Top 10 local stories of 2019

The Catskill Game Farm has a new beginning. Contributed photo

The former Catskill Game Farm opened its doors Tuesday night to show off its newest addition - The Long Neck Inn.

The inn features four different suites, each with its own animal theme. Formerly home to April, the iconic giraffe that achieved worldwide attention with her pregnancy, who now resides in Harpursville, it took two years to transform the giraffe house into a stylish inn.

Although owners Cathy and Ben Ballone have been accepting reservations for six weeks, the Long Neck Inn held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. Cathy Ballone described the evening as momentous.

“It’s been seven years since we purchased the property,” Ballone said. “It’s nice to show what we can do with it and we plan to grow from here.”

Before the switch to hospitality, the 150-acre site was home to more than 2,000 animals from 1933 until the business closed in 2006. Besides the inn, the Ballones have offered self-guided tours since 2013 and have four campsites, equipped with wood stove, grill, picnic table and a canvas tent with a queen-sized bed on a pressure-treated platform for guests.

The Ballones’ long-term plans are to have a campground and RV park on the property, she said.

Ballone, who grew up in East Durham, and her husband Ben, who is from New Jersey, both have memories of visiting the Game Farm in their youth.

“The history [of the property] is amazing,” Ballone said.

The couple saw a huge level of potential in the property, she said.

Greene County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Friedman was impressed with the outcome.

“This is a very historical and important property in the community,” Friedman said. “Ben and Cathy have done an incredible job reviving the property. It’s an incredible addition to the tourism and hospitality industry here.”

Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said she is pleased to see the revitalization of the local tourist gem.

“I think it’s another sign of resurgence in Catskill, of us reinventing ourselves to thrive in the present by visiting our past,” she said. “Even though I lived almost two hours north of here growing up, we were visitors on school trips, as was my own daughter. As a town it would be great to see that level of interest renewed.”

Guests can stay in the 5,500-square-foot former giraffe house for $188 to $275 per night depending on which room they select.

The Elephant and Zebra rooms have balconies that overlooks what once was the elk pen, according to the inn’s website.

The Giraffe Room is the most luxurious, featuring a three-person jacuzzi. The room overlooks the former giraffe pen.

The Rhino Room also overlooks the giraffe pen and has a balcony.

The Menagerie Room overlooks a rock outcropping.

Three of the rooms are pet-friendly and all rooms have access to a communal kitchen, wet bar, common area and pond room. Guests will have access to explore the abandoned zoo during daylight hours, according to the site.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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