Where Did the Summer Go?

When I was a child in Tennessee, summer started by Memorial Day and ended around the third week of August when we went back to school.  My elementary school was not air conditioned, and we sweltered in class until at least the middle of September.  In those badPlaid_1950s_Shirtwaist_dress old days girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school.  Some clever retailer invented “dark cotton” dresses, knee-length dresses in plaids and fall colors but made of lightweight cotton so you didn’t faint in the heat.  Those dresses did duty until well into October with a light sweater if needed.  Often it wasn’t, and even Halloween was still warm weather.  Patent leather shoes and white anklets completed a girl’s school wardrobe, which we went shopping for in the dog days of August.

Summer here doesn’t seem to end until mid-September.  The kids are back to school after Labor Day, but the outdoor grill at the boat club on the Hudson hangs on for a few more weekends, weather permitting.  Yet all the free outdoor concerts and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival are done by Labor Day weekend.  And I can see the days getting shorter as we move toward the autumnal equinox.

Where did the summer go?  Mine seems shorter than usual to me because I started a new job and did not take a vacation.  That said, I did do some of my favorite summer things:  went to the Jazz Forum Arts concerts at Lyndhurst a few times (two more opportunities, weather permitting); had picnics at those concerts with friends, and a lavish French-style picnic with a group of gourmet friends; went to Hudson Valley Shakespeare twice; and saw Justin Peck’s Dance Americana at Kykuit, a truly magical evening.  I also saw a dance performance at the Lincoln Center Festival with a new friend from the new job.  And there were a few dinners and get-togethers with friends, as well as time to collapse on the couch and read a good book (ok, not much time for that!)

I’m going to meet up with my sisters on Labor Day weekend, so the summer will end with a family note.  I’m determined to enjoy these last few weeks, especially when the heat wave breaks.  I hope you are all enjoying the summer and will have a smooth transition into the fall.




320px-The_Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Crane[1]My village has officially become a tourist destination.  When I saw the first tour bus parked on Main Street a few weeks ago, my first thought was, huh?  The walking tour with a microphone-wielding guide kind of threw me yesterday.  Maybe it was the tourist carrying a chihuahua in his backpack (so not Tarrytown.)  Then I realized it was inevitable.

The first step was when North Tarrytown changed its name to Sleepy Hollow a few years ago.  In fairness, the area really was known as Sleepy Hollow long before the time that Washington Irving wrote about Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.  But for some reason that village was incorporated as North Tarrytown.  It’s also not apparent to me why there ever were two villages (Tarrytown and North Tarrytown), but that has been the case for many years.  They have separate police and fire departments and each has its own mayor, village trustees and judges.   However, they do share a school district.

The name change was a smart marketing move.  There are a number of historic properties in each village, including Philipsburg Manor (Sleepy Hollow), Kykuit (Tarrytown/Pocantico Hills), Lyndhurst (Tarrytown), Sunnyside (Washington Irving’s home, also in Tarrytown), the Old Dutch Church (Sleepy Hollow) and the Old Dutch Burying Ground (Sleepy Hollow).  The Union Church at Pocantico Hills with its amazing stained glass windows comissioned by the Rockefellers is nearby.  And the Headless Horseman’s ride was reputed to be close by the cemetary.  Both villages began to market themselves in a small way, and Historic Hudson Valley, a nonprofit which owns and manages many of the historic properties, began to advertise a bit and get the word out.  Tourist traffic had been building slowly, and the local restaurants were pleased to see an increase last year–until Superstorm Sandy hit town.  Historic Hudson Valley also souped up the events at its properties and created new ones, like the Great Jack o’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor.

But what really stuck a match to the firecracker was the new TV show, “Sleepy Hollow.”  Granted, it bears basically no resemblance to Washington Irving’s characters or to the real villages.  One of my neighbors was joking that the two villages between them don’t have enough police cars to fill up one scene in the show.  As a result of the publicity, however, we have tour buses, walking tours with guides on Main Street in Tarrytown, and foreign tourists showing up on the River Walk by the Hudson.

It’s kind of fun but a little weird when you’re used to living in a (really) sleepy albeit beautiful village like Tarrytown, named one of the 10 most beautiful in the country by Forbes last year.  I’ve always enjoyed the feeling that it was our own special secret, living in such a historic, lovely and low-key place.  The big event of the Halloween season used to be the Ragamuffin Parade, when the little kids would wear their costumes and walk from Patriots Park to the Y (early years) or more recently the fire station on Main Street and see the fire trucks.  I’m told that years ago a person dressed as the Headless Horseman used to ride through the neighborhoods on Halloween and scare people.  Now the Headless Horseman figures in our Halloween Parade and appears at events.

The locals curse the traffic, but we’re all glad to see more revenue coming to town.  And with any luck, once Halloween passes and the autumn leaves have fallen, we’ll go back to being a couple of quiet, charming villages once again.

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