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Rhinebeck 

The Evolution of Country Chic

click to enlarge Oklahoma and Nicole Wiley at Southlands in Rhinebeck. - THOMAS SMITH
  • Thomas Smith
  • Oklahoma and Nicole Wiley at Southlands in Rhinebeck.

The secret is out.

Rodney Johnson, owner of Grand Cru Beer and Cheese Market, says that after Chelsea Clinton got married at Astor Courts estate in 2010, a whole new batch of people discovered what many already knew—Rhinebeck is a special place.

In this picturesque Hudson Valley community, agriculture, style, the arts, and culinary expertise all combine to create a feeling of country chic. It's a small country town with lots of open spaces and areas to enjoy nature but it's also home to one of the region's most bustling restaurant scenes.

With its rich mix of history and haute modernism, there's plenty to attract newcomers to Rhinebeck; and with several new shops, restaurants, and development projects either recently opened or in development, there's plenty of reasons for those who know Rhinebeck to take another look.

History & Horses

European settlers first came to Rhinebeck in 1686 and the community has a long tradition of tourism. It is home to the Beekman Arms, said to be America's oldest continuously run hotel, and a place that has played host to heroes of American history like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Another longtime Rhinebeck attraction is the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, which has hosted the Dutchess County Fair since 1845. This summer, from August 19 to 24, the fair will celebrate its 169th anniversary.

"The fair is about family, and having that destination each year for your family. It becomes part of the fabric of a family's existence," says Andy Imperati, general manager of Dutchess County Agricultural Society, which runs the fair. Imperati adds, "People start coming here as kids—they come with their grandparents or their parents. Then the kids end up bringing their kids and their grandchildren. It perpetuates through families."

Imperati took over as general manager last year but has been working at the fairgrounds in other capacities for 19 years. He says that at its heart the fair reflects the community's connection with the land and its food source.

"It's an event where people can go learn about where their food comes from and how it's grown. That is the basis for what we do and always will be," he says. "When county fairs first started way back, it was about farmers coming together at the end of the season, showing off what they had grown or bred over the year. The fairs were friendly competitions and the fair morphed into what it is today. There's entertainment, there's the carnival, food, the whole bit, but a true county fair is still based on the agriculture element that brought it here."

In addition to the fair itself, the fairgrounds hosts a variety of events, including two new festivals. The Country Living Fair is an expo ran by Country Living magazine that made its Rhinebeck debut at the fairgrounds last year. It will return this summer from June 6 through June 8. The Hudson Valley Arts Festival also debuted last year, and will return the last weekend in September with a new name, the Rhinebeck Arts Festival.

Another longtime Rhinebeck attraction is the Southlands Foundation, which has helped spur Rhinebeck's equestrian culture since the late 1930s. The nonprofit is located on Route 9 on close to 200 acres overlooking the Hudson. Its mission is to provide an understanding of the environment and its creatures through outdoor activities, particularly through the instruction of horsemanship and other horse-related pursuits. The facility offers riding instructions for riders of all skill levels—from complete novice to seasoned pro. Allison King, executive director of the Southlands Foundation, says horses can teach us a lot about ourselves. "People can develop a lifelong affinity toward the horse and it really connects with their soul," she says. "Horses are very large animals but, by nature, very gentle animals. We can talk to them all day long, but they understand how we feel on the inside, and they respond to our intent. A lot of people can get in touch with themselves better through riding ,and they learn different communication skills."

Horse lovers may also want to visit Old Stone Farm before they leave Rhinebeck. Billed as a "field of dreams for mind, body, and spirit," Old Stone Farm is a bed-and-breakfast located on a 236-acre horse farm. The farm, opened last year, is the brainchild of Sherry Kahn and her late husband Stu Kahn. The facility includes 10 guest rooms, a library, yoga barn, pavilion, horse barn, and indoor and outdoor riding rings, as well as a full-service spa that includes massage, wet rooms, and steam cabinets.

Speaking of...

  • Take a look into the picturesque country lifestyle of Rhinebeck, New York.

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