The Walkway Over the Hudson nonprofit organization hosted its annual STARRY STARRY NIGHT benefit on Friday, October 5, 2018, at the newly constructed Ulster Welcome Center in Highland, NY. Attendees enjoyed a beautiful moonlit evening to honor four Great Connectors of the Walkway and new Walkway Stewards, as well as an opportunity to see the new plaza, amphitheater and building and a fireworks display from the center of the bridge.
The funds raised at STARRY STARRY NIGHT help the Walkway Over the Hudson nonprofit organization achieve its ongoing mission to support and enhance the popular New York State park, now part of the Empire State Trail. This includes developing visitors’ centers, providing a robust schedule of popular, education and family-friendly events and programming for the park’s nearly 600,000 annual visitors, connecting to other rail trails, and managing the Walkway’s volunteer Ambassador corps. These volunteers who provide information to visitors, serve as docents for group tours, staff the pavilions on each side of the Walkway and assist with dozens of fundraising walks for other nonprofits on the bridge each year.
Honorary Co-Chairs for STARRY STARRY NIGHT were Lucy R. Waletzky, Chair of New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Robert R. Dyson, Chairman and Director of the Dyson Foundation. At the event, the Walkway recognized four outstanding honorees with the “Great Connector” award:
Michael Fleischer and Michael Dupree: Community leaders, activists for positive change and true philanthropists. Michael Fleischer has served on the Walkway board for five years, both on the Finance Committee and assisting with development. He has made connections to family foundations, community leaders and sponsors. His husband Michael Dupree is a connector in the many worlds he seemingly effortlessly navigates. He served as a STARRY STARRY NIGHT chairman for several years where he successfully brought new people to the organization, increased our sponsorship level and brought his usual energy and expertise to make the STARRY STARRY NIGHT a prominent event in the Hudson Valley.
John Storyk: A connector in many ways – and one of them is technically connecting people to music and sound and making sure that those connections are the state of the art around the world. John Storyk is the longest serving board member of Walkway Over the Hudson organization, lending his architectural skills as we drew up designs and worked with New York State Parks to add amenities and facilities to the Walkway. He has continued to contribute his expertise, technical assistance, energy, and business sensibility the Walkway organization.
Don Cady: The one individual who has connected to more people over the last eight years than any other Walkway staff or volunteer. He has truly worked with joy and gratitude, wearing his red vest whenever he could – greeting guests, sharing history and stories with them, and donning a red suit, white beard (and many pillows) to serve as “Santa” on the Walkway. He has taken endless pictures for guests to the Walkway and remains an exemplary community connector. As a Korean War veteran, Don has supported veteran activities including the monthly flag changing event. Don Cady has done much to bring Walkway founding member Fred Schaeffer’s vision of Walkway Over the Hudson being the “friendliest park in the world” to fruition.
“Walkway Over the Hudson has become the internationally recognized recreation and tourist attraction that it is today thanks in part to these visionary leaders,” said Walkway Executive Director Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart. “They are all Great Connectors; people who continue to help us realize and sustain programs and facilities at this iconic New York State Park.”
The fireworks display, donated by Fireworks Extravaganza, was visible from either side of the Hudson River to the general public.
Guests attending STARRY STARRY NIGHT enjoyed delicious food from Chef Charles Fells of Main Street Hospitality, fine Hudson Valley wines from Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, craft beef from Half Time and music on the bridge from Long Steel Rail.
Sincere thanks to all attendees, STARRY STARRY NIGHT event sponsors and auction item and in-kind donors for their generous support in making this event successful. Special thanks to the Walkway board, staff and volunteer Ambassadors, NYS Parks staff and other volunteers for all your hard work and support!