The Finger Lakes Opera is the featured group for Brockport's Summer Serenades on Thursday, July 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., canal side, at the Brockport Welcome Center (11 Water Street).
The evening will feature 2019 young artist Anders Namestnik, 2020 Tomita Young Artist Victoria Thomasch and 2021 Tomita Young Artists Danielle Beckvermit, Veena Akama-Makia, and Edward Forstman.
Forstman will serve as the collaborative pianist while soprano Beckvermit, tenor Namestnik and mezzos Akama-Makia and Thomasch will sing a variety of popular arias from operas including Carmen, La bohème, and Don Giovanni, as well as songs from hit shows like My Fair Lady, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, The Most Happy Fella, and more.
The performance is free and sponsored by the Village of Brockport. ~Caurie
A great time showing at and photographing the Spencerport American Legion Car Show today (July 24, 2021) at the Ferris Goodridge Post #330 on Trimmer Road. There were 292 gorgeous cars, trucks and bikes entered is this very well-run show. If you missed it, here are some upcoming car shows in the Brockport area:
1. Sunday, July 25 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Memorial Car Show for Kim Root at Ledgedale Airpark, 21 Eisenhauer Drive in Sweden.
2. Friday, August 27 6 p.m. to dusk - Brockport Lions Club Classic Car Cruisin' at Clarkson Good Neighbor Day. Hafner Park, 3645 Lake Road N. in Clarkson. More info: contact Toby Unger at 585-738-7006
By Caurie Putnam
Today was a beautiful afternoon for the Sweden Community Foundation's dedication of the Willie Sweeting Gazebo at Sweden Town Park on Redman Road.
Mr. Sweeting died in 2018 and was a giant in sports and recreation advocacy and action, especially baseball and softball, in the Brockport area. It was a testament to his legacy how well-attended today's event was by local leaders, community members and family members, including his widow Ann, who now lives in Georgia.
In fitting form, there were several youth baseball games going on at the fields around the gazebo during the dedication. The gazebo was funded by the Sweden Community Foundation and private donations.
The program from today's dedication had these lovely words to say about Mr. Sweeting:
"This gazebo is dedicated in memory of Willie Sweeting, lifelong resident and recreation advocate in the Town of Sweden. An outstanding high school athlete at Brockport High School, Willie owned and operated Earl 'n Bill's Fas Station with Earl Siegfreid for twenty years before starting a career at Brockport Central School District where he supervised the transportation mechanics, security staff and grounds and athletic fields. He created and maintained the baseball and softball fields at the school district and was instrumental in the refurbishing of the baseball filed at The College at Brockport. When Nietopski Field was built at the Sweden Town Park, Willie spent much time advising those who were building it. Sweden Community Foundation members believe there was no better friend to the Sweden community than Willie Sweeting."
Foundation members are Wayne Zyra, Jack Milner, Charlie Militello, Kelly Lewis, Chet Fery, Dan Hogan, Buddy Lester, Michelle Stevens and Michael Myers (who did a wonderful job planning today's event).
So excited to share with you all the opening of our community's newest playground - the Alpine Adventure Zone at Monroe County's Northampton Park. This is an AMAZING place. The whole time I was there last night I kept saying, "This is the coolest playground ever."
It is all natural and has an American Ninja Warrior + Disney Frontierland vibe to it. It's also great for our older kiddos! (as you can see in the photos, my 14 year old loved it) There are baby swings as well.
You can find it on Hubble Road next to the ski lodge. Plenty of parking and picnic tables w grills. I didn't see playground hours posted, but I assume they are regular park hours, which are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
by Caurie Putnam
The paintings of Hilton artist Ellie Houghtaling will make their gallery debut at the Hart Gallery 27 in Brockport from July 10 to 31, 2021.
Titled "Through Momma's Eyes," the exhibit features realistic, acrylic paintings inspired by snapshots on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"During the pandemic, like a lot of people, I spent a great deal of time on Facebook," Houghtaling said. "My children are teenagers now and I was inspired by the cute photos of friends' children and asked to paint them."
The result is a beautiful collection of large paintings mostly showing the emotions of young children doing simple things, like blowing bubbles and playing in the snow. The show also marks a bucket-list-check item for Houghtaling to have her own art exhibition.
"I spent the last fifteen years deep in motherhood," said Houghtaling, who is originally from Shortsville. "I've always known I'm an artist, but I didn't always get a lot of time to paint. My goal for 2020 was to have my first gallery show and while it got pushed back a year because of the pandemic, it still feels really good."
The opening reception for "Through Momma's Eyes" is 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 10 at the gallery, located at 27 Market Street in Brockport. For gallery hours visit Hart Gallery 27
The Clarkson Historical Society received seventy-four entries for this year’s cursive handwriting contest. Judges were Mary Edwards, Nancy Stone, and Bonnie Howlett.
The 2021 winners are:
1st Leah Landis of Brockport, home school, grade 4
2nd Mia Rugari of Brockport, Hill School, Grade 5, Mr. Resseguie
3rd Tessa Rugari of Brockport, Hill School, grade 5, Mr. Yu.
1st Candace Harris of Brockport, home school, grade 7
2nd Abby Russo of Holley, Lake Ontario Baptist Academy, grade 8, Mrs. Huber
3rd Lily Landis of Brockport, home school, grade 6.
1st Cynthia Harris of Brockport, home school, grade 11
2nd Rebecca Nelson of Brockport, Lake Ontario Baptist Academy, grade 10, Mr. McDowell
3rd Charity F. Huber of Holley, Lake Ontario Baptist Academy, grade 10, Mr. McDowell.
Honorable mention awards to the three classes with the most entries:
Mrs. Shannon, grade 4 in Fred W. Hill School, Brockport and Mr. McDowell and Mrs. Huber, Lake Ontario Baptist Academy.
Information courtesy of Clarkson Historical Society.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 29, 2020.
By Caurie Putnam
On Jan. 4, 2013, my first Our Towns West Extra column ran in the Democrat and Chronicle. It was about New Year’s resolutions and began by sharing those of my sons.
Brice, then 10, said his resolution was to get better at hockey and Brady, 6, said, “to paint more pictures so the world a prettier place.”
Over the past seven years, Brice has gotten better at hockey, Brady has painted many beautiful pictures and I have had the privilege of illuminating the goodness on the west side of Rochester.
It has been an absolute joy and honor to tell your stories. Counting this, my final, West Extra, I wrote 387 columns for you.
I was invited to your benefits, businesses, sporting events, animal rescues, theater productions and your kitchen tables. I laughed with you, cried with you and grew with you. It’s impossible to choose my favorite columns. However, there are a few themes I became partial to.
I loved writing about veterans on the west side, including Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch of Greece in 2019; heart transplant recipient Thomas Barbera of Hamlin in 2018; and Bruce Van Apeldoorn of Rochester, a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Marine Corps who ran his first marathon at age 67 in 2016.
Writing about young people doing special things was also a favorite, like Zach Adams of Kendall, Orleans County, an inspiring young man with Down syndrome who earned his Eagle Scout award in 2016, and Courtney Langelotti of Brockport, who organized an inclusive prom from teenagers on the west side in 2019.
Then, there were the many stories of light coming from tragedy, like Wheatland-Chili High School’s Drama Club dedicating its production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” to the memory of late teacher Jill Skivington Jackett in 2018 (an additional beautiful thing that came from this column was Miranda sharing it — and a note of encouragement to the
students — with his millions of followers on Twitter).
Writing this column also offered me the opportunity to represent the paper at many events on the west side. I emceed parades and dinners, spoke in classrooms and to your nonprofits, judged your competitions (ranging from BBQ cook-offs to dog Halloween costume contests). I will miss these fun interactions with you greatly; they were always a pleasure.
I want to thank the editors and copy editors I’ve had over the past seven years (Denise Young, Marilyn Ajavananda, Laura Nichols and Cynthia Benjamin). They are the professionals who made my work look good and pushed for the inclusion of community columns in the paper vs. budget cuts as long as they could. I am grateful to them all.
Thank you also to my East Extra “bookend” Missy Rosenberry for sharing the page with me with such professionalism and passion for many years.
Keep in touch with Caurie
I am still a freelance writer for the D& C and you will continue to see my byline on stories! Please visit me at facebook.com/BrockportBlog or email caur@hot mail.com or write to me at P.O. Box 639, Clarkson, NY 14430. As you’ve probably guessed, I am not ready to lay down my pen. I would have written this column forever! As painful as it is to say goodbye, I’d do it all over again for the chance to paint the picture “The west side is amazing,” 387 more times.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 22, 2020
by Caurie Putnam
Every item for sale at Afrikamba, Curios ... in Spencerport tells a story.
Among beautiful beaded jewelry and colorful clothing, there’s a metal giraffe made of repurposed Coca-Cola cans by artisans in Capetown, South Africa, and a Volkswagen Beetle carved from scrap driftwood collected in Zanzibar, a Tanzanian archipelago.
No two items in the store are the same, but they do share a common bond: They are for sale in Spencerport due to Harry Ewell and Carol Nellis-Ewell.
The Ewells, who are both Kodak retirees, opened Afrikamba, Curios ... in 1998 following several trips to Kenya. Their first trip was a photographic safari in 1989 with AAA and second, a philanthropic trip building solar ovens in a small village in 1993 with a group called Earthwatch.
During those early trips they bought some handmade bags and when Carol took them to work, the reactions of her co-workers were so positive she realized there was a market for artisanal African goods in Rochester.
Thus began Afrikamba, Curios ... and over 50 trips to 13 countries in Africa for the couple who buy each product they sell personally, paying the artisan a fair price up-front.
“The store is really about learning and sharing our love of Africa and the people,” said Nellis-Ewell, who is also the deputy mayor of the village of Spencerpor t.
Each trip they take to Africa they bring about a dozen suitcases filled with items to distribute in the communities they visit, like food, books, medical products and clothing. They also bring items made by the Spencerport Methodist Church’s Dress a Girl Around the World program.
“There is tremendous need, but extreme gratitude,” Nellis-Ewell said. “We had so many wonderful experiences in Africa, we’ve always felt drawn back and that we had to give back.”
They’ve made so many trips to certain villages that they are treated like family. In Zanzibar there is a little girl named after Carol and in western Kenya a little boy named after Harry. As animal lovers, they are also very active members of the East African Wildlife Society, serving as the United States financial representatives.
Two decades after opening Afrikamba, Curios … in Spencer’s Landing in the village, they are still passionate about sharing their love of Africa with others. “We felt there was a great opportunity along the canal here in Spencerport,” Nellis-Ewell said. “In the summertime people get off their boats, discover the store and ask, ‘Why are you here?’ We say, ‘Everybody has got to be somewhere.’ We wanted to anchor here.”
Dancers’ group celebrates 50 years
Happy birthday to the Cloverleaf Squares, a
modern western square dancing and round dancing singles club founded in 1970. The group, which meets in Chili from September to April and Henrietta in the warmer months, celebrated their 50 th birthday with a reunion dance on Sunday, March 15, at the Diplomat Banquet Center.
In attendance were the group’s first president Bob Sponable and a member of the first dance class, Ann Crowley-Hash.
The group is currently led by Henry Capron and features Mike Callahan as their caller. They have about 100 members, including Sharon Meyer of Farmington, Ontario County, who met her husband of 17 years in the group.
“It’s all about dancing, meeting people and getting some exercise,” Meyer said. “A lot of us have met our spouses there. People keep coming back year after year because they like the dancing and comradery.”
Contact Caurie at firstname.lastname@example.org with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 8, 2020
by Caurie Putnam
A colorful trail of paper daisies looped through the Seymour Library in Brockport after-hours on Feb. 28, guiding participants through a living timeline of the evolution of Girl Scouts from their founding in 1912 to the present.
“This is a really awesome event,” said Lena Budd, volunteer experience manager with the Girl Scouts of Western New York, as she followed the timeline through decade-themed stops operated by members of the Lake Ridge Service Unit’s 13 troops. “It was created and run by the girls to learn to take leadership on a large scale event and is a nice piece of Girl Scout nostalgia.”
The Lake Ridge Service Unit’s troops come from Brockport, Hamlin, Holley and Kendall, Orleans County. Members range in school-age from kindergartners and first-graders (Daisies) to junior and seniors in high school (Ambassadors). All the girls and troops worked together to make the living timeline event a success.
“The collaboration of all the ages represented makes this really special,” said Kari Pardun, service unit manager and leader of Troop 60360, as she handed out faux passports for over 100 guests to get stamped as they visited each decade. “It’s been a good learning experience for all of them to see that what brings us all together, despite our ages, is Girl Scouts.”
World Thinking Day 2020 — an annual occasion that celebrates the diversity, equity and inclusion of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides — was the impetus behind the service unit’s Girl Scouting: A Journey through Time event.
Janessa Falkowski’s troop staffed the 1980s stop. The eighth- and ninth-grade girls wore clothing appropriate to the decade, created a large display of Girl Scout memorabilia from the time period and educated visitors about scouting at that time.
“It’s interesting because today there are a lot of STEM based patches, whereas in the eighties, I realized there were more hobbies and games represented on the patches,” Falkowski explained as I perused the display looking at memorabilia from my days in scouting.
The final stop on the timeline was the library’s local history room, where members of Troop 60471 showed guests display cases they curated with scouting memorabilia ranging from books to a Girl Scouts Cookie Oven.
These cases are part of the troop’s community service efforts towards earning their Silver Award - the highest honor a Cadette Girl Scout can achieve. The cases will remain on display for the public to visit during regular library hours throughout the month of March, which is Women’s History Month.
RMSC STEM Awards Breakfast
The 2020 Rochester Museum and Science Center STEM Award Breakfast was held on Feb. 28 at the Strathallan in Rochester.
I had the opportunity to attend and learn about inspiring educators and organizations making a difference in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in our region.
From the largest pool of nominees yet, Hillary Olson, RMSC president, presented awards to winners in six categories.
The winners in the STEM education categories (presented at elementary, secondary and university levels) were: Blaine Broughton, enrichment teacher at the Fred W. Hill Elementary School in Brockport; the
Wayne-Finger Lakes Pathways Technology Early College High School in Clifton Springs, Ontario County; and the Women in Computing organization at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
In the catalyst awards categories for individuals and organizations using STEM to make a lasting impact on the region, the winners were: Impact Earth, a Rochester-based sustainability business that helps create zero waste communities, classrooms and events; Tom Battley with the not-for-profit Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster; and Aldon Corp., an Avon, Livingston County-based business that, among other things, manufactures their own line of STEM educational kits.
To nominate an educator for a 2021 RMSC STEM Award, visit rmsc.org/component/k2/item/404leadership-in-stem-education-award-nomination.
Contact Caurie at email@example.com with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/BrockportBlog.
This article originally ran in the Democrat and Chronicle on February 9, 2020.
by Caurie Putnam
Hilton native Jonathan Schwind’s professional baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization has taken him across the country, playing and coaching for farm teams from Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Indianapolis.
“The commonality of every place I’ve played has been a Challenger league,” said Schwind, 29, of the Little League Challenger Division, an adaptive baseball program for children and adults with physical and intellectual challenges around the world. Schwind, a 2008 graduate of Hilton High School who was drafted by the Pirates organization in 2011, found a perfect fit between his lifelong commitment to volunteerism and Challenger baseball.
“Service has always been a big part of my life; instilled by my par- ents and my faith,” said the son of Dan and Cheri Schwind of Hilton. “When I got into pro ball, I was very lucky the Pirates offered a lot of opportunities to do a wide range of things to give back to the community and I took that to heart.”
In 2017 Schwind, who majored in special education and psychology at Marist College, started a free Challenger/Miracle League Baseball spring training event at Salmon Creek Country Club in Ogden for athletes from the nine Rochester-area Challenger leagues.
The 2020 event was held on Martin Luther King Day and drew about 80 athletes, over two sessions, to Salmon Creek’s indoor sports complex.
Attendees rotated between baseball skills stations that were manned by Schwind and local college and high school players and coaches. Many of Schwind’s friends and former teachers from Hilton also stopped in to cheer the athletes on.
“It’s so nice to have so many big names donating their time to play with our kids,” said Amanda Behrend of Hamlin, whose children play in the Westside Challenger baseball league. “It’s nice to be in a place that’s supportive of children with disabilities, because unfortunately we’re not always made to feel welcome everywhere in the community.” Feeling welcome and celebrated is the atmosphere Schwind strives to promote at the annual event, which boasts an almost 1:1 player-to-volunteer ratio. This year volunteers came from the baseball teams at Genesee Community College, The College at Brockport and many area high schools. There were also volunteers from the Brockport High School hockey team, where one of Schwind’s three brothers coaches.
“The amount of volunteers we get has increased every year,” Schwind said. “The event is for the participants, but the volunteers get just as much out of it.” Schwind’s family members also volunteer; his mother serves lunch, which is donated by the Schuth family, owners of Salmon Creek (they also donate the use of the facility). Backpacks filled with baseball swag for each athlete are donated by teams within the Pirates organization.
“Jon is just a very good guy,” said Ron Kampf, director of Webster Challenger Baseball, who is the liaison between the local Challenger leagues and Schwind for the event. “He genuinely likes to help people.”
Schwind, who won the 2016 Pirates Community Commitment Award at the Double A level and was mostly recently the assistant hitting instructor for the Pirates Triple- A team in Indianapolis, recently bought a home in Hilton with his wife, Lindsay.
He is doing private baseball instruction (last week he was in California training Pirates first baseman Josh Bell, whom he pitched to in the MLB 2019 Home Run Derby), interested in coaching on a college level and already planning next year’s Challenger event.
“This event has become something really important to me,” Schwind said. “Because I got drafted I never had the time to student teach, but in my heart I still have that passion for this work.”
For more information on the Rochester region’s Challenger programs, visit rochestermiraclefield.
Contact Caurie at caurie@ urgrad.rochester.edu with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CaurieP utnam and on Facebook at facebook. com/BrockportBlog.