Kutsher's Country Club's main entrance in upstate Thompson, in the...

Kutsher's Country Club's main entrance in upstate Thompson, in the Catskills, as seen in 1977, and Kutsher's Marquis Lobby as seen in 2005. Credit: John Margolies Roadside America, AP/ Jim McKnight

A morning hike or a rowboat ride.

An afternoon of Big Bucks Bingo with Tom Barry or Simon Sez with Krazy Tyrone. 

An evening of comics and performers, from Buster Poindexter to the Village People.

And in between, every few hours, an endless parade of platters of all-you-could-eat food — bagels and eggs, sandwiches and soups, gefilte fish, chicken, brisket and potato pancakes … and plenty of cakes and cookies.

I was 11 when my extended family — dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins — first gathered for a long summer weekend of laughs and memory-making at a Catskills hotel, an annual reunion we still call Cousins' Weekend. Often, it took place over Labor Day. We started at the Nevele and in the years that followed, we spent time at the Fallsview, the Concord and, yes, Kutsher's — home to Tom Barry and Krazy Tyrone, among others.

Learning that East Meadow performer Scott Eckers had kept the iconic neon yellow Kutsher's sign in his garage since the hotel closed in 2013, and plans to donate it to a future Catskills museum, immediately brought me back to those summer weekends. Seeing that sign as we pulled up to the Kutsher's driveway. Smelling the strange mix of musty carpets inside and crisp air outside. Catching up with generations of family, welcoming new members, and mourning those no longer with us.

Our gatherings began in the 1980s — decades after the Catskills' heyday, when such resorts rose to popularity in part as safe spots for Jewish families to vacation while anti-Semitism was so virulent elsewhere, and in part as spacious properties offering huge contrasts to New York City's tight tenements and even to small homes in the suburbs. But many of those hotels remained celebrated, crowded spots into the early 2000s.

It was more than just the mountains that lured us again and again. Each weekend was a step back in time, to an era when little mattered except what was for lunch, how many bingo cards we'd spread out in front of us, and whether the inevitable quick summer rainstorm would interrupt our time at the pool or the annual family volleyball game.

But after two decades of hopping along what was known as the Borscht Belt, we had to look for alternatives. One by one, those hotels fell apart, and closed. No one sought an old-style gathering when they could have the bells and whistles of a spa or cruise ship. No one wanted bingo or Simon Sez when they could get Disney World or international landmarks. And certainly, on the positive side, anti-Semitism was no longer quite as prevalent, so Jewish families could vacation beyond their tightly conscribed corners of the world.

A couple hotels gave way to new resorts. A casino. A health and wellness facility. But others remain abandoned shells. Earlier this month, a fire engulfed part of the still-vacant Grossinger's hotel, taking with it another piece of the now-decrepit property that was the inspiration behind the movie "Dirty Dancing," which captured well the Catskills' zeitgeist.

Since our go-to Catskills locales disappeared, we've tried to continue our tradition at numerous other spots. Now, we're planning a post-pandemic revival of Cousins' Weekend for next year's Labor Day. Without Tom Barry or Krazy Tyrone or the soul that filled those ballrooms and dining rooms so many years ago, it won't be the same. But the laughs and the memory-making will remain. I can't wait.

Columnist Randi F. Marshall's opinions are her own.