ORANGE COUNTY, N.Y. (March 15, 2023) – In Sugar Loaf, there is a place where music from the 1970s and ’80s lives, theater performances hold thrall, a film festival entertains movie buffs and humor fans will soon find the Hudson Valley’s newest comedy festival.
The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, a regional hot spot for entertainment, draws fans from throughout the region and beyond. They come to see acts re-create the feel of a Michael Jackson or Elvis concert, to enjoy a play about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and catch longtime music icons.
“It’s a fun time to be here,” said Walter Popailo, the recreation director of the Town of Chester, which has owned and operated the venue for four years. “People enjoy top-quality entertainment at reasonable prices.”
The center was built in 1992 as the Lycian Center for the Performing Arts. Twenty years later, it was renamed Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center. It had become dormant when Chester took ownership in May 2019 and began sprucing it up to bring it back to life. Then came the pandemic that drove everyone inside and away from large gatherings. But as the world reopened, the venue has emerged as a premier venue for live music, plays, shows and more.
“Once people started taking masks off, this place really started hopping,” Popailo said.
The center includes two main spaces – an auditorium with 660 seats and a pavilion that can seat 100 to 120 with tables and chairs, or about 200 chairs without tables. Rather than line up acts as the original owners did, the town rents it to promoters who book the acts. It also can be rented for weddings, birthdays, graduations and company events such as motivational speakers.
Last September, the Sugar Loaf Film Festival debuted at the center, screening more than 40 films, mostly shorts, with a focus on the Hudson Valley. It returns for a second year Sept. 22-24, 2023. A new comedy festival will debut June 23-25, 2023.
“The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center offers wildly popular performances that draw fans from throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond,” said Amanda Dana, Director of Orange County Tourism & Film. “The center is one of the most iconic venues throughout the region. It is a destination for those coming just to enjoy a show or as part of a wonderful weekend in the county. Many guests stay at one of our charming bed and breakfasts, inns or other nearby accommodations.”
Tribute bands that revive the sound and feel of iconic bands include Tusk playing Fleetwood Mac, Son of a Gun performing Guns N’ Roses songs and Stayin’ Alive singing the hits of Bee Gees. Victor Trevino brings The Ultimate Elvis Experience. In October, Michael Jackson imitator Michael Firestone brings his show, I am the King, to Sugar Loaf.
“For those who never got to experience Michael Jackson in concert, Michael Firestone will give you the best experience re-creating his magic,” Popailo said. “You can’t see Prince anymore. You might not be able to afford to see AC/DC or Kiss’ farewell tour. But you can experience the same magic here at Sugar Loaf, at a much more affordable price.”
It’s also a hot spot for longtime singer-songwriters such as Joan Osborne and Suzanne Vega.
More local fun at the center includes the Danny Mulvey Cornhole Tournament, a fundraiser to be held on Sept. 30th this year. An annual car show to raise money for prostate cancer research returns on Sept. 10th.
The town offers a free concert series at the center. But while such community events generally take place in the summer, Popailo waits until fall, when there are fewer other free options around. He books popular regional bands such as the Jersey Shore band The Nerds, and Backstage Pass, an ’80s hair band tribute act.
As the center’s website reads; “The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center is committed to providing the residents of Chester and the Mid-Hudson Valley with a thriving arts and community facility.”
About Orange County Tourism & Film
Orange County Tourism & Film, based in Goshen, N.Y., is the county’s tourism and film production headquarters and a participant in the I LOVE NY program. A comprehensive listing of area attractions, lodging, events and film resources can be found at www.OrangeTourism.org. Additionally, a fun, free, 56-page travel guide is available for digital download at orangetourism.org/travel-guide/.
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