Summer music fest draws concert-goers to Catskill ski resort

wcmickle/via Flickr
June 12, 2014

Every summer, Greene County in eastern New York gets an economic boost from hosting popular festivals in its tiny skiing towns.

It’s a hot and sunny day in the town or Hunter. Main Street is lined end to end with parked cars and women in flowy ankle-length skirts and men with tie-dye T-shirts ambling along the village sidewalks. They’re making their way into the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort for the three-day jam band music festival, Mountain Jam.

“It’s in an unusual setting. It’s in a ski mountain. That alone means the infrastructure can support it," says Gary Chetkof, Mountain Jam organizer. "They’re used to getting big crowds in the winter time for skiing, so doing it for concerts  is not that difficult.”

Chetkof has organized the festival since it began ten years ago as a small celebration of nearby Radio Woodstock.

“People really wanted this and loved this and so we did it again and it doubled again. So it kind of grew, people use the word organic loosely but this really, really was organically and spontaneously and we’ll keep doing it as long as people want us to,” he says.

Chetkof says Hunter Mountain was more than accommodating at the prospect of hosting the summer festival, opening up the main ski lodge, hiking trails and camp grounds to concert-goers.

“The town really embraces the events. If you went through the town of Tannersville, they have welcome signs throughout the town that really embrace the visitors," says Lisa Morris, Director of Marketing with Green County Tourism. "They want them here they’re happy to have them in their community and happy to showcase their area to them.”

Morris says while skiing and winter sports make up a sizeable amount of the tax revenue, they’re finding that off-season events are equally lucrative for the county of just under 50,000 residents.

“It event trickles down to the other surrounding towns as well. I spoke to a couple other people as well and some of them were even staying in Wyndam, a lot of people renting houses and coming up with a group of people and doing it that way," says Morris. "A lot of people are bussed in from local hotels within Hunter and Wyndam area and we really work with the promoters of the events to help make it easier for people to get to the events from various locations if they don’t want to do the camping.”

On the mountain, about 15,000 people fit comfortably on the slope angled roughly 45-degrees up from the main stage and the Tedeschi Trucks Band is just finishing their set.

Chetkof describes the show as a family friendly event, a sight not lost on D’Angelico Guitars president Steve Pisani, a main sponsor of the show.

“So now we have these old geezer tie-dye guys, right up to these 8-year-old people, 8-year-old young musicians and all enjoying the same artists up there playing. It’s spectacular in my opinion.”

Because of Mountain Jam’s popularity over the past decade, Greene County will also see its second largest three-day music festival at the Hunter Mountain ski resort, Taste of Country.

The two shows run back to back on consecutive weekends and as Chetkof puts it, they just swap out the jammers, for country music performers, but he wouldn’t change the setting.

“The only thing that’s unusual is how beautiful it is up here during the spring because everyone is used to the snow and the white so you know it’s really a truly, rolling green hills in the Catskill Mountains and it’s definitely a special place to do things.”