February 4, 2013
Cold christens winterfest
Food, crafts and activities enliven chilly Homer celebration
HOMER — Billi Brush was selling spices, Levi Dusseau and Pete Massey were selling the wines made by their vineyards, and people swarmed through the village Saturday for the 13th annual Homer Winterfest.
Freezing temperatures and brisk wind pushed much of the action inside, after the morning’s human sled dog races and early afternoon Cortland Youth Hockey demonstration at the ice rink on the Village Green.
Several venues sold food, including barbecue pork and chicken. HoBeau’s Fireside Grill had a chili cook-off judged by the public.
Winterfest attendance seemed down slightly this year, organizers said. They were not sure why, other than the cold might have kept people home.
Brush, a Truxton resident, was among the vendors at the craft show at the intermediate and junior high school.
Crafts makers sold woven clothing, jewelry, soap, nature photographs, candles, handbags and other items in the small gymnasium and cafeteria.
Brush had her two Wild Billi’s spices for sale, a mild one and “Lil’ Hot,” in bottles. A bus driver for Homer Central School, she said the spices are bottled at Nelson Farm Store in Madison County, and sold there and at P&C Fresh supermarkets in Cortland and Ithaca.
“I’m developing three more,” she said. “One of them is called the Lost Spice because I lost the recipe and had to learn to make the spice again. These two here don’t have sugar in them and have mild salt. They go real well on chicken, mashed potatoes, rice, squash.”
She also sold wooden baseball bat key chain ornaments and T-shirts advertising Wild Billi’s.
Across the village, at the American Legion, a beer and wine tasting event featured six vineyards and one beer maker, Cortland Brewing Co.
Dusseau, sales manager for Chateau Dusseau in Locke, poured wines made by his family vineyard on Erron Hill Road.
He said people are sometimes surprised to find a vineyard away from the lakes in the region, such as Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake, with their large number of wine makers. But Chateau Dusseau’s land has glacier-tilled soil and moderate enough temperatures to support grape growing.
“We get a harsher winter than the vineyards on the lakes, so we need cold, hardy vines like Frontenac and Aurore,” he said.
The company has been operating since 2006 and always has a table at Winterfest.
“It’s a nice event this year, with just enough snow to give it that winter feel,” Dusseau said.
He poured wine for Pam Abbott of Cortland, who was at the wine tasting with husband, Scott, and some friends.
“This is wonderful,” she said, looking around at the crowd. “This is our first Winterfest. We went to Dasher’s (restaurant) first and had chowder. I see a lot of friends here.”
The three-hour wine tasting event attracted about 100 people in its first hour. Massey worked with his staff from Six Mike Creek Vineyard in Ithaca, handing out wine samples.
The Cortland resident has been general manager of the operation since selling his business, PJM Business Systems, in 2010. The company, which specialized in wine operations software, was bought by STG of Buffalo.
“It’s a great retirement job,” he said.
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