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Sales from ‘Genny Sees the Eclipse’ raises more than $28K for area animal rescues

By Howard B. Owens
genny book donation
Chamber President Brian Cousins presents a display check to Jonell Chudyk, Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary; Marcy Colantonio, Volunteers for Animals; Maryanne Arena, Mary Land Haven for Horses; Pamela Harmon, Cherry Hill Sanctuary.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Proceeds from the sale of a children's book developed by the Chamber of Commerce --  “Genny Sees the Eclipse” -- will help feed rescue animals and even enable a couple of sanctuaries to give a couple of horses a safe place to retire.

On Tuesday, Brian Cousins, president of the Chamber, presented $28,653.56 to Jonell Chudyk, Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary; Marcy Colantonio, Volunteers for Animals; Maryanne Arena, Mary Land Haven for Horses; Pamela Harmon, Cherry Hill Sanctuary.

Each organization is receiving  $7,163.39.

"This is truly life-changing," said Chudyk. "I know for us from Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary, that amount, that total amount, will pay for the amount of hay that we need through winter. So thank you so much."

Harmon said the $7,000 would help Cherry Hill rescue more horses, and Arena, at Mary Land, said her rescue for retired racehorses would be able to add two horses to its stable.

"It may sound like, 'Oh, two horses,' but that means two lives saved," Arena said.

The book was produced to educate children about the April 8 total eclipse of the sun in Genesee County.  The chamber received orders from 28 states -- including Hawaii -- and 165 cities.  Forbes named it one of the best five books for people to buy to learn more about the eclipse.

It was written by Colleen Onuffer and illustrated by Andy Reddout.

"We talked to the agriculture community, and we talked with the scientific community to make sure the book was true to life," Cousins said. "Then we thought about how we could commemorate this book to our community, and we thought of you and your selfless devotion to these animals. If you take a look at the book, you will see each one of the animals that you take care of day in and day out are represented in that book." 

genny book donation
Jonell Chudyk, Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary, expressing her gratitude for the donation to her organization.
Photo by Howard Owens.
genny book donation
Cover of Genny Sees the Eclipse
Photo by Howard Owens.
genny book donation
Illustrator Andy Reddout also designed a barn quilt, shown on this model barn, and also on a barn on Route 19 in Le Roy.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Photos: Genesee County Home Show 2024

By Howard B. Owens
Genesee County Home Show 2024

These are photos from Saturday's Genesee County Home Show, which the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce hosted and organized.

The final day of the home show is Sunday (today), and it runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday's show was well attended, and about a dozen new vendors, plus many of the usual locally owned home improvement-related vendors, were on the floor of the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena.

Photos by Howard Owens.

Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024
Genesee County Home Show 2024

More than 300 people celebrate Genesee County agriculture at annual dinner in Alexander

By Staff Writer
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The Cupicha family, Cupicha Family Farm, Soil and Water's Conservation Farm of the Year.
Photo by Philip Casper.

Genesee County's agriculture community came together at the Alexander Fire Hall on Saturday for the Celebration of Ag Dinner, with more than 300 people in attendance.

This was the 20th year for the event.

The Cupicha Family Farm of Bethany was this year's Conservation Farm of the Year.

The award recognizes farms that are good stewards of the land.  

Third-generation farmer Mark Cupicha completed numerous projects to mitigate erosion and maintain the health of the soil on his 405-acre farm, which consists of steep and sloping land in the Black Creek and Little Tonawanda watersheds.

Cupicha couldn't thank Jared Elliot and the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District team enough for helping maintain the health of his land, always answering his calls, and coming out to the field.

"If you take care of the soil, the soil takes care of you," said Cupicha.

The meal, prepared by Chef Tracy Burgio and her staff, consisted of beef, chicken, corn fritters, maple-glazed carrots, and roasted potatoes, most of which were donated by local farms in attendance. 

Representative Claudia Tenney, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and Senator George Borrello were in attendance to extend their thanks to the Cupicha family farm for being great stewards of the land.

genesee county ag dinner
Appetizer cheese donated by Yancey's Fancy 
Photo by Philip Casper.
genesee county ag dinner
Photo by Philip Casper.
genesee county ag dinner
Photo by Philip Casper.
genesee county ag dinner
Photo by Philip Casper.
genesee county ag dinner
Jared Elliot, Senior Field Manager for the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District, Mark Cupicha
Photo by Philip Casper.
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Senator George Borello, Mark Cupicha 
Photo by Philip Casper.
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Rep. Claudia Tenney, Mark Cupicha
Photo by Philip Casper

For Chamber Award recipients, 'it started when' they saw a need and filled it

By Joanne Beck
2023 Awards recipients, back row left to right Holland Land Office and Offhaus Farms.  Front row left to right, Volunteers for Animals, Michelle Gillard (center) and Alabama Hotel.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
2023 Chamber of Commerce Awards recipients, back row left to right, Holland Land Office Museum and Offhaus Farms.  Front row left to right, Volunteers for Animals, Michelle Gillard (center) and Alabama Hotel.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

People’s lives that changed the course of either a business, farm, nonprofit, museum or volunteer efforts all experienced the common and perhaps obvious but poignant theme of having a beginning early on in their journeys, Chamber of Commerce President Brian Cousins says.

He noted that during Saturday’s Chamber Awards ceremony. Each of the award recipients, no matter their passion and involvement or cause, were connected by the phrase “it started when,” Cousins said.

Alabama Hotel’s 15 minutes of national fame in December 2022 started when owner Bonnie Woodward and manager Joe Bradt opened their doors and hearts to 120 strangers during a blizzard that stranded out-of-town motorists and only further bolstered a decades-long track record of steadfast hard work, employee contributions and good business sense.

Offhaus Farms’ growth and sustainability started when family members joined the effort, and one by one, it strengthened the business as it mushroomed from 45 cows in 1959 to 1,400 cows and 27 dedicated workers today.

The journey of Volunteers For Animals started 40 years ago when people who were determined to care for the needs of those who couldn’t speak up for themselves gained strength in numbers and purpose to become true to their namesake by working tirelessly for four-legged friends.

Holland Land Office Museum stepped into the spotlight, not as a relic of ho-hum antiquity but as an exciting new chapter in Genesee County’s history, which started when Executive Director Ryan Duffy and Curator Tyler Angora viewed it through fresh eyes and perspectives with new exhibits, programs and speakers.

Michelle Gillard’s ability to effect real change in this community started when she herself saw the need was great and that she had the ability to help and to rally others into action as well, rather than depend on someone else to get the job done. 

In other words, while for each of these award recipients, there's a success story to be told, it all started with a need to be filled, and they filled it. 

“Supporting them and highlighting their journeys is what the Chamber of Commerce is all about,” Cousins said during the 52nd ceremony at Batavia Downs. “I’d like to challenge each of us to soak in each honoree’s story. Each is truly humbling; it’s what makes the backbone of our county.”

The recipients each offer a drive, passion and determination that has not only made their own endeavors successful but also created another stellar lineup of award honorees, he said. 

For anyone who hasn’t attended an awards ceremony, the pride and support of the audience were palpable. A packed room of more than 300 attendees participated in an evening of videos illustrating what each recipient has accomplished and how they all interact with the community, and watched humility unfold as recipients accepted their award. 

History flowed throughout the evening about the origins of each business and organization, with the oldest one cited as the Holland Land Office property, established by Joseph Ellicott in 1815. 

While many folks may enjoy the glitz and glam of the Oscars and Emmys, this event is a local Academy Award for people doing good in their own community’s backyard. The story of each one is listed below. All recipients thanked family, friends, community members, and/or those who nominated them, and there were challenges made as well.

In her closing remarks, Gillard quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who used nonviolent resistance to lead a successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule and asked each of the attendees to consider her appeal. 

“Gandhi once said ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ Prior to volunteering, I often felt something was missing from my life without really knowing what it was. Acts of service, kindness to others, it will fill your life and your soul in a way that you never imagined,” she said. “I challenge each of you to find a cause or an organization that speaks to you and dedicate your time there. While we're all busy giving, our time is one of the greatest gifts that we can offer. I assure you, it is also a gift you are giving to yourself. Imagine the positive impact we could create in our community if each person in this room spent an hour or two volunteering each month and encouraging others to do the same.”

Here are the award recipients' stories:

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Business of the Year, Joe Bradt and Bonnie Woodward  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Business of the Year, Joe Bradt and Bonnie Woodward.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Agricultural Business of the Year, Travis and Levi Offhaus  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Agricultural Business of the Year, Travis and Levi Offhaus of Offhaus Farm.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Special Anniversary Recognition of the Year Debbie Stocking and Wendy Castleman  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Special Anniversary Recognition of the Year, Debbie Stocking and Wendy Castleman of Volunteers For Animals.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Special Recognition of the Year Ryan Duffy and Tyler Angora  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Special Recognition of the Year, Ryan Duffy and Tyler Angora of Holland Land Office Museum.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Geneseean of the Year Michelle Gillard  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Geneseean of the Year, Michelle Gillard.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Master of Cermony, Paul Figlow  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Master of Cermony, Paul Figlow.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Brian Cousins, Chamber President  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Brian Cousins, Chamber of Commerce president.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Goodwill cuts ribbon on expanded retail space, drive-up donation center at Batavia location

By Howard B. Owens
goodwill batavia ribbon cutting
Goodwill officials and Chamber of Commerce leaders celebrate the store's expansion in Batavia on Friday morning with a ribbon cutting.
Photo courtesy WBTA.

Batavia's Goodwill store at 4152 West Main St. celebrated its expansion Friday morning with a ribbon cutting hosted by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

The expansion doubled the thrift store's retail space and added a covered drive-up donation center.

Goodwill has operated at its current location since May 2013 and has been expanded from 9,285 to 21,506 square feet and now has 18 full- and part-time employees.

Goodwill officials say the location is now one of the agency's largest in Western New York.  It features an open layout allowing it to expand space for donated men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. The store also features a broad array of previously owned housewares, decorative items, small appliances, electronics, and furniture.  

“With individuals and families looking for ways to cut their clothing and household budgets, we are proud to be able to expand our offerings in Batavia,” said Thomas Ulbrich, Goodwill of Western New York president and CEO, in a statement. “We serve a very wide range of customers from all across Genesee County, and we are proud to be a resource for families in such a great community.”

The drive-up donation center is on the side of the building facing Main Street and offers donors a quick and convenient -- and covered -- way to donate gently used, unwanted items to the store to support workforce development programs across the region.

The story is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Chamber of Commerce announces honorees for 52nd annual awards

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is celebrating its 52nd Annual Awards Ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, March 2 at Batavia Downs Gaming, 8315 Park Road, Batavia. This is the County’s premier event that honors businesses and individuals for their achievements in business, community service and volunteerism. Tickets are $60.00 per person, or a table of 8 for $440.00.

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with Hors Oeuvres, Entrée Tables & Cash Bar (no formal sit-down dinner is to be served). The Award Program starts at 7 p.m. where dessert and coffee will be served.

This year’s honorees are:

  • Business of the Year: Alabama Hotel, LLC
  • Agricultural Business of the Year: Offhaus Farm, Inc.
  • Special Anniversary Recognition of the Year: Volunteers for Animals 
  • Special Recognition of the Year: Holland Land Office Museum 
  • Geneseean of the Year: Michelle Gillard

NASA HUNCH mentor to talk about 2024 eclipse during Jan. 9 event at Eli Fish

By Joanne Beck
Gene Gordon
Gene Gordon
Submitted Photo

If you are wondering what all the fuss is about with the April 8, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, the Chamber of Commerce has planned an exciting (and free) opportunity for you to learn more and get ready for the Total Solar Eclipse of April 8, chamber staff member Kelly Rapone says. 

Gene Gordon of NASA HUNCH will provide a community presentation and answer your questions during a one-hour information session that is being hosted from 5 to 6 p.m. Jan. 9 by Eli Fish Brewing Company at 109 Main St. in Batavia. 

Call Eli Fish at 585-343-0008 to reserve your seating by Jan. 4. Seating is limited with reservations in advance.

Arrive by 5 p.m., as the presentation will begin promptly at 5:15 p.m.

Plan to stick around after the presentation for dinner!  Eli Fish will be offering eclipse-themed food and drink specials, Rapone said. All ages are welcome, and Genny the eclipse mascot will also be on site for photo opportunities.

Gene Gordon taught science in the Rochester area for more than 30 years, eventually creating a NASA research class that led to his students creating projects that would fly to the International Space Station. 

Gordon has flown on board NASA’s Zero-G plane twice, and he used that experience to help others understand the world around them. He became the president of the Science Teachers Association of New York State in 2015, where he took part in the creation of the new science standards. 

This year he received the 2023 Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award as well as the highest honor in STANYS, by being named a STANYS Fellow.

Although he retired from teaching in 2018, he joined NASA HUNCH as the New York State mentor, and dreams of having students from all over New York State designing and building things for space, Rapone said. 

Visit GeneSEEtheEclipse.com for more information on the upcoming eclipse.

Chamber of Commerce celebrates a busy 2022 at annual meeting at Terry Hills

By Howard B. Owens
brian cousins genesee county chamber of commerce president
Brian Cousins, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

After approving a new slate of directors for the board, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce members heard a recap of a busy 2022 from Chamber President Brian Cousins.

The year started with the annual awards banquet at Batavia Downs, attended by more than 300 people. That was followed by the Celebrate Ag Dinner in Alexander, attended by more than 400 people. After that, chamber staff got busy hosting the annual Home Show at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena in Batavia.  During the summer, the chamber hosted its annual golf and bocce ball tournament. In the fall, there was the annual Decision Makers Ag Tour.

And then there were ribbon cuttings.  Lots and lots of ribbon cuttings. There are always ribbon cuttings.

"We get requests all the time for business openings, business milestones -- Tom Turnbull (former chamber president) always taught -- and this was probably the best thing ever taught me -- that everyone always loves a good ribbon cutting," Cousins said. And it's true. A lot of people did a ton of good things in the community this year. I'm very proud of our ability to go out and support them. We probably literally had one to two requests a week. Sometimes we had two a day."

Cousins also praised the monthly Business After Hours, held at a different Chamber member location each time, as a great way to network and form important if not lasting business connections.

All of those big events return in 2024:

  • Chamber Awards, March 2.
  • Celebrate Ag Dinner, March 16
  • Home Show, in March
  • Gold and Bocce, at Terry Hills this year on July 18
  • Decision Maker's Ag Tour, being planned, date to be determined

And one of the highlights, surely, if the weather cooperates, of 2024 will be the viewing of the eclipse on April 8.  

The chamber's Tourism Bureau has been preparing for months -- there have been 50 meetings, 15 in-person talks, several monthly Zoom sessions, and "Jenny," the cow mascot, has made numerous public appearances.

And 2023 has been a good year for tourism, Cousins said.

"We are going to have a record year in terms of visitor spending into our county -- upwards of about $209 million total, sustaining about $65 million in tourism payroll. It's amazing," Cousins said.

New members of the Chamber board of directors:

  • Mickey Hyde, immediate past chair
  • Kristina Raff, with Nortera
  • Mark Brooks, with Tompkins
  • Michael Battaglia, Prudential
  • Megan Palone, Oliver's Candies
  • Jocelyn Sikorski, Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Jeremy Liles, Oliver's Candies.

The new board chairman is John Whiting of the Whiting Law Firm.

GC Chamber of Commerce hosting annual membership meeting Nov. 16

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce Annual will be hosting its Annual Membership Meeting on Nov. 16 at Terry Hills Golf Course & Banquet Facility, 5122 Clinton Street, Batavia. Registration begins at 11:30 am, and Buffet Lunch begins promptly at Noon, cost is $25 per person.

The Agenda for the Meeting will be a review of 2023, a look ahead into 2024 & Election of 2024 Chamber Board Members. To register directly online visit the Chamber’s Website www.geneseeny.com or call Kelly B. at 585-343-7440, ext. 1026. Deadline for registration is Nov. 10.

Celebrate Agriculture dinner tickets going on sale Dec. 4

By Press Release

Press Release:

Plans are already underway for the 20th Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner which will take place on Saturday, March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Alexander Fire Hall. This annual event is a celebration of Genesee County’s #1 Industry, Agriculture!

The highlight of the night is a delicious meal using locally produced foods prepared by the Culinary Arts Students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. Let by Chef Alberto Santos and Denise Kaus, Culinary Arts teacher aide, this will be the third year of this perfect collaboration between the Chamber’s Agricultural Committee & Culinary Arts Program. The dinner is open to the public.

Tickets go on sale Dec. 4 at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 8276 Park Road, Batavia. Tickets are $30 each or a table of 10 can be purchased for $275.

Sponsorships are also available which help support agriculture educational events in Genesee County. Only 400 tickets will be sold. Tickets must be purchased by February 24, 2024. For more information or to download the registration flyer visit the
Chamber’s Website www.geneseeny.com.

The Celebrate Ag Dinner is coordinated by the following partners: Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District and Genesee County Farm Bureau. 

Sponsors of the 2023 celebration included: Alleghany Farm Services, Arctic Refrigeration, Baskin Livestock, Inc., Batavia Muckdogs, Carolina Eastern Crocker, CPL, Farm Credit East. ACA, Farm Family Insurance, Fieldstone Private Wealth, Freed Maxick CPA, Junction Motor Freight, L&M Specialty Fabrications, LLC, Lamb Farms, LandPro Equipment, Lawley, L-Brooke Farms, LLC, Monroe Tractor, My-T Acres, National Grid, OXBO International, Perry Veterinary Clinic, Sackett Farms, Torrey Farms, Western New York Energy, LLC, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. William Kent, Inc. and Windy Acres
Farm. 

Farms and businesses that donated locally grown food for the 2023 dinner included: Dorman Farms, Farm Fresh First, Inc/Nortera Foods, Fenton’s Produce, Harrington’s Produce, SJ Starowitz Farms, Torrey Farms, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc., Kreher Family Farms, Daves Ice Cream, Doug & Peggy Torrey, Yancey’s Fancy. 

For ticket information or questions contact the Kelly B. at The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 585-343-7440 or kbermingham@geneseeny.com.

Culinary arts students impress at annual Celebrate Ag Dinner

By Press Release
boces culinary arts ag dinner
Chef Tracy Burgio, left, and some of the Culinary Arts students who prepared and served the meal at the Celebrating Ag Dinner in Alexander on Thursday.
Photo by Howard Owens. 

Press Release:

The Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner took place on March 25, at the Alexander Fire Hall. This event is held every year to celebrate Genesee County's leading industry, agriculture. The highlight of the evening was a delicious meal featuring locally produced foods prepared by the Culinary Arts Students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. 

The collaboration between the Chamber's Agricultural Committee and the Culinary Arts Program, led by Chef Tracy Burgio and Denise Kaus, was a success. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce approached Chef Tracy Burgio to cater the dinner, knowing that it would be a culinary challenge eagerly embraced by her students she happily accepted. The dinner was open to the public.

The Celebrate Ag Dinner is organized by various partners, including the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Genesee County Farm Bureau. Local farms and businesses donated food grown in the county for the dinner. Chef Burgio, along with the Culinary Arts students, worked together to plan and practice the menu, which featured food products sourced from Genesee County farmers.

"Seeing the students flawlessly produce the meal, with as many attendees that were present was incredible. The operation was not only impressive, the meal was absolutely delicious and highly memorable.  We are thankful for Chef Tracy and Denise, as well as all of our local partners that made the event possible.  Without their support and the food donations, this event could not happen.  A well done collaborative effort for those in our Agricultural community, leaders in education, and students in the culinary arts,” said Genesee County Chamber of Commerce President Brian Cousins.

On June 1, representatives from the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will visit the Batavia CTE Center to meet with the Culinary Arts students, Chef Burgio, and Kaus. During the visit, they will present a check to the Culinary Art Club as a token of appreciation.

Photo: Attendees of Business After Hours at Norton's Chizzlewood

By Howard B. Owens
Norton Chizzlewood
The Batavian owes publication of this photo to Fran and Bobbi Norton, owners of Norton's Chizzlewood at 4309 Gilhooly Road, Alexander. The Batavian attended a Chamber of Commerce Buisnesss After Hours at Noton's on May 11 and forgot to follow up with coverage.
Photo by Howard Owens.Business

Still in the midst of recovering from fire, The Firing Pin hosts a Chamber After Hours

By Howard B. Owens

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It's been less than four weeks since a fire in the firing range at The Firing Pin on Buffalo Road in Bergen nearly shut the business down.

But it isn't shut down.

A sign of that was owner Brandon Lewis and his staff hosting an After Hours event for the Chamber of Commerce -- an event that had been scheduled before the fire.

Lewis saw no reason to cancel it.

His 7,500 square-foot retail space and indoor firing range are gutted, but he rented a mobile firing range and converted a 500 square-foot storage area and studio into a new retail space, so the Firing Pin Remains open to take care of its customers, conduct classes, and keep everything going while he works out recovery details with his insurance carrier.

"It's been an adjustment, but we're making the most of it," Lewis said. "Obviously, if it were up to me, we'd already be half rebuilt already. But, you know, we're working within the limitations that we've got. I couldn't be more thankful for my team. You know, I couldn't imagine where we'd be without their efforts."

Previously: Three days after devastating fire, owner of The Firing Pin looking ahead

Photos by Howard Owens: Top photo, Brandon Lewis and his daughter Emmie.

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Kelly Bermingham, membership director for the Chamber, with a cookie made for the chamber event featuring The Firing Pin logo.

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John Huther, director for training at The Firing Pin, inside the mobile firing range.

The McCarthy jammed with vendors for this weekend's Home Show

By Howard B. Owens

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It's going to be warm outside this weekend so if you need a break from the unseasonable heat, Chamber of Commerce President Brian Cousins has a suggestion -- come on down to the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena for the 2023 Home Show.

"I know it's a great weekend," Cousins said. "The weather this weekend is awesome, which is unheard of in April -- you get 80-degree weather. But you know, the inside of the Ice Arena is a little bit cooler than outside. It's like natural air conditioning in here. So it's very comfortable for people. I'm looking forward to seeing as many people can come out do so to work on their to-do lists."

This is the first home show for Cousins as chamber president, and he's excited to see it off to a good start.  All of the vendor booths are full, and the chamber even had potential vendors trying to sign up for booths on Friday morning.

Admission is $3 for adults, and hours Saturday are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

"Make a list," Cousins said, "check it twice when you're out sitting on your deck or something this weekend, then make a quick trip out, spend an hour to get some different ideas and things that you wanted to do over the course of the last two, three years, especially over the COVID time period when you couldn't get somebody to help you out with things."

Photos by Howard Owens

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Can't wait to GeneSEE the Eclipse? The countdown has begun to April 8, 2024

By Joanne Beck

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Dark times, they are a-coming.

For three minutes and 42 seconds, reportedly one of the rarest and most spectacular events in nature, the sky will become dark as deep twilight, as bright stars and planets take over the sky stage, and the sun’s fiery outer atmosphere plays lead character against the moon’s silhouette.

And Genesee County officials — planning a full year out, to the day — want to make sure that nobody misses a moment of it. So do be sure to GeneSEE the Eclipse. The Chamber of Commerce has organized a team to ensure that all points are covered, and members launched an event logo and outline for the total solar eclipse set to pass through this county on April 8, 2024.

“Rest assured, Genesee County governments and local municipalities are also going to be preparing. I want to make sure that I emphasize that there will be safety considerations taken into account,” County Manager Matt Landers said Tuesday at chamber headquarters on Park Road in Batavia. “As (County Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein and Chamber President Brian Cousine) were saying, there's going to be hundreds of thousands of individuals coming into our community in the GLOW region around the time of the next eclipse, and that can be a little daunting.

“But the planning efforts are in place, the local law enforcement from all levels will be taking part. This is also a great opportunity for our local schools and educators to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime event. So I'm glad that we've reached out and have some communications with some of the local school districts. And I've spoken to some local school administrators, and I know that they are already reaching out to their science departments and making sure that we take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Things like extending spring break one extra day to ensure that there aren't school buses down the roads during the event was a great idea. And I'm glad that it looks like all of our schools are going to be closed so that the kids can fully enjoy this day and not be on the roads at the same time.”

County management, Emergency Management, highway departments and local municipalities are already having kickoff planning meetings to ensure that the roads are safe, Landers said. They all, of course, want to make sure that “we make this as fun of an experience as possible” while keeping public safety in mind.

Speaking of fun, team consultant Glenn Clark reached out to artist and high school art teacher Andy Reddout to create the visual for the campaign. He knew that agriculture is huge in Genesee County and that this was for the total solar eclipse. The final creation is a smiling black-and-white Holstein cow named Genny, standing in front of the outer frame of a large orange eclipsed sun, with a row of small businesses lined up in front of it. No worries, Genny is wearing ISO-certified solar glasses to be able to enjoy the view.

artist_with_logo_1.jpg

Tuesday’s event included a commemorative poster, the branded solar glasses, custom decorated cake, a champagne toast, and an unveiling of the artist's illustration, paired with the tagline “See it where the skies are darker.”

It is believed that Genesee County, with all of its quaint and rural trappings, will be a draw for spectators, given its low volume of tall buildings, bright lights and obstructions to the phenomenon that won’t return for another 126 years.

Glenn Clark, a consultant with Crafting a Brand from Mendon, wanted to build momentum, so he asked audience members to close their eyes. He then name-dropped three iconic brands: Smokey the Bear, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger.

“I’ll bet if I asked each and every one of you to tell me what you thought of, you'd all come up with the same thing. That's how branding works. And we've created a visual brand that we're going to unveil here in just a moment that people are going to remember, now through April 8, and beyond,” Clark said. “And it's fun. It's iconic. Most of all, it's memorable. People are going to talk about this. And they're going to say one thing over and over again … So this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something that people will remember that we're going to be able to use for the next year. But more importantly, for decades to come. I think that this will show up for decades.”

Katy Hobbs, a Chamber staff member part of the teams for Genesee the Eclipse, said that plans are in place to provide activities for a three-day weekend before and up to the actual big event. Beginning April 5, there are to be special events, celebrations and eclipse-themed foods for residents and visitors alike, she said.

This isn’t just a Chamber event, but something that can involve businesses and residents, she said.

“We are thrilled to see the tremendous local enthusiasm thus far, our team has been actively brainstorming ways to make this experience unforgettable. The chamber will host monthly stakeholder Zoom meetings on the third Tuesday beginning April 18. Each month will focus on a different topic related to the Eclipse, such as finding the best viewing spot and brainstorming ideas for local businesses to promote the total eclipse,” she said. “We’ll be collaborating with local businesses, event organizers and club organizations. Some local businesses have already started initial Eclipse plans, which may include science and nature programming, viewing parties and art historical events. Apart from our Zoom meetings, we also will be establishing a Facebook event as a hub for updates and sharing. Please join us and be a part of the excitement.”

For more information, go to Geneseetheeclipse.com.

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Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and government officials, sporting their certified solar eclipse glasses, launched the kick off for a 2024 total solar eclipse Tuesday at chamber headquarters in Batavia. Top Photo shows County Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein holding the custom decorated cake with chamber staff Kelly Rapone and President Brian Cousins in front; artist Andy Reddout, left, and  consultant Glenn Clark unveil the artwork for the three-day celebration next year featuring Genny the cow and GeneSEE the Eclipse tagline; Shelley Stein cuts the cake for visitors that attended the kickoff as County Manager Matt Landers and Chamber President Brian Cousins watch; and above, Katy Hobbs, chamber membership and marketing director, shares initiatives the team will be working on in the coming months. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Chamber of Commerce announces expanded Barn Quilt Trail of Le Roy

By Press Release

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Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that it has updated and expanded the Barn Quilt Trail of Le Roy, in cooperation with Le Roy Historian Lynne Belluscio and the Le Roy Historical Society, by launching a new website and new self-guided trail brochure.

The original 2012 Barn Quilt Trail began as a bicentennial project for the Town of Le Roy, with the first being painted in 2011 at the annual Oatka Festival. In the following 10 months, the trail surpassed its goal of 25, with over 70 barn quilts being painted and erected.

Today, the trail features a collection of over 100 hand-painted barn quilts along four driving tours in and around LeR oy. Explore the scenic countryside while spotting each unique barn quilt that’s displayed on an array of barns, garages, homes and other outbuildings. Each quilt pattern has a story to tell, and these stories, along with full size images, can be found on the new LeRoyBarnQuilt.org website.

Barn Quilts are known to drive heritage tourism for rural communities as visitors search out authentic experiences that represent the stories and people, past and present, of the area. For Genesee County, the barn quilts have come to represent the pride shared by the people of LeRoy, a town with a rich agricultural heritage, deep appreciation of its history and immense pride in family heritage.

The Barn Quilt Trail expansion is supported through the Tourism Matching Funds program, administered by Empire State Development and I LOVE NY, New York State's Division of Tourism. 

The Chamber invites everyone to explore the trail and discover the beauty and history of the area. The brochure can be requested online at LeRoyBarnQuilt.org or picked up at the Chamber’s Visitor Center at 8276 Park Road in Batavia. This, and other local brochures, can be found in our vestibule, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will also be available in LeRoy this spring at the Town Hall, Village Hall, McDonald’s, The D&R Depot Restaurant, JELL-O Gallery Museum and the Woodward Memorial Library. Watch for special Barn Quilts programming at the Woodward Memorial Library this spring.

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