October 08, 2007


Volunteers tend to patchwork of faces

3 women are force behind Pumpkinfest decorating contest


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Maverick Stafford, 5, of McGraw finds his favorite decorated pumpkin character while longtime Pumpkinfest volunteers Georgette Ogle and Lisa Hoeschele, far right, judge the entries for this year’s contest, which took place on Saturday.

Staff Reporter

With a friend like Georgette Ogle, Vickey Tobin and Lisa Hoeschele were destined to volunteer yearly at the Great Cortland Pumpkinfest.
“She’ll track you down,” said Tobin, 50, of Cortland.
“She goes for the jugular,” added Hoeschele, 45, also of Cortland.
Ogle, a 70-year-old Cortlandville resident, has worked the pumpkin decorating contest every year since Cortland’s first Pumpkinfest in 1996, while Hoeschele and Tobin have volunteered at it the last 10 and five years, respectively.
The women are among the Pumpkinfest’s handful of longtime volunteers who keep the festival successful from year to year.
On Saturday morning at the 12th annual Pumpkinfest in Courthouse Park the women showed that working at the festival can be just as much about fun as it is about work, especially when one’s with friends in a small town.
From early Saturday morning until 11 a.m. the women welcomed children and families who had decorated pumpkins for the contest, a number of whom were year-to-year contest participants, such as 10-year-old Cortland resident Emily Aloi.
“That is so cool, the baby from outer space,” Hoeschele said about Aloi’s pumpkin creation.
A pumpkin served as a baby’s head, while squash formed arms and zucchini provided its legs. The vegetables all stuck out of baby clothes, while the baby sat inside a car seat.
The women made sure the decorated pumpkins were placed in the proper section of the display — whether it was in the kindergarten through second grade section, third and fourth grade section, fifth and sixth grade section or group, or family, section.
The Pumpkinfest was open to all of the people who fit into one of those categories, and 55 entries were submitted. People had to decorate a real or handmade pumpkin to resemble their favorite character from books, films or television.
The women had to make sure each pumpkin came with a form, detailing the artist’s name, pumpkin’s name and other information, and that each pumpkin was labeled with its name.
“I like things that are printed well, because I used to be an English teacher,” said Ogle, who formally taught at Cortland High School.
In between dashes of families arriving with their pumpkins, and time spent pinning up fallen pumpkin accessories, the women discussed the universal truths of the pumpkin decorating contest: there’s always a Cinderella, Spongebob Squarepants and Pikachu; children will never stop trying to touch the pumpkins; and parents will never stop complaining their child should have won.
“They’re worse than the kids,” Ogle said.
The women also took advantage of breaks to watch the Mohawk Valley Frasers Pipe Band walk by, chat with old friends walking by and enjoy the smells of sausage, deep fried macaroni and candy apples.
“That food smell is getting to me because all I had for breakfast was coffee and I really, really want to eat,” Tobin said.
After dealing with a late pumpkin arrival, tallying up judges’ votes and awarding winners their cash prizes, Hoeschele and Ogle got ready to spend the rest of the day and Sunday watching over the pumpkins as festival attendees checked them out.
Their favorite part was seeing people they know, they said.
“In a small town like Cortland you see everyone you know over the weekend,” Hoeschele said.


Pumpkin decorating contest winners

- Kindergarten-2nd grade -
First place: “Zathura” by Noah Taylor
Second place: “Cinderella” by Alexis Crandall
Third place: “Mr. Crabs” by Kya Schadewald
- Third-fourth grade -
First place: “Dumbo” by Andrew Allen
Second place: “Nemo” by Strawberry Wilcox
Third place: “Thing 1 and Thing 2” by Michael Dineen
- Fifth-sixth grade -
First place: “Tom and Jerry” by Nadeane Minnard
Second place: “George Washington” by Mariah Horn
Third place: “Venom” by Luke Williams
- Group (families) -
First place: “Thomas the Train” by Dan and Nate Horn
Second place: “Pillsbury Dough Boy” by the Dineen, Carruthers family
Third place: “Wilbur and Charlotte” by Mollie, Alexi, Cady Walts




Fire heavily damages city home

Cigarette started blaze in Union Street apartment house

Staff Reporter

A Sunday morning fire heavily damaged a two-family home on Union Street.
The Cortland Fire Department received the initial call at 7 a.m., and firefighters and Cortland city police arrived at 38 Union St. two minutes later to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the northwest side of the apartment house.
The city, Cortlandville and Homer fire departments responded to the scene.
A joint investigation by the city police, city fire department and state fire investigators revealed that the fire had originated on a bed in a first floor apartment on the west side of the building.
A 26-year-old female occupant had been intoxicated and fell asleep on her bed while smoking a cigarette, police said. Upon waking and discovering the fire, she attempted to put out the flames before fleeing the apartment.
The matter will be reviewed with the Cortland County District Attorney to determine if any criminal charges will be lodged, police said.
Assistant Fire Chief Charles Sherman said that one of the occupants was pulled out of a first-floor bedroom window without incident, but a Cortlandville firefighter was taken to the Cortland Regional Medical Center for treatment for a back injury.
Sherman said that the second floor had heavy fire damage with moderate water and smoke damage throughout the rest of the building. He said that the structure should be “salvageable.”
A total of nine people resided in the building — four SUNY Cortland students on the second floor and five local residents on the first floor. Six of the tenants and two guests were in the building at the time of the fire.
All the occupants escaped without injury. City police said SUNY Cortland student Andrew Fiegh, 21, was awoken by the smoke detector going off and went from apartment to apartment alerting other residents.



Homer school history club raising money for trips

School district decides not to fund out-of-state trips for members of Living History Club.

Staff Reporter

SOLON — Amanda Hauler explained to new recruit Alexis Clark that at Civil War re-enactments there is only one place for nonperiod items.
“If it’s inside the tent you can have anything,” said Hauler, a 15-year-old sophomore at Homer High School, as the girls unrolled their sleeping bags inside their tent Saturday night.
Clark, a 14-year-old freshman, was one of 13 new members of Homer High School’s Living History Club attending a club training session in the backyard of club advisor Paul Andre’s Solon home from Saturday afternoon to late Sunday morning.
While the club, which was formed in the high school four years ago to do Civil War re-enactments, is stronger than ever with 50 members, it will have to raise thousands of additional dollars on its own this year and provide its own travel to out-of-state events.
The Homer board of education has decided to no longer pay for transportation costs or provide vehicles for the school’s out-of-state re-enactments.
Superintendent of Schools Doug Larison said out-of-school transportation costs had gotten too expensive for the district, though he couldn’t say how much they totaled, or how much in-state transportation costs the district. Andre also didn’t know what the costs were.
Larison said out-of-state transportation costs, which include pay for a bus driver and a hotel for the bus driver, have cost the district thousands of dollars each year.
While the lack of school district funding won’t jeopardize the number of events the club attends each year — typically seven in state and three out of state, it will mean parents and club advisors pay more money from their pockets unless enough funds are raised for transportation costs, Andre said.
“My parents have been so gracious and so good with helping out with the club,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is raise enough to reimburse them the money for gas.”
Advisors and parents will drive the students in their own vehicles as opposed to paying for a charter bus, Andre said.
With the added transportation costs, the Living History Club now has a budget of $13,000, which does not include the in-state transportation costs the school pays.