Cayuga County Chills
When it comes to tourism and recreational activities, the city of Auburn is best known as the gateway to the Finger Lakes, the home of such attractions as the Merry-Go-Round Theater and the Auburn Doubledays as well as the host city of such historical sites as the Seward House and the Harriet Tubman Home. This year the Cayuga County young professionals group Ignite fires up the inaugural Auburn winter festival Ignite the Winter, hoping to liven up their hometown’s cold season by getting the community together for a winter fling. The festival takes place in and around downtown’s Exchange Street Mall on Friday, March 2, from 5 to 10 p.m.
Those five hours will be packed with activities and entertainment for all ages with live music, a dramatic presentation, storytelling, martial arts, Zumba and crafts. Ice sculptures, wagon rides and an Alaska-themed exhibit will put the winter in the festival and local restaurants and groups will face off in chowder and chili cookoffs while warming cold tummies.
“The organizations can make their own variations of their own family recipes,” said Ignite chair Monika Salvage. “Seward House, for instance, is going to make Seward Alaskan chili, whatever that’s going to be like. It sounds pretty cool. The Auburn Fire Department will have firehouse chili. Anybody can put their own spin on the recipes.”
Ignite the Winter events are free of charge thanks to the community spirit of the businesses and organizations taking part. “I’ve lived here ever since I was a kid and we’ve never had anything like this before,” raved Ignite steering committee member Daniel Lovell. “It’s been really an amazing thing to see that so many groups have come together to support us, to get this going. We don’t make any money off of it. There’s nobody really profiting off of it. Different organizations and businesses from Auburn are getting together to do it for the community. It’s going to be a big bright spot in winter for everybody in town to shake off the winter doldrums and do something fun for the community.”
The central location is meant to make it easy for Auburnians to get there quickly and for out-of-town guests to find it easily. “Exchange Street Mall is downtown in Auburn, right off Genesee Street between Mesa Grande Taqueria and the Auburn Public Theater,” Salvage explained. “It’s an outdoor, pedestrian-only strip and will be cordoned off. There is a parking garage right there on Loop Road and there’s also a public parking lot right across from City Hall. You can also find a spot on the street.”
Although this winter has been incredibly mild, organizers aren’t worried that the conditions, whatever they may be that evening, will dampen spirits. “The weather has been a surprise this year, but we have nothing that’s dependent on snow,” assured Salvage. “Obviously, early on we didn’t even know that winter would be like this. We were actually more afraid of the other situation, too cold or too much snow, so we’ve talked about that quite a lot. If the weather’s really bad, we would have the opportunity to move the vendors inside the bottom of the parking garage so they are protected and also so people can hang out there and have activities inside of that mall space. It’s going to be outdoors on that strip, but there’ll also be indoors activities in the Genesee Mall, an indoor space where kids’ activities are going to happen.”
Also indoors will be art exhibits at Seward House, Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center and the Auburn Public Theater. “Inside the Public Theater there’s an exhibit going on from the Auburn Photography Club,” said Lovell. “I’m pretty excited about that. They’re going to be featuring work by Don Lawler, who died just before Christmas, and this is really his first exhibit. It will be touching for that to happen. Those of us who were friends of his and knew him will be pretty excited to see his work displayed.”
The outdoor main stage will host live music from the Ron Spencer Band, Honky Tonk Hindooz and Cayuga Chords, and Merry-Go-Round Youth Theater will present an excerpt from the play Jerry Finnegan’s Sister. The schedule calls for the main stage to be busy the entire five hours.
While a state grant and a generous donation from Wegmans were crucial to meeting costs, the enthusiasm with which the community has embraced the winterfest concept has organizers optimistic, not only for this year, but also for continuing in coming years. “A lot of community organizations came together to help us out and put their own money and resources in,” Salvage said. “I think it’s going to be a great event for Auburn and we hope to make it an annual event. We’re a great little town and especially the first time, you want to keep it simple. As the years go on, other people might jump on board and it might become bigger.”
The full schedule is on the event website, ignitethewinter.com.
Derby Days Approach
“Jammer!” “Jammer!” “Get her! Block the jammer!”
This is what about 30 skaters were screaming at a recent preseason
scrimmage for the Syracuse Assault City Roller Derby team inside their
practice space at Great Northern Mall in Clay. Assault City and derby
leagues across Central New York are preparing for the upcoming season,
which starts between early March and mid-April for most leagues.
Assault City starts its season on Monday, March 5, with an away bout against the Connecticut Roller Girls. Their first home contest is May 14 at 4:30 p.m. against the Skyland Roller Girls of New Jersey; the doubleheader also pits the Battery Brigade against the Capital City Roller Girls of Ottawa. Assault City’s home bouts take place at Greater Baldwinsville Ice Arena, 2725 W. Entry Road, Baldwinsville.
It is easiest to think of roller derby as football on skates. Each team has one jammer, one pivot and three blockers on the floor during a jam, which lasts about five minutes. Depending on each league’s rules, 12 to 15 jams comprise a bout, and a bout is a roller derby game. The jammer’s helmet has a star on it, and she can be compared to the quarterback. The pivot usually skates in the front and is the lead blocker for a jam; her helmet has a stripe on it. The other blockers are like the offensive line, trying to keep the opposing team’s jammer from skating laps around the ring, which is how teams earn points.
There are about a dozen leagues in Central New York, and the sport appeals to women ranging in age from 20 to 50 and in profession from journalist to tattoo artist. Most leagues are also community service organizations that donate a percentage of ticket sales to charities including Habitat for Humanity and Toys for Tots.
Cortland’s Crown City Rollerz bouts are more like networking sessions: Each business has a table around the rink with information and coupons. One such company is Under Your Skin, a tattoo parlor in Cortland, where skater and self-taught tattoo artist Amanda “Manda Tori Chaos” Hartnett has tattooed the team’s purple crown logo on some of her teammates. Crown City’s first bout is April 14 at the Watertown Municipal Arena, 600 Wm. T. Field Drive, against the Watertown Black River Rollers at 7 p.m., and their first home bout is against Assault City on April 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the JM McDonald Sports Complex, 4292 Fairgrounds Drive, Cortland.
Juliana Gonzales, executive director of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), believes derby is a holistic sport where women find friends, community and business in one place, and many women develop a passion for it quickly. Gonzales has been skating for the Texas Roller Girls since 2002, and her derby name is Bloody Mary.
The volunteer-run WFTDA, founded in 2005, creates rules and regulations for more than 120 member and apprentice leagues around the United States, Canada and Western Europe. In Central New York, ROC City Roller Derby (Rochester), Central New York Roller Derby (Utica) and Ithaca League of Women Rollers are member leagues. The Hellions of Troy (Saratoga Springs) and Assault City are in the process of becoming membership eligible.
Most women who skate have a derby name (like Harriet Beecher Ass), and teams register their players on twoevils.com, a website that aggregates the names and numbers of all the women’s roller derby skaters in the world, to make sure no two skaters have the same name or number.
HipsWitch, whose real name is Jane Witty Hodgson, is co-founder, president and blocker for Crown City Rollerz, and she works in the alumni affairs and development office at Cornell University. She started skating three years ago after going to a bout with her husband and son, and she thought derby would be a good way to attract business to Cortland. To many people, derby looks like women in provocative clothing sparring, and she said initially the team had to do a lot of educating to debunk that stereotype.
Victoria “Wicked Evil Stepmom” Gailinas has made derby her business,
starting five leagues in the Northeast. Oswego’s Oz Roller Girls is her
fifth league; her first was Manchvegas Roller Girls in Manchester, N.H.
She and her husband own a skating equipment shop called Wicked Evil
Skate that she takes to bouts in different cities, showing off the
latest in padding and equipment. Oswego’s first home bout is March 10 at
5 p.m. against the Kingston (Ontario) Roller Girls at the YMCA Armory,
265 W. First St., Oswego. “Where I go derby goes,” Gallinas said.
The sisterhood and contact aspects of derby are what attracted Deb Crush, 29, to start skating after being invited to an Assault City league meeting four years ago via MySpace. Crush is a back blocker, which is the first line of defense against the opposing team’s jammer; this position is reserved for really strong skaters. She said she has derby friends all over the state, and with derby, “You get the short skirts and fishnets, but you also get the real community effort.”
For more information:
Ithaca League of Women Rollers skates at Cass Park Rink, 701 Taughannock Blvd, Ithaca, and is currently offering passes to five bouts for $45. For ticket information visit ithacarollerderby.com.
Assault City Roller Derby tickets are $10 per bout; for more information visit assaultcityrollerderby.com or like them on Facebook.com/Assault City.
Oz Roller Girls bout tickets cost $10 each or a season ticket can be purchased for $40 at ozrollergirls.com.
For Crown City Rollerz ticket information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit crowncityrollerz.webs.com.
Central New York Roller Derby skates at JFK Civic Center, 500 W. Embargo St., Rome, and offers a season pass for $50 or individual tickets are $9 and can be purchased at cnyrollerderby.com.
The Hawley-Green district’s avant-garde ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave., is currently running through March 17 the photo exhibit Men Only, William Knodel’s collection of gay-themed snapshots that were taken by a gaggle of anonymous shutterbugs. As an adjunct to understanding this phenomenon, ArtRage has slated the 2004 documentary Other People’s Pictures for a 7 p.m. free showing on Saturday, March 3. Brooklyn moviemakers Lorca Shepperd and Cabot Philbrick took their cameras and prowled the Chelsea Flea Market , along the way profiling the stories of nine collectors who find endless fascination in rummaging through boxes of personal snapshots that have been orphaned either through death, disinterest or perhaps a simple spring housecleaning.
Much like the intimate feeling captured during a CBS Sunday Morning segment, the Shepperd-Philbrick team gently notes the quirkiness of the collectors, who often pay big money for one unusual image, as well as the treasured tics within each photo that they seek out. One cites the virtues of a blurred image that probably led the photo to be instantly discarded, but adds something unique to the shot. Another points out the weird joy of glimpsing the photographer’s own shadow at the bottom of the image, as the shadow sometimes stretches to greet its subjects.
There are also collections on display that detail the closeted history of male binding, a series of mutilated photos in which a certain offending person is clumsily scissored out of the image, long-ago shots of children with Down syndrome who act just like the kids they once were, and a bizarre salute to “the banality of evil,” featuring real-life Nazis relaxing at weddings, parties and other social functions. Without those telltale swastikas, viewers would have little clues about the goosesteppers’ horrific day jobs.
There is nary a snark of condescension regarding the adventures of these eccentric collectors, which is half of the charm of this 53-minute documentary, with the other half, of course, coming from the forgotten snapshots, moments of time that have found new, appreciative homes. And there are thousands of other images crammed into photo albums at flea markets everywhere, all awaiting rediscovery.
For longtime Syracuse New Times readers, the unusual spelling of Shepperd provides a telling tip-off that filmmaker Lorca Shepperd is indeed the daughter of a certain Salt City urban legend. Shepperd (who has logged time as a producer on the A&E show Dog the Bounty Hunter) and her husband Cabot Philbrick will chat about Other People’s Pictures after the Saturday screening, where audience members can ask if Lorca does make a Hitchcockian cameo about 15 minutes into the movie. ArtRage Gallery’s hours are Wednesdays through Fridays, 2 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. For information, call 218-5711.