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Mountain Jam music festival boosts ski region tourism

crowd sits before large concert state set in the rolling hills of catskills mountains
Jenna Flanagan
Innovation Trail
The Mountain Jam festival bring tourists to the small town of Hunter, New York.

It’s a hot and sunny day in the town of Hunter, nestled into the Catskill Mountains. Main Street is lined end to end with parked cars and women in flowy ankle length skirts and men with tie-dye t-shirts ambling along the village sidewalks.

They’re making their way into the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort for the three day jam band music festival, Mountain Jam.

Green County gets a summer season economic boost from hosting popular festivals in its tiny skiing towns.

Credit Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail
Innovation Trail
The crowd at the Mountain Jam festival.

"It’s in an unusual setting. It’s in a ski mountain," explained Gary Chetkof, organizer of Mountain Jam.

"That alone means the infrastructure can support it. They’re used to getting big crowds in the winter time for skiing, so doing it for concerts  is not that difficult."

Chetkof has been organizing the Mountain Jam Festivals since it began 10 years ago as a small celebration of nearby Radio Woodstock.

"People really wanted this and loved this and so we did it again and it doubled again. So it kind of grew, people use the word organic loosely but this really, really was organically and spontaneously and we’ll keep doing it as long as people want us to," he said.

Chetkof says Hunter Mountain was more than accommodating at the prospect of hosting the summer festival, opening up the main ski lodge, hiking trails and camp grounds to concert goers.

Heather Bagshaw, Director of Marketing with Greene County Tourism says that’s just the spirit of the Catskills.

"The town really embraces the events," she said. "They want them here, they’re happy to have them in their community and happy to showcase their area to them.”

Speaking at her office just off the Thruway in Leeds, she says while skiing and winter sports make up a sizeable amount of the tax revenue, they’re finding that off season events are equally lucrative for the county of just under 50,000 residents.

"It even trickles down to the other surrounding towns as well," said Bagshaw. "A lot of people are bussed in from local hotels and we really work with the promoters of the events to help make it easier for people to get to the events from various locations if they don’t want to do the camping."

woman and man stand on stage playing guitar
Credit Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail
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The Tedeschi Trucks Band at Mountain Jam.

Back on the mountain, about 15,000 people fit comfortably on the slope angled roughly 45-degrees up from the main stage and the Tedeschi Trucks Band is just finishing their set.

Mountain Jam organizer Gary Chetkof describes the show as a family friendly event, a sight not lost on D’Angelico Guitars president Steve Pisani, a main sponsor of the show.

“So now we have these old geezer tie-dye guys, right up to these eight-year-old people, eight-year-old young musicians and all enjoying the same artists up there playing," he said. "It’s spectacular in my opinion.”

Because of Mountain Jam’s popularity over the past decade, Green County will also see its second largest three-day music festival at the Hunter Mountain ski resort, Taste of Country.

The two shows run back to back on consecutive weekends and, as Chetkof puts it, they just swap out the jammers, for country music performers, but he wouldn’t change the setting.

“The only thing that’s unusual is how beautiful it is up here during the spring because everyone is used to the snow and the white so you know it’s really a truly, rolling green hills in the Catskill Mountains," he said. It’s definitely a special place to do things."

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