‘The Archeologist’s Digs’ opening event unearths unique new lodging attraction

By Trish Adams
Ah, Tuesday night in the Catskills! So quiet you can hear the crickets chirping . . . well, uh, not this past Tuesday! There were colorful belly dancers, heavily mascara-ed Egyptians toting trays of Mediterranean delicacies, erstwhile upstanding citizens balancing swords on their heads, and all around cavorting, merriment, toasts to this one and that one, giggling children, people spilling out into the streets and lining up to have lavish designs painted on their faces and  . . . one almost expected a camel or elephant to come lumbering by. You get the picture. And in the most ladylike of our villages, the dignified grand dame of — Roxbury!

Roxbury rocks the Casbah
What was the cause of all this universal exuberance and carrying on? It was the long-awaited, mouth-watering, sneak peek party and “unearthing” of The Roxbury Motel’s latest, long anticipated “Archeologist’s Digs,” in which a humble hamlet abode has been magically transformed into a veritable adventure in getaways, a kingdom unto itself, and a treasure trove of the exotic and unexpected from around the world. From the legions of people lining up to tour the Digs, you might have thought you were trying to get into the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

The event was also slammed because The Roxbury funded the entire affair as a benefit for Kirkside Retirement Home, with cover charges and a 50/50 raffle garnering nearly $3,000 for Roxbury’s homey senior living facility.

“The board of Kirkside Retirement Home is so grateful to Greg and Joe for their generous donation and for the fabulous evening,” said Kirkside Board Member Bonnie Walker, adding, “We plan to use the proceeds toward a railing for the new stone steps at the north side of the building, so our seniors can more readily — and safely — enjoy the beauty of the property.”

Quite an event
Catered by James Chapman of the Rhinecliff Hotel, with an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and a lavish Mediterranean smorgasbord, there was also a four-foot-high illuminated ice sculpture of an Egyptian sarcophagus. Karina Walker provided face painting, and the fabulous Jo Boring and other belly-and-sword dancers entertained and trained many light-footed guests. Roxbury staff member Carmen Rosario, dressed as Cleopatra and hurling gold coins to the crowd, was carried in on a golden platter (almost as good as a barge!) by two stalwart lackeys. Lines to get into the Digs at one point stretched all the way down Park Street. With tours starting at 5:30 p.m., people were still going in as late as 9 p.m. The outdoor party went on well into the evening.

“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much to all who came, and all of you who have been so supportive every step of the way to create The Digs,” said Greg Henderson, adding, “As Enobarbus said of Cleopatra herself, the scene at The Roxbury Tuesday ‘beggared all description.’ There is no way that Joseph and I can put into words the feelings that we will always have about that night. It was one of the best nights for us — ever. For those of you who weren’t able to wait in line to see the Digs, we’re happy to arrange your own private viewing. Anyone who thinks you can’t find fabulous artists and craftsmen in the Catskills should take a look at the list of ‘the credits’ for The Digs at the end of this article — you’ll see we needed a half page ‘thank you’ ad simply to list them all!”

You can slake some of your own curiosity about “The Digs” by taking a step-by-step journey through its intricacies in a related story, “Unearthing the Digs: Your Adventure Awaits!” elsewhere in this edition.
What’s all the hoopla about?
Greg Henderson and Joe Massa’s newest creation takes an already unique experience in lodging into another stratosphere. While their achievements are often lauded and recognized by travel “”gourmands’ worldwide, Tuesday night proved once and for all that, when it comes to The Roxbury, the local community gets it, loves it and even takes pride of ownership in embracing it and what it means for this charming but sometimes sleepy hamlet. 

“Roxbury and the entire region are so fortunate to have business owners like Greg and Joe, who — in addition to committing years and a tremendous fiscal and physical investment — have also given us their awe-inspiring attention to detail and most importantly, their deep faith in Roxbury, to create a destination like none other,” said Peg Ellsworth, The MARK Project director, adding, “The Roxbury proves conclusively that economic opportunities, job creation and an enormous well of talent and skill are right here, even in our small rural villages, waiting to be tapped.” 

Perhaps the finest irony is that a key inspiration for “The Archeologist’s Digs” came from an elusive denizen of Roxbury itself: the peripatetic Elton Ridge. Ridge was a popular long-time resident who took great interest in local lore, but he was also a man with a mysterious past. For years in the mid-20th century, he was always away, traveling off the map, doing some undefined work in “education.” How this “job” gained him entry into countries that would have been forbidden to you and me went to the grave with Elton, but along the way he acquired quite the collection of Indian, Arabic, Asian and African artifacts. When these items went up for auction in an estate sale, Greg and Joe couldn’t resist snatching up quite of few of them, without really knowing where it would lead . . . 
Pyramid schemes and ancient queens
Where it wound up — The Archeologist’s Digs — will remind you of a playful amalgam of mummy movies, Mayan temples, Cleopatra-esque opulence, some Spielberg and Lucas, Romancing the Stone but most of all . . . adventure. The suites were created by renovating an entire two bedroom house (and adding a third) that Masserson Properties bought from Charles “Chuck” Olmstead shortly before his death in 2012. Olmstead was one of the engineers on the Catskill Aqueduct (and thus a “digger” himself) and he was very keen for Greg and Joe to acquire the property and make it part of The Roxbury campus.

During the Tuesday party, guests were observed leaving the Digs and the other themed suites (also open that night for tours) visibly dazed. One man emerged from Tony’s Dance Floor Suite bobbing his head to and fro as if to regain his senses. Perhaps a good friend summed it up best when he said — off the record — “You don’t even need drugs!” Whether you’re looking for thrillin’ or chillin’, the Roxbury will have the perfect theme room for you. Although there are too many delicate “artifacts” in The Digs to make it a good choice for families with small children, kids always love “following the yellow brick road” in the Wizard’s Emeralds suite or flying the “Final Frontier” with its skies of shooting stars, and for toddlers, the bright primary colors of the cozy “Partridge Nest” is sure to keep them fascinated. “The entire staff is very skilled at pairing guests with the rooms that will suit them best, so just ask!” said Henderson.

James Thomson, director of the Delaware County IDA and now Director of Tourism for the Delaware County Chamber, understands all “two” well the critical role enterprises like The Roxbury play in our region. “The issue with lodging and other tourism efforts in our county is both quantity and quality. No only do we lack enough lodging, we need more quality lodging, and Joe and Greg completely understand, well, clearly they exceed all expectations on that front,” Thomson said, adding, “The Delaware IDA is proud and excited to have a role in helping entrepreneurs like Greg and Joe take it to the next level. What a phenomenal job they’ve done, and we’re so lucky to have them investing their creativity and genius in Roxbury.”
The future of the digs: let me in!
“We are quickly approaching an opening date for the Digs, probably early November, and there is already a waiting list,” said Henderson, adding, “We’re also donating a weekend for two at The Digs for the MARK Project’s Benefit Auction next Sunday, Oct. 7, at Hanah Mountain Resort.”

You can visit the Digs and see more pictures of the September 25 shindig by visiting The Roxbury Motel on Facebook.