ORDA chief addresses festival audience

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By Jay Braman Jr.
The Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice opened Thursday night with a bang, literally, as the main stage event “The Benefit,” a comedic farce that both sends up and shows off opera. It featured gunshots, swordplay and wordplay between two Diva’s vying for the adoration and attention of the audience.

Against a backdrop of a perfect Catskills evening, complete with full-moon lighting, the crowd at Parish Field showed its appreciation for both the material and the trio of performers, Maria Todaro, Michelle Jennings and accompanist Bryan Wade as they galloped through their one-act portrayal of what can go right, and wrong, in live theater.

Ted Blazer, CEO and president of the Olympic Regional Development Corporation (ORDA), which is taking over the running of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, set the pace for the night with his introductory remarks.

While information from Blazer about the controversial takeover was scarce, enthusiasm for the festival was not.

“What could be better that to be in Phoenicia, New York in the Town of Shandaken tonight,” he said to strong applause.

At this, his first public appearance in the region, Blazer noted that he is “local,” having hailed from South Kortright in Delaware County. Speaking for only about one minute, he told the audience that, although details were still being worked out about the takeover of Belleayre by ORDA from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, his team was already involved.

“We’re very, very, very excited about being associated with Belleayre now,” he said. “We’ve got a lot in store, we’ve already started buying some new equipment for next year, some new snow cats and grooming devices, so we’re already starting to get the feeling for it.”

Blazer was joined onstage by Lisa Robb, executive director of the New York State Council on the Arts.

Robb said that endeavors like the Voice Festival help move the pubic mindset away from the arts for arts sake to the arts for everyone’s sake.
“The arts are a proven economic catalyst,” she said.

The festival continued through Sunday with events running from morning till night in several venues throughout Phoenicia. Unlike last year, the skies stayed clear all through the weekend, with rain appearing this time at the very end on Sunday evening as Todaro led the crowd in singing Amazing Grace.