KATONAH, N.Y. - It did not take a pandemic for three friends in Katonah to realize that their hometown has a collective community spirit, a tight-knit vibe and is full of interesting people—making it a special place to live. A year ago, they decided to share their appreciation by creating something dedicated to all things local, and Whitlockville: A Katonah Podcast was launched.
Rich Knopke, Craig Johnson and David Becker, three Katonah dads, began a series of compelling conversations with people on a platform that they believed would enlighten and inform listeners. Knopke felt that finding appealing topics and suitable guests would be easy, given his take on the local scene.
“I was at a party with like 80 people,’ Knopke said. “And it occurred to me that there was not one jerk amongst us. It started to get my wheels turning—I thought there is a niche here that is not being covered, just to talk about how much we love our town, its rich history and the amazing people who live and work here.”
Working in advertising sales and media technology, the six-year resident of Katonah knew the format would be perfect for sharing stories with the community and beyond.
In April 2019, the first episode was recorded, and now 20 episodes later, the trio has discussed a range of hyperlocal topics, including a longtime resident talking about Katonah’s history (the podcast’s name refers to what the town is said to have been called when it was founded), conversations with business people, interviews with Town Supervisor Chris Burdick and a pediatrician to address COVID-19, a chat with the CEO of Caramoor, and much more.
Becker, a health care consultant who has been quite busy advising hospitals as they deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis, believes the podcast is an ideal way to connect people with others who have made Katonah their home and to highlight their stories.
“There are a lot of different backgrounds, different types of professionals—we wanted to show what Katonah was made of, and do it in a fun and entertaining way,” he said.
The podcast’s intimate episodes are a tribute to the endearing nature of the town, a quality that Becker has personally found to be exceptional.
“People are always willing to support each other and they have a genuine interest in what is going on, whether it is the Fireman’s Parade or Chili Night—there are just so many events that keep the town together and people connected with each other.”
That sentiment rings especially true for Johnson, who has lived in Katonah for 16 years. The bankruptcy attorney, who has recently made a full recovery from COVID-19, was moved by the care and generosity of friends and neighbors.
“Just the outpouring of support and help: bringing me soup, doing my shopping, checking in on me—it was a testament to what a strong community we live in,” he said.
“Community spirit is in Katonah’s DNA, and this goes back to the village’s never-say-die attitude and herculean collective effort to move the town into the 1890s in the wake of the condemnation of Old Katonah,” Johnson, a history buff, added.
Going forward, the friendly hosts wish to continue the podcast—which can be accessed on major platforms Spotify and Apple Podcasts—and hope to reach an even bigger audience than their current average of 400 listeners per episode. As for their “dream” guests, the list runs the gamut.
Knopke would like to invite some of the well-known local residents such as Martha Stewart, Chazz Palminteri and Ralph Lauren to share their takes on life in Bedford—while Becker would like to sit down with South Salem’s Willie Geist. Johnson’s fantasy wish, however, includes a travel back in time to interview founding father John Jay or Chief Katonah. The three hosts agree on one group they would like to welcome for an upcoming podcast, given the times we are now living in.
“We are talking about doing a ‘kids’ roundtable’ related to what the quarantine has been like,” Becker said. “We would ask all of our kids about what fun things they have done—and also in what ways their parents have been annoying them.”