March 3, 2008
City welcomes winter festival
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
James Patterson of Ithaca, left, and Cody Gaylord of Marathon snowboard in tandem Saturday down an artificial slope at the Greek Peak Terrain Park constructed in Courthouse Park for the first annual Chill-A-Bration.
CORTLAND — Snow flurries set the scene Saturday for the first annual Chill-A-Bration, as children played on man-made snow hills, teenagers snowboarded down a 15-foot ramp and adults young and old enjoyed tasting chili and beer.
“Twice as many people showed than were expected,” said lead organizer Lloyd Purdy, who added he was hoping for 2,000 people. “For a first-time event it was wildly successful. The weather couldn’t have been better — it was perfect.”
With a chili cook-off and beer, an ice rink, Husky dog sled demonstrations, man-made snow hills, a snow sculpting competition and the 15-foot ramp and Terrain Park, the Chill-A-Bration drew in a steady crowd throughout the 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. celebration.
“It seems pretty nice,” said John Pirrone, 24, of Syracuse, as he sipped a beer. “It seems like it was put together on short notice, but there is a lot happening.
Purdy, the executive director of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, said one of the biggest draws was the premiere of the Cortland Beer Company, which offered its first beer, a Crown City Kolsch.
“People are really embracing it,” said Terry Vestal, who founded the Cortland Beer Company with his friend and neighbor Dan Cleary. “It’s great; we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”
The Cortland Beer Company ran out of beer earlier than expected, several hours before the winter festival in Courthouse Park ended. They served two kegs.
“There was a lot better of a turnout than we expected,” Cleary said.
Colleen Degoutt, a 51-year-old Cortland resident, said she enjoyed the new beer.
“It’s different,” Degoutt said. “It doesn’t taste like a Coors, it’s not a Bud Light or Blue Light. There is something different about it and it’s not too hoppy.”
The festival went as well as it could have for a first-year event, said Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce, one of the organizations that collaborated to help make each aspect of the Chill-A-Bration possible.
“It’s been a really good mix of people, younger and older,” he said. “The most impressive thing, though, is the amount of groups that worked to pull it off.”
VanGorder was mainly in charge of the chili cook-off, which was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, the Tavern and Restaurant Association and local businesses. There were eight participants and 80 gallons of chili was served.
A panel of four anonymous judges, two of which judge the chili cook-off at the Ithaca winter festival, determined the winners in three categories — best traditional, best nontraditional and overall best. There was also a people’s choice award, in which a couple hundred people voted, VanGorder said.
Hairy Tony’s won the best traditional category, as well as the best overall category. The people’s choice award went to Deli Downtown.
The winner of the best nontraditional category went to the “friends and fans of John Deere,” which was a Virgil woman named Cathy Keeney.
Keeney was the only participant who is not involved with a local restaurant or bar, but named her booth after John Deere because she is a sales representative for the company.
“I just love to cook,” said Keeney, who brought more than 10 gallons of chili. “I think this is a bigger turnout than everyone thought, especially with the excitement of the (Greek Peak) ramp. Cortland needed a winter festival and we’ll outshine the Pumpkinfest at some point.”
The 15-foot ramp was a part of Greek Peak’s Terrain Park, built Wednesday by BOCES students.
“It was tough to create on flat ground,” said Wes Kryger, general manager of Greek Peak. “We were able to make snow Wednesday when the temperatures were pretty cold, so it worked out pretty well. There has been a steady line all day, the younger age group generally. They enjoy it because they aren’t used to being able to do this in the city.”
Scott Sevey, 18, traveled from Ithaca to come to Chill-A-Bration and snowboard on the Terrain Park.
“I heard they were doing a little rail jam and thought I would stop by,” Sevey said. “I think it’s pretty sweet. They should do this more often — go to different cities and set it up; try to get more people into the sport.”
Diana Brewer, 36, of Cincinnatus, said her favorite thing at the winter festival was the snowboarding.
“I just like to see how they do it,” said Brewer, who brought her two young children. “I saw the snow sculptures when I drove by and wanted to see what was going on. It’s pretty nice to see all the different things available around Cortland. This brings people out; it’s something to do.”
Several large snow sculptures were created in front of the Courthouse Park fountain and drew a lot of pictures and honks from cars passing by.
Vaughn Randall, an art professor at SUNY Cortland said it took three 10-hour days with four or five students to complete the sculptures.
The winner of the snow sculpting competition was the National Autism Awareness Chapter of Cortland who created a jigsaw puzzle and dyed it green and orange.
Malarkey’s Pub and Grub of McGraw, won second place with its bicentennial themed farm scene.
Third place was Scott Hopko of Hopko Designs, who created a shark head coming out of the ground.
“People walking down the street want to know what it is. People are coming by taking pictures with their kids in front so that’s always the best compliment,” he said. “This was good practice and good for the community. I normally teach welding and casting metal, so the students don’t have a chance to do reductive carving, the technique used in snow sculpting.”
Purdy, VanGorder and Kryger all said they will be noting what can go better and what could be changed or added to make next year’s winter festival even more successful.
“I think people are looking for things to do in the winter, so as people talk about it, it will grow,” Kryger said.
City residents Betty Bartolone, 52, and Al Stauber, 62, both said they would “absolutely” come back next year for an annual winter festival.
“It’s good to get people out,” Stauber said. “And when it gets bigger, more people will come.”
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