June 23, 2012

Back to journalistic roots at a New York high school graduation

CORNING, New York, USA - The assignment was a slam-dunk, plus it helped out the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper for which I do occasional bits of writing. Already this spring I wrote about a Titanic anniversary festival, a hiking trail cleanup, a new farm-animal hospital, and a wine festival.

So it was I found myself on a gorgeous Friday afternoon - a perfect Seneca Lake Appreciation Day - loading cameras and notebooks to head to the Corning-Painted Post West High School Graduation about 40 minutes from the lake cottage.

Getting the caps on straight
It was, as Yogi Berra intoned once, 'Deja vu all over again.'

When I started my writing career in the summer of 1973, I wrote every obituary the Napa Register published that season and covered everything. Everything was generally defined as what the veteran journalists didn't want to touch.

And so I found myself doing all kinds of stories that are not on the top of my list of clippings, but certainly important to the people about whom I was writing.

Friday night's story was no different.

The place was packed with parents so excited they were vibrating even more than their sons, daughters, grandchildren and nieces and nephews. And the students had a great mix of excitement, awe and trepidation about what the next step meant for them, once they threw their mortarboards in the air..

For some, the next step was heading off universities in the fall. But one young fellow told me he would never set foot in classroom again in his life. If his attitude stays the same as what he evidenced Friday night, I hope he doesn't - for the sake of any teacher or professor.

Administrators and teachers first, please
I was surprised to be asked to write the graduation story until I opened up Saturday's newspaper and realized that most of the high schools in Central New York had all had their ceremonies Friday night. And in the Elmira Star-Gazette's circulation area, well, they had a lot more bases to cover than staff and photographers.

It was kind of sweet event to go to and Admiral Fox gamely agree to attend, too. She proved invaluable (again!) in chatting up the students to get them to talk and setting some of the stock photos I knew I needed.

It brought back so many memories that I had dreams of my first newspaper job - writing sports.

One winter I had the unenviable assignment of writing about junior high school boys basketball. Watching one of those games makes spectating at a golf match look exciting.

They pretty much went like this:
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble,shoot - MISS, 
Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS, 
 Dribble, pass, dribble, shoot - MISS...

The final score would usually be something like 17-12.

I get sleepy just thinking about it.

Stands were full of parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and amigos...

June 16, 2012

Winestock 2012 gets a break with fabulous summer weather

THREE BROTHERS WINERY, Seneca County, New York - If the third time is a charm (and I believe it is...) then it worked for the 3rd annual Winestock NY, a festival held this Saturday to celebrate good wine, good food and good music.

The procession in to Winestock 2012
About 15 wineries participated in the event under almost cloudless skies with temperatures in the low 80s.

Last year it rained so hard I thought I had mistakenly returned to coastal Mexico in mid-June. (Not a good place, unless you like 100 percent humidity and temperatures in the 90s...)_

There was lots of competition for people's attention this weekend besides Winestock. In Watkins Glen, the hugely popular Cardboard Boat Races drew a thousand people.

Still, Winestock might have set some attendance records.

By the time Admiral Fox and I arrived - just a half hour after the gate opened - so many people had already showed up that they were using  overflow parking out in the vineyard. It was actually quite cool to walk in via row Reisling 115. No grapes showing much yet, but the vines certainly looked healthy.

Limos at the ready
Winestock 2012 also had a number of limos and tour buses arrive (part of the reason smaller vehicles had to park outside the compound).

There was even a bridal party or two making its way around to wine tastings.

The music was excellent with a favorite blues guy, Delta Mike Shaw, performing on the center stage with several amigos. (See video of Mike on stage, below).

Lots of other familiar faces were there, too: Tina Hazlitt (who helps organize this each year, Jason Hazlitt and Rose (from the Hector Wine Company), Cindi and Lisa (representing Atwater) and probably a dozen other people from Red Newt Winery and Hazlitt's who I know, but didn't see.

It's still going on as I write this.

Hmm ... perhaps I should go back for just a couple of more tastings to track down any other amigos who I might have missed.

Jason Hazlitt, co-owner of the Hector Wine Company, pours for Winestock 2012 guests
Picking out the wedding wines