacon's Howland Cultural Center still harkens to the 19th-century library built by a Civil War general, and the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry marks a Native American river crossing which predates Henry Hudson's arrival. Along with an abiding community dynamic, the area's recent influx of fresh energy has only served to strengthen a character that has never left.

click to enlarge ROB PENNER
  • Rob Penner

Centennial, Reimagined
"People say, 'Beacon has come a long way'—I say, 'Compared to what?' I've been here since the beginning," quips Beacon Mayor Randy Casale. "It's a revival—hopefully we can keep that going. I know we can." Lifetime denizen Casale's fierce pride mirrors that of the community; and, on the eve of Beacon's 100th birthday, he and the city at large plan to put that pride on display. May 15 marks the day in 1913 when the port of Fishkill Landing and the industrial center of Matteawan agreed to consolidate as Beacon. (This was after the original approved name, Melzingah, was lampooned in the New York press.) Though centennial festivities will begin the day of the anniversary, Saturday, May 18 is when the celebration begins in earnest. A parade will march down Main Street, and the Beacon Rocks 100 free concert will be an all day festival in the city's Memorial Park, featuring a wide swath of music—from local favorites to rocker Southside Johnny, and led by Beacon resident and folk legend Pete Seeger (if you get a chance, don't forget to thank Pete for the vastly improved water quality his Clearwater organization has helped to promote.)

click to enlarge Rick Rogers at X on Main in Beacon, hanging art by Ryan Cronin - ROB PENNER
  • Rob Penner
  • Rick Rogers at X on Main in Beacon, hanging art by Ryan Cronin

The harmony of the two communities is perhaps best exemplified in the area's most visible feature: the high point of the Hudson Highlands, Mount Beacon. Its signature heights share a prominent place in the commemoration festivities, beginning with The Beacon Re-Imagined exhibition, taking place in Scenic Hudson's Long Dock Park June 1 through July 6. Along with promoting Beacon's Greenway efforts, Beacon Re-Imagined heralds the restoration of what was once touted as the "Eighth Wonder of the World": the 2200-foot Mount Beacon Incline Railway. "Climbing up to the summit ties everyone together in an even more profound way—nearly everyone I know in Beacon has at least one photograph looking down on the city," says exhibition organizer Jeff McHugh. "It's a way to connect ourselves to our home and community." Mount Beacon's legacy will be further restored on June 22, with the reopening ceremony of the Mount Beacon Fire Tower. Led by the efforts of noted local advocate David Rocco, the 1931 structure offers unmatched vista views that span from the Manhattan Skyline and past Poughkeepsie's Walkway on the Hudson, which Rocco was also instrumental in making a reality. "The kind of effort that people have put in has been utterly incredible," says Rocco.

click to enlarge Chris Karas at Tito Santana Taqueria in Beacon - ROB PENNER
  • Rob Penner
  • Chris Karas at Tito Santana Taqueria in Beacon

Cultural Celebration
Beacon's jubilee wouldn't be complete without a grand stage for the art that augured the city's reinvention as a cultural destination. At the very heart of Beacon's resurgence, the 2003 opening of Dia:Beacon transformed a dilapidated Nabisco factory on the Hudson River shorefront into a premier art museum, and put Beacon permanently on the art world map. Dia adds it's own flavor to the mix on May 18, kicking off a year-long 10th anniversary schedule with a Community Free Day. The admission-free opening will showcase a full gamut of artistic delights: visitors are invited to a public reading of On Kawara's One Million Years, a multimedia program for children, and the debut of a new collection room dedicated to the works of Alighiero e Boetti. Not to be outdone, Beacon Artists Union (bau) Gallery fetes a centennial of their own on May 18: their "bau 100+1" show marks the Beacon Artist Union's 100th consecutive monthly exhibition. The expansive new Main Street gallery will display 100 works from 100 artists, and features a solo show from bau founding member Kathy Feighery. According to Gallery Director Carla Goldberg, the thrill is being a part of the comprehensive, sustainable art movement. "It's wonderful to see residents and businesses really embracing art," she says. "It has driven this transformation in Beacon."

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