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George Rimsky of New Jersey gives his son Nicolas, 5, some tips on fishing, while vacationing at the Sunny Hill Resort in Greenville, N.Y.
George Rimsky of New Jersey gives his son Nicolas, 5, some tips on fishing, while vacationing at the Sunny Hill Resort in Greenville, N.Y. (Joe Tabacca for the Boston Globe)

A spot in the Catskills feels like home every summer

Email|Print| Text size + By Meghan Colloton
Globe Correspondent / June 18, 2006

GREENVILLE, N.Y. -- As my eyes catch the first patch of green mountains, I know we are heading in the right direction and I am nearing my summer place.

Some families plan vacations in the Caribbean or Europe, but my family and friends head to the same spot every year for the Fourth of July: Sunny Hill Resort & Golf Course in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

Whenever someone inquires what Sunny Hill is, I ask them if they remember the movie ``Dirty Dancing." If the line ``No one puts Baby in the corner " ring s a bell, you understand the mountain resort reference.

I started visiting this resort 21 years ago as an infant. I can remember splashing in the kiddie pool alongside all of the kids I have grown up with. Today, you can find us congregated around the adult pool.

Sunny Hill offers week long vacations in the summer or midweek and themed vacations in the spring and fall. Guests stay in motel accommodations and take three meals a day in the Garwayne Dining Hall, named after Gary and Wayne Nicholsen, two of the siblings that now run the show at Sunny Hill. Guests can choose from activities including golf, day trips around the area, nighttime activities like bingo or horse racing, and rides for children .

Sunny Hill has been owned by the Nicholsen family since 1920 when Peter and Gurine Nicholsen, immigrants from Norway, and their son , Arnold, moved from Brooklyn to Greenville. Now Arnold's three children, Gary, Wayne, and Gail, serve as the physical reminders that Sunny Hill is a place for family. Whether Gary is greeting us in the dining room, Wayne is waving from his golf cart, or Gail is providing a warm hug when I visit the office -- each makes me feel as though I am part of the Sunny Hill family.

As a college student, I am swamped with class work, a part-time job, and various student groups. But I feel all of my anxiety from school disappear as we drive past the bright red ``Welcome to Sunny Hill Resort and Golf Course" sign each year.

I always wonder why Sunny Hill never bores me. It might be the fact that the Nicholsen family keeps things fresh and new. I can still remember riding the huge fire truck when I was younger. I always wanted to sit in the passenger seat because the lucky rider was allowed to wear the fire hat. With names like The Doodle Bug, the Paddy Wagon, and the Sunny Hill Road Train, each kid is sure to find a favorite ride.

Additions continue as a new pool area is being constructed with bathrooms, a snack bar, and play area scheduled to open this season.

But the highlight of the week has always been the fireworks cookout down by Lake Loree (named after Gail Loree Nicholsen) every Friday night in summer. Guests enjoy hot dogs, free beer, and a marshmallow roast. Kids hop on any of about 20 rides. But the main reason everyone heads to the lake is the fireworks show.

Coming back every year, you notice how life continues to change around you but Sunny Hill remains. Grandparents, aunts and uncles that once played with us or spent afternoons out on the back nine are no longer alive. But new additions to our families are annual reminders that everyone is growing up.

My parents and their friends had their children over the course of 31 years. The oldest of the offspring, Robert (who was married at Sunny Hill four years ago) , brought his newborn daughter, Kamryn, to Sunny Hill last year.

Everyone has their childhood memories that remain with them forever, and mine come from Sunny Hill.

As my father lies on his beach chair near the pool -- as he does every year on our first day here -- he smiles and gives his annual report: ``It doesn't get any better than this."

I couldn't agree more.

Contact Meghan Colloton, a Northeastern University student living in Boston, at colloton.m@gmail.com.

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