Sunday, July 01, 2007

Summer in Sullivan - What to do when the population hits 250,000

Summer means barbecues, the sun and the beach. In Sullivan County, it also means gridlock — on roads and in supermarkets — and knishes.

This is the weekend when Sullivan's population triples, jumping from about 78,000 to more than 250,000 seasonal folks who flock to camps, bungalows and getaway homes. They turn country roads into city streets, express checkouts into slow lanes, and boarded-up shops into busy businesses.

Here's how to survive and thrive during Sullivan summer:

Traffic: Driving through South Fallsburg on Route 42, where an Orthodox Jewish community springs to life every summer, can feel more like a rush-hour trip through Times Square. When the Sabbath ends Saturday nights, cars pack Woodbourne. Traffic doesn't move — it creeps, crawls and lingers.

The same goes for Route 17B, on which thousands will travel to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

"What I say to the public is stay away from 17B as much as possible to avoid traffic," said Ray Neuenhoff, a Bethel constable. (For the back way to Bethel Woods, see recordonline.com)

Getting jammed in a long line of cars is almost inevitable. So how do you cope?

Leave early, bring music and be patient. Some folks use less congested back roads or Route 17. They don't travel Friday afternoon or Sunday evening.

Shopping: The checkout lines can be so long they drive shoppers into neighboring counties. Rather than fight crowds at Sullivan's three most crowded stores — Wal-Mart and ShopRites in Monticello and Liberty — some people head for Ellenville, or western Sullivan.

But if you must go to Sullivan's big three grocers, when is the best time? A cashier at one of those shops thought about it. Then, with the timing of an old Borscht Belt comedian, she said, "Never."

She reconsidered. "Maybe Saturday."

Translation: That's the Sabbath for Orthodox Jews. But"¦

"Everyone else shops on Saturday," she says.

So what's the best time?

"September," she finally says.

Treats to eat: Craving delicacies like kasha varnishkes? Killer knishes?

Now's your time to feast — in spots like Monticello, Fallsburg and Liberty. Many fine Jewish bakeries reopen as seasonal residents settle into their homes.

Steve Moss, owner of the Rock Hill Diner, said his favorite is Izzy's Knish Nosh in Loch Sheldrake. He's been eating their treats since he was a boy in Brooklyn.

"I just bought a dozen," he said. "I keep 'em in the fridge, freeze 'em and throw 'em in the microwave."

So grab a knish. It'll keep you happy if you get stuck in traffic.


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