Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Last weekend was special up at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge. It was time for the venerable field campus’ annual Gala Weekend of Music and Dance Heaven, which started Saturday, December 29 and ran through Tuesday, January 1with an open-to-the-public New Year’s Eve bash. That included food and a ton of great music from Ashokan visionaries Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, along with a whole mess of Cajun, square dance, and other fine musicians. But it was also the first try-out for the batch of brand new buildings that the center’s been building over the past few years, and are still readying for an official opening day this Spring.

That meant, and means, that the new campus, built with funds received from New York City for purchase of a water release right-of-way through the area where the old Ashokan Field Campus sat for decades creekside in the woods, had passed its regulatory hurdles, been given official certificates of occupancy, and were ready to rent out overnight space to guests looking for dorm or single room spaces to crash…as well as a great new barn dance hall and dining hall.

“Ashokan Center’s new campus has received full regulatory approval! Our amazing staff and construction team are readying all systems for the maiden voyage,” is how the center put it in an e-mail that went out far and wide on December 22.

By last weekend the place was packed…and reservations are already filling up for an upcoming February 1 through February 3 Winter Hoot Festival, a brand new idea featuring anti-fracking films, plenty of food and dance lessons, and music by Amy Helm, Mike & Ruthy, Jay & Molly, Elizabeth Mitchell, The Spirit Family Reunion and others. And everyone was raving about the look and feel of the new campus designed by master architect Matt Bialecki and totally green in its building and systems.

Furthermore, funds were rolling in for a year-end fundraising match push…still ongoing as of this week’s publication date.

And as can be readily ascertained, the place feels like a tradition already, from its sustainable new Performance Hall and classrooms to those residential lodges and dining room.

A full opening is in the works for April 28, at which time we’ll be able to report on all that was involved in creating this new regional landmark.

The Ashokan Center is located at 477 Beaverkill Road, just a little way off Route 28A in Olivebridge. For further information call them at 845-246-2121, visit www.ashokancenter.org, or follow them on Facebook.