Oktoberfest cancellation spurs community backlash

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Once again, changes at Belleayre Ski Center are causing anxiety among the locals.
The ski center is owned by New York State, but last fall its operation was handed over to the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which made it clear that there would be adjustments made in the operation of the facility.

Within a month of taking over, ORDA angered Town of Shandaken officials by dismantling the town’s long running ski program, which gave residents deep discounts on lift tickets, ski lessons and rental equipment.

Plan is unacceptable
Now, according to Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley, ORDA is doing away with the popular fall festival that has been an annual attraction every Columbus Day weekend.

The news spread quickly this week following a press release issued by Belleayre’s marketing department that detailed plans for a different event called “Skitember Fest,” a one-day only affair slated for September 28.

Immediately, the plan was labeled as unacceptable, Stanley said, and active steps are being taken to get ORDA to drop the idea.

“We’ve already spoken to ORDA representatives, the Ulster County Tourism Department and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and voiced our concern,” Stanley said, adding the Coalition to Save Belleayre has called for a reinstatement of Columbus Day event as well.

Plan is unacceptable
Stanley said the October event drew 8,000 visitors last year and has been known to bring as many 15,000 to the region.

He said the primary concern is that the Oktoberfest has been a major boost to the food and lodging industry, and the one-day event planned for September 28 will not generate similar and much needed fall revenue for the restaurants and lodges in the area.

Tuesday morning Belleayre’s marketing department rescinded the Skitember Fest announcement, saying that another announcement will be made in the near future.