Beyond Woodstock: Celebrating Music & Travel

By Sheryl Kayne

hippy-chicWoodstock celebrated its 40th anniversary was this year –for some it brought back groovy memories, for others it was a moment of history they hope to one day relive. For all of us, it was a reminder of how important music is in our lives. Just because there isn’t another Woodstock doesn’t mean you can’t journey to find the music…

Stir things up with a visit to the Fiddle & Dance Camp in Saugerties, New York. It’s an amazing place, beautiful in every season.

During the summer there’s a 1-week camp for all ages: intense music-making, dancing, eating, talking, laughing, communing with nature, and listening to some of the finest music around ( There’s so much going on that just by being there, you become part of the community.

I’ve been thinking about Ashokan a lot with the spotlight this year on the original Woodstock Festival, the new movie “Taking Woodstock,” and the recently held 40th Anniversary celebration. Woodstock was not only about the sensational music, it was also about people coming together, uniting in love, peace and hope. Those vibes are very much alive in the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp, only about ten minutes from the town of Woodstock.

After interviewing Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, performers, composers, and teachers specializing in 19th- and 20th-century American folk songs and dance music, who have run the camp for over 20 years, and including their story in my book, IMMERSION TRAVEL USA, I knew I had to get there.

Always looking for a new way to enjoy New Year’s Eve, I attended New Year’s Eve in Ashokan, a yearly event, and literally danced the night away to Cajun, swing and country blues with the Red Stick Ramblers, Swingology Band, and Jay and Molly. I particularly liked the contra and square dancing, and watching the people who really knew how to dance! There were free dancing lessons after dinner and before the music started — good move! I needed the classes and learned a lot. Participation was inter-generational, from very young children to octogenarians, or possibly older. Luckily, you don’t need to wait for December 31 to visit – there are lots of activities between now and then.

During the summer you’ll find the perfect combination of summer canoeing and hiking on 300 acres in the Catskill Mountains and weeks of music and dancing programs. There’s eclectic western and swing, contra, Lindy, West Coast country & western, Cajun, barn dances, square dances, two-step partner dances, and much more. Classes are taught by experts from all over the country who enjoy teaching and jamming.

It’s common to see a young person sitting knee-to-knee playing tunes with someone decades older, and both absorbed and intent on music-making. From beginners to professionals, people learn new things and build strong connections with each other. And everyone is welcome – all ages, interests and abilities. Many people attend just to listen to the music and watch everyone else while others take part. It’s a great family weekend too or on your own – many singles attend and there’s bunk house space that’s rustic but comfy.

Start planning your costume now for the Halloween Costume Ball at Ashokan: Saturday, October 31st. This is part of the Ashokan Center’s fabulous Fall Festival with daytime activities including nature hikes, mini-concerts, and more. Halloween Evening will begin at 6pm with dinner, Contras called by David Kaynor, a costume competition, and swing dancing and waltzes to the big band sounds of Swingology. The grounds are beautiful, the food is very good, the people are warm and lovely, and the shopping is great! Woodstock is definitely the place to go for extraordinary tie-dye wearable art.

For more information:

Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp (P.O. Box 49, Saugerties, NY 12477; 845-246-2121;;

Cost: About $800 per person for a full week. Includes bunkhouse or camping, all meals, classes, and workshops; work scholarships and trades of services are available. Weekend events are very modestly priced.

Visiting Woodstock, NY, don’t miss the Museum at Bethel Woods: The Story of the Sixties and the Woodstock Museum.

For great barbecue, stop by the Hickory Barbecue and Smokehouse, Route 28 between Kingston and Woodstock, for great BBQ salmon and brisket. Enjoy everything you do!

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camp is featured in IMMERSION TRAVEL USA: THE BEST AND MOST MEANINGFUL LIVING AND LEARNING EXCURSIONS (Countryman Press, 2009)

Check out Sheryl’s website and her new book VOLUNTEER VACATIONS ACROSS AMERICA (Countryman Press, 2009). Send her a note to to receive free, personalized autographed stickers for any of her books that you purchase.

 Other Immersion Traveler articles:
Immersion Traveler: Leave No Trace Behind
Immersion Travel: Learn How to Mush
Become an Immersion Traveler