Kids Almanac: Owl hike, Young Writers’ Guild & making maple syrup

“Everyone is a writer, but some don’t know it yet.”

– Chris Tanis


Local father, writer, musician and 12-year veteran teacher Chris Tanis believes that young people have something to say; and to help them say it, he has created the Young Writers’ Guild. Tan is explains: “This Guild is an opportunity for boys and girls to explore creative writing as an experience of self-discovery in a safe, nurturing workshop environment. We will explore identity, culture, new ideas, old ideas and play with language as we work on original pieces, edit/revise them, create individual portfolios and finally publish them in chapbook [booklet] form.”

Central to his philosophy is this line from Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America: “We have no way of knowing whether the kinds of men represented by the earliest fossils could talk or not…Language does not leave fossils, at least not until it has become written…” Tanis wants kids to be able to “leave fossils” by expressing their unique voices, viewpoints and perspectives. He also offers homeschool classes and private tutoring services, including English Regents practice, SAT preparation and college-level instruction. To set up your own Writers’ Guild or tutoring with Tanis, you can reach him directly at (845) 389-0736 or through his website,

As a way to give back to the community, Tanis is offering a free Young Writers’ Guild at the Gardiner Library. This Guild is designed for 9-to-12-year-olds, and preregistration is required. The classes run from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Fridays from March 2 to May 18. For additional information or to register, call the Library at (845) 255-1255, stop by at 133 Farmers’ Turnpike in Gardiner or visit



“A sap-run is the sweet good-by of winter. It is the fruit of the equal marriage of the Sun and frost.”

– John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886


I used to think that maple sugaring was something that only folks who live off the grid in backwoods cabins – Nature types who use words like “deciduous” or “perennial” – do. It turns out that anyone can. Growing tomatoes is a skill that I can’t seem to master, but even I can make maple syrup. If you have just one maple tree at least 18 inches in diameter, you can make some too.

Buy some spiles, a hollow tap that directs the sap into the bucket; they are available at Agway. Drill a hole into each tree, insert a spile and hang any container underneath. After a while, you will have collected enough sap to boil it down into syrup. Keep in mind that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

You don’t even have to make the syrup to enjoy this natural treasure: “Tasting the sap from the tree, it’s like Nature’s PowerAde – you can taste the hint of sweetness,” says Jim Longbotham, who has been instrumental in the Mohonk Preserve’s sugaring operations over the past nine years. Jim and his family will be leading the Preserve’s annual “Kids’ Day in the Sugarbush” this weekend. This popular event is currently waiting-list-only, so mark your calendars to sign up early for Jim’s workshop next year, and head over to Cornwall for the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Maple Sugar Festival.

Saturday, March 3 kicks off the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum’s Maple Sugar Festival, a month of weekend sugarbush tours at its Outdoor Discovery Center. Enjoy special crafts, games and Native American storytelling around the campfire. Sixty-minute maple sugar tours begin every half-hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through March 25. Tours include information about each step of production and end with a syrup taste challenge.

Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 3 to 11. Wear weather-appropriate clothing, including boots for the mud and snow, and bring a few extra dollars to spend on maple products and hot cocoa at the gift shop. The Hudson Highlands Nature Museum Outdoor Discovery Center is located at 100 Muser Drive in Cornwall. For more information, call (845) 534-5506, extension 204, or visit



“Do a loony-goony dance/‘Cross the kitchen floor,/Put something silly in the world,/That ain’t been there before.”

– Shel Silverstein


Whether you do the Cabbage Patch or the Bus Stop, or you love samba and the mambo, CAPE’s second annual Danceathon has something for everyone. There’s world dance for the kids, hip-hop for teens and zumba, swing and Latin for Mom, Dad and grandparents, with special performances throughout the event. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for seniors and those aged 19 and under and free for children aged 5 and under. Proceeds will benefit the Prevention Foundation of the Mid-Hudson Valley, which supports prevention of alcohol and substance abuse. CAPE is hosting the Danceathon on Saturday, March 3 from 12:30 to 5 p.m. in the College Center at Vassar College, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie. For more information, call CAPE at (845) 765-8301 or visit the website at


Described as “a musical playground for young children,” the Bossy Frog Band gets kids on their feet to dance and sing along. It will be bringing its upbeat bluegrass style to the area on Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre, located at 17 South Street in Middletown. Ticket prices are $15 for orchestra seats and $12 for balcony seats. For tickets or show information, contact the Paramount Theatre at (845) 346-4195 and, or visit


Perhaps you prefer to enjoy dance as a spectator. Every seat is a good one at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck, where you can see the Celtic Heels School of Irish Dance do jigs, reels and hornpipes choreographed to energetic, hand-clapping, toe-tapping instrumentals. The Celtic Heels performance takes place on Saturday, March 3 at 11 a.m. at the Center, located at 661 Route 308 in Rhinebeck. Tickets are $9 for adults and seniors, $7 for children. For reservations or more information, contact the Center at (845) 876-3080 and, or visit



“You are what the music asks of you.”

– Mestre Saussuna


Do you remember that dramatic scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where the Durmstrang students make their grand entrance? Those acrobatic moves are drawn from the Brazilian martial art capoeira. Know any youth who want to give it a try? Experienced capoeirista and teacher Gustavo Caldes is offering three sessions of capoeira for ages 12 and up at the Ellenville Library, located at 40 Center Street. The classes take place on Thursdays, March 1, 8 and 15 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call (845) 647-5530 or visit



“I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

– John Burroughs


Calling all homeschoolers! Minnewaska State Park Preserve presents its Winter Fun Fest on Thursday, March 1 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Peter’s Kill Climbing Area. Join the education staff for an afternoon of winter games and a craft, all in the beautiful outdoors. This program is recommended for children 6 to 10 years old, accompanied by a parent or guardian. Parking at Minnewaska costs $8 per car, and snowshoe rentals are available at the Park Preserve Office for $15 per adult and $14 per junior. For more information or required preregistration, call the Park Preserve Office at (845) 255-0752.



”I’m an early bird and I’m a night owl, so I’m wise and have worms.”

– Michael Scott, The Office


Scenic Hudson invites you to its upcoming “Give a Hoot” Owl Hike. Sit around a warm fire, enjoy an introduction to owls, do some owl impressions, then hike around Louisa Pond to see if you can spot any of these feathered friends. Bring your flashlight and weather-appropriate clothing, but no pets. This event takes place on Thursday, March 1 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and will begin at the Shaupeneak Ridge Upper Lot on Poppletown Road in the Town of Esopus. For any questions, contact Scenic Hudson Parks Event and Volunteer coordinator Anthony Coneski at [email protected] or (845) 473-4440, extension 273.




Erica Chase-Salerno lives, loves and laughs in New Paltz with her husband Mike and their two children: the inspirations behind She can be reached at [email protected]

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  1. So many offerings to March through this month! Another great column!

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