Life is a (Small Town) Carnival

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Like any kid growing up in the snowbelt otherwise known as Blasdell, I looked forward to three things each summer. The beginning of summer would signal going to IMG_0016_Mendon_Carnival_Twilight_300Fantasy Island to celebrate a good report card, ride the steamboat and watch the live shootouts. The end of summer meant going to the Erie County Fair to see the vast array of other-worldly side shows on the Midway, the acrid smell of burnt oil and rubber at the demolition derby and the taste of my grandfather’s sumptuous pizza. Sandwiched in between, both chronologically and geographically was the Big Tree Fireman’s Carnival. I think it was actually called the Big Tree Firemen’s Annual Field Days. But for kids (and headline writers short on space) it was the Big Tree Carnival.

Here’s the real difference between Fantasy Island, the Erie County Fair and the Big Tree Continue Reading “Life is a (Small Town) Carnival”

A Model of Christian Spirit

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Ever since John Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630, it’s been tough to separate religion from the spirit of America’s founding. Indeed, IMG_2733_Spiritual_Out-of_Focus_300some say the evangelical movement of the mid-eighteenth century known as The First Great Awakening played a key role in America’s strive for independence.1 And don’t think the whole “separation of Church and State” thing in the Constitution came about because the Founding Fathers felt the First Great Awakening was a tad too much. I’ll remind you the whole purpose of the First Great Awakening was to rebel against the Church of England and to recognize broader religious freedom. This is the very philosophy embodied by our constitution.

Our focus in this chapter, though, isn’t the First Great Awakening, but the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening began in 1790 and lasted for about 50 years. It featured traveling preachers leading revival camps where “hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather for miles around in wilderness encampment for four days to a week.”2 One such preacher was Charles Finney, who, from September 1830, through June 1831, led various revival campaigns3 in Rochester, Buffalo and “the intermediate towns between there.”4 And what facilitated this travel? Why, none other Continue Reading “A Model of Christian Spirit”

Seeds of a New Movement

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The Erie Canal made Buffalo. Joseph Dart made Buffalo memorable.

Through Joseph Ellicott and the establishment of Greater Western New York west of the Genesee River, we’ve seen the importance of the canal from before it was even drawn up. We’ve witnessed how its opening paved the way for the creation of America’s first tourist destination – Niagara Falls. We’ll discover in a few chapters how it allowed our region to become ground zero for Continue Reading “Seeds of a New Movement”

Low Bridge, Everybody Down

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By the time Thomas S. Allen wrote The Erie Canal Song (as the song is most commonly referred to) in 1905,1 the famous canal had already been in operation for 80 years. Allen chose the title Low Bridge, Everybody Down because the canal had just ditched the mules for steam power and he wanted to pay homage to the animal so critical to canal operations.2 That Allen celebrates the mule Sal tells us he’s commemorating a then not-too-distant past. Incidentally, the title wasn’t the only thing about the song that changed over the years, including, ironically, the word “years.” The original lyrics were “fifteen years on the Erie Canal” and  refers to the length of the partnership between Sal and his owner, while the new lyrics are “fifteen miles on the Erie Canal,” referring to how Continue Reading ““Low Bridge, Everybody Down””

The Best Little Hole House in Greater Western New York

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Our family moved to the Rochester suburb of Chili during the Christmas break of my fifth grade. There are a lot of things I can tell you about that particular transition. It’s amazing what I still remember. There’s the “long” (because it was written on a narrow roll of paper) letter I received from the fifth grade classmates I had left behind in Woodlawn Intermediate. There’s my rediscovery of the game of chess while partaking in what was promoted as “science” class. (Apparently, “mapping” the moves – not even real chess notation – had something to do with scientific thinking.) Most relevant for this tome, however, was my new classmates’ anticipation of summer.

For many youngsters in and around the Rochester area, the summer not only brought the welcome end of “pencils, books and teacher’s dirty looks,” but it also ushered in the Continue Reading “The Best Little Hole House in Greater Western New York”

A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

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Now that we’ve marked the boundaries of Greater Western New York, the fun really begins. First, we can delineate the counties included. Greater Western New York contains 17 counties. These represent all the counties west of or touching the correct Pre-Emption Line. Those counties are:

● Allegany             ● Chautauqua
● Cattaraugus      ● Chemung
● Erie                    ● Genesee
● Livingston          ● Monroe
● Niagara              ● Ontario
● Orleans              ● Seneca
● Schuyler            ● Steuben            ● Wayne               ● Wyoming            ● Yates

We should note that Pre-Emption Line marks the western border of both Seneca County (maybe, depending on who owns Seneca Lake) and Chemung County. The Line slices through the counties of Wayne, Yates and Schuyler. As it stands, the eastern borders of Wayne, Seneca, Schuyler and Chemung form a fairly straight line from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania line. OK, maybe it’s not quite straight enough to convince an officer you’re not unduly influenced, but it’s close enough.

What exactly does this constellation of the 17 western-most counties of New York State tell us? I discovered this particular hidden gem while preparing for a January 2004 Continue Reading “A Whole Greater than the Sum of Its Parts”

We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…

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A funny thing happened on the way to researching my book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York. For years I had been trying to explain to people just what exactly I meant by “Greater Western New York.” From a regional mutual fund’s perspective, it was easy. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all regional funds to specify the municipalities covered by the fund. In the case where a fund’s region encompasses only a portion of a state, the fund’s prospectus must list all the counties included in its unique definition of the region covered. Like I said, from the SEC’s standpoint, defining Greater Western New York was easy.

Beyond that, though, I had to justify why we chose those particular counties. This was especially important because we market the fund only to New York residents, specifically, Western New York residents. And the folks we consider “Western” New York residents don’t necessarily consider themselves “western.” Or, in the case of those in the Buffalo-Niagara metropolitan area, they don’t consider Continue Reading “We Preempt Westward American Expansion for…”

What is the County Legislature?

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the March 29, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Every so often we hear reports on the evening news about the County Legislature or the County Executive doing this or that. Most of us just continue eating our dinner and wait for the sports. On the other hand, we listen intently to the network news whenever the anchor discusses matters from Washington D.C.

Why is it that we show less concern with the legislative body which has a more immediate impact on our everyday lives? Continue Reading “What is the County Legislature?”

Rumors Resolved

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the March 30, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryOldLogo_300Why did we pick Easter week as our first week of publishing the Sentinel? Rumor has it we chose last week, which also happened to fall on the first week of Spring, because of the symbolism of rebirth and resurrection. Sure, the Sentinel represents both – a revitalization in the tradition of local hometown newspapers. This explanation makes a great story, but, unfortunately, it fails the truth test. Perhaps the best way to describe how we came up with our starting date is by showing why we didn’t choose other dates.

The week of March 16th would have been an ideal starting date with the Village elections coming up and all. As luck would have it, I found myself away on business that week, and, besides, we saw no reason to place undue pressure on ourselves. We selected March 23rd primarily for this reason, and because we definitely did not want to Continue Reading “Rumors Resolved”