Model of Fallon considering the town's new sign, provided for the board's perusal by town engineering firm Brinnier & Larios

Model of Fallon considering the town’s new sign, provided for the board’s perusal by town engineering firm Brinnier & Larios

What’s in a name?

A lot of money, say Saugerties town officials, who unanimously approved a resolution at a special meeting last night at 5 p.m. at the Senior Center to rename Saugerties “Fallonville” in honor of Tonight Show host and former Saugertiesian Jimmy Fallon.

“Tourism is a vital part of our economy,” said Town Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel, who said economists estimate every dollar spent on tourism results in $3-$10 in a town’s GDP.  “With this new name, we estimate tourism will increase 20 percent this year.”

The town plans to hold several annual festivals and special events in Fallon’s honor, with horse-drawn wagon rides provided by Glasco contractor Ray Mayone, toy giveaways by Sawyer Motors’ Bob Siracusano, a Jimmy Fallon-themed First Friday this summer, a “Jimmy Fallon Grand Prix $1 million” weekend at HITS, and a “Jimmy Fallon Reality Bus Tour”, Friday–Sunday beginning Memorial Day and running through Garlic Festival weekend, Sept. 27-28. The tour will include memorable and significant locations from Fallon’s formative years here, capped by a reenactment of Fallon’s now legendary trip to Bananas in Poughkeepsie that launched his show-biz career, with an actor portraying a teenage Fallon riding along in the bus with tour attendees and taking the stage.

Helsmoortel emphasized that while tourism is part of the town’s economic development plan, it is not the whole thing. Calling the town’s strategy “an all-of-the-above approach,” he pointed to new development on Kings Highway as proof of the success of a plan to extend town and water sewer to that part of town, and cited the Hudson Project Concert at Winston Farm this year as evidence that the “word is getting out about this community’s positive attributes….After all, we are a top-ten coolest small town.”

Nevertheless, the economic situation for many has not improved.

“We understand that costs are going up and our residents, particularly seniors on fixed incomes, are being stretched to the breaking point,” said Helsmoortel. “It’s bittersweet— saying goodbye to the name Saugerties we all grew up with, but we know we’re doing it for a higher purpose, to keep this community economically solvent going forward.”

Helsmoortel added that the town would seek grants from the state and federal government to cover the cost of retrofitting signs, vehicles, town stationery and other costs associated with the name change.

County Executive Mike Hein said he was “incredibly excited” about the prospects for new economic development that increased tourism could bring. “When people from outside of Ulster County come in and visit, they spend money, and that increases the taxbase and allows us to keep property taxes down.”

He went on to call the name change “a game change.”

Village Historian and Historical Society President Marjorie Block said she was shocked to learn the town would be changing its name. “At first, I thought how can Saugerties turn its back on its history? On Barent Cornelis Volge, the ‘Little Sawyer’ that gave Saugerties its name? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jimmy Fallon probably represents this town better than Volge does. After all, there’s nobody friendlier than Jimmy Fallon. There are no reports of Volge having the kind of infectious giddiness and boy-next-door good looks that Jimmy exhibits on a nightly basis,” said Block, who said she plans to put together a silent auction of historical materials from Fallon’s time here to benefit the Historical Society’s Dutch Barn project.

The name-change went into effect at midnight today, though it will take some time to update the town’s website and expunge various vestiges of the town’s former name from official municipal records. Town officials say the rushed implementation was necessary because of the April 1 state deadline for tourism materials.

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