Ithaca Beer Co. Taproom adds to the growing craft beer culture

By Jackie Eisenberg and Hayleigh Gowans

As cold, bubbling beer flows out on tap, customers sit, laugh and listen to music while chatting at the Ithaca Beer Company taproom on Route 13. Patrons go to the taproom and taste free samples of the different Ithaca Beer Co. drafts while eating a variety of bar food..

Though the Finger Lakes is famous for it’s wineries, interest in local craft beer in Ithaca has been expanding.

Last spring, the Ithaca Beer Co. built a new brewery with an adjoining taproom in order to accommodate patrons to enjoy their products.

Ithaca Beer Co. has a taproom where patrons can enjoy the local craft beer

Ithaca Beer Co. has a taproom where patrons can enjoy the local craft beer

Click here to learn more about the brewing process.

Michael Banks, a worker in the brewery said that this expansion helps open the door for new customers.

“You have a local brewery that makes a wide variety of beers, ” Bank said. “That helps raise the culture because I think people are looking for a better beer overall.”

Because the brewery is known for some of its ales such as Flower Power, Bank said it attracts people to their local craft beer. Since it is popular, people will share it with their friends, who may be interested in visiting the the brewery themselves.

Though Ithaca Beer Co. is a prominent brewery in Ithaca, the Finger Lakes region has other breweries such as the Upstate Brewing Company in Elmira. The Upstate Brewing Company is on a similar level as the Ithaca Beer Co. and other breweries in the area, said Mark Neumann, one of the co-owners of the brewery .

“I think all the microbreweries, draft breweries or all breweries in the Finger Lakes region are all brewing pretty high quality, it’s just that each brewery is kind of going after their own niche of the market,” Neumann said.

Neumann said because these types of breweries are smaller, there is always competition to reach more customers.

“We opened only about four months ago and we’ve already heard of another half dozen breweries opening about 30 or 40 miles of here,” Neumann said.

David Krebs, a craft beer distributor representative from Manhattan Beer who was visiting the new Ithaca brewery for work, said he has seen a trend in people becoming more interested in local craft beer rather than bigger breweries.

”There used to be a time where it was just the so-called ‘beer geeks’ that were interested in all the beers and now it’s becoming more and more mainstream and accessible to everybody,” Krebs said. “There are a lot more breweries out there.”

Because the Ithaca Beer Co. has been open for over ten years, it is more well-known and reaches farther than just the Finger Lakes, said Kevin Olmstead, a floor clerk worker at the Ithaca Beer Company.

“I lived in Pittsburgh for six years and I’ve seen Ithaca Beer on draft there, so I’m certain it reaches West of the Pennsylvania-Ohio border,” Olmstead said.

According to their website, Ithaca Beer Co. beer is distributed in New York State, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Ohio and is expanding to be sold in other states.

“For all we know, it could be somewhere in Europe right now,” Olmstead said.

Click here to see a map of local breweries surrounding the Finger Lakes.

Gamers Respond to Providence Hobbies Closing

By Hayleigh Gowans and Steven Brasley

After being in Ithaca for seven years, Providence Hobbies, a gaming, hobby and comic book store, is closing its doors on November 20th, but two employees of the store are hoping to keep its spirit alive in the community.

Providence Hobbies prepares to close it’s doors on November 20th

Providence Hobbies started as a small store on State St., said Jeffrey Witty, the store’s owner and founder. After the economic downturn in 2008, the store moved to its current location, 631 West Buffalo St.

Click here to see other areas where gaming takes place in Ithaca.

One of the biggest draws to the store during its time in operation was its weekly tournaments and meet-ups to play tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: the Gathering, Witty said. On average, 20 to 30 people gather for each Friday Night Magic event.

Building a community through these games was an initial goal for the store, and Witty said he accomplished that.

“We’ve gotten kids off the street and doing something constructive with each other,” he added.

The store has been very important to Ithaca gamers since it opened in 2005, said  Margaret Hinsvark and David Jones, two managers at Providence Hobbies..

“The gaming community we see here every week, it’s massive,” Hinsvark said.

That massive community might be moving to a new venue soon.

Hinsvark and Jones are hoping to start a new hobby store in Ithaca similar to Providence Hobbies. They created a page on asking for donations to help fund their store, to be named “The Dragon’s Den.” It will operate similarly to Providence Hobbies, including hosting weekly game meet-ups and tournaments.

“It’s been really great that we’ve gotten that much attention in the two days since we put [the Indiegogo page] up,” Jones said. “The community that we have here really backs me and Margaret taking over.”

Celia Pearce, professor of digital media at Georgia Tech and author of Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds, said that having shops that offer events like the ones The Dragon’s Den plans to host are important to build the community of gaming in an area.

“If people are really interested in something, they want to share that interest with other people, that’s really the core,” Pearce said. “Communities are very organic and emerging and it’s really important to pay attention and be responsive to what is going on.

Comics for Collectors is a similar hobby store in Ithaca that sells comic books as well as tabletop games. The business has been in the area for more than 30 years. TIm Gray, owner of Comics for Collectors, said he believes that starting a business like this in Ithaca is tricky.

“Population is too small, rents are too high,” Gray said. “A lot of the customer base is college, but they’re here for academics, so they don’t have the time. Even though you think you’re going to have a lot of business through the colleges, you’re not going to have it.”

A good portion of start-up money, Gray explained, is needed for owners to succeed until the store starts picking up business in order for them to be able to continue.

Joseph McCheyne, a resident of Interlaken, said that he has been coming to Providence Hobbies for over 10 years, since he was a young teenager.

“I’m sad to see it closing. I understand Jeff wants to retire,” McCheyne said. “You see all the younger kids that come here and play, and it’s a wonderful thing that they’re doing. There’s definitely worse things they could be doing.”

Click here to see an audio slideshow about Magic: The Gathering.

Emergency Management in Ithaca

By Bianca Nicolosi and Hayleigh Gowans

Hurricane Sandy did not cause much damage to upstate New York, yet many emergency precautions were set up by the fire department, public works and the Red Cross to ensure safety of others in Tompkins County. These precautions demonstrate their ability to prepare for future emergencies.

City of Ithaca Fire Chief Tom Parsons said that the emergency management team had been preparing for the storm since Friday Oct. 26 and participated in daily conference calls with the national weather service to monitor the path of the storm.

“What was predicted didn’t necessarily pan out to be 100 percent true and that was good for us, we didn’t get the bad storm,” Parsons said. “Unfortunately, some other folks got it worse than we did.”

The City of Ithaca emergency management team was ready to respond if an incident occurred last Monday night when Hurricane Sandy was expected to make landfall. The team included the Fire Department, Public Works and City Hall

Julie Conley Holcomb, Ithaca City clerk and director of the emergency management team, said that the storm didn’t cause too much damage to the Ithaca area but they were not expecting more.

“The bulk of the storm and the window of time we were most concerned about was between 10 p.m. last night [October 29] and 2 a.m. this morning [October 30] when we thought we could see very high sustained winds,” Holcomb said. “We have no further concerns of resulting damage.”

The Red Cross, located on W. State St. in Ithaca, was set up to provide services during Hurricane Sandy

Holcomb said that the emergency management team set up an emergency operations center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29 and staffed it until last Tuesday morning. Volunteers were available to answer questions and provide food, shelter and survival tips.

In the event of future emergencies, there are several resources citizens can use to keep updated on emergency information, which include radio stations such as 870 AM WHCU, 97.3 FM WYXL and 91.7 FM WICB, and NY-Alert, a free hazard notification system.

The American Red Cross of the South Central New York region was also set up to respond if the situation presented itself.

Barry Stein, executive director of the tri-county chapter, said there were nine shelters set up in case of an emergency and they were in constant communication with the county emergency operation center across Ithaca, Cortland and Binghamton.

“We started planning for a response at the end of last week [October 26] when we realized that there could be significant damage here,” Stein said. “But we dodged the bullet it appears.”

Stein said that of the 100 shelters in New York City; about half of them are run by the Red Cross. He also said that of the shelters set up in the Tompkins area region, none of them were utilized during this time because the weather was not as bad as expected. However, Stein still stresses the importance of having these emergency shelters in place.

“All you have to do is look at what happened in the Southern Tier a year ago with tropical storm Lee,” Stein said. “Communities were devastated by the flooding, there were thousands upon thousands of people displaced. They needed a roof over their head and food in their bellies, and the Red Cross was there for that.”

Click here to hear Barry Stein talk about what the American Red Cross did to prepare in case of an emergency.

Local groups gather to support LGBT students

By Shea O’Meara and Hayleigh Gowans

In a large white church on the corner of North Aurora Street, patrons shuffle about preparing for their big night. A tall 60-something woman at the front with peppered hair guides lost performers to Gillie, the head of the event.

“She’s wearing a silk blue shirt, she has blonde hair,” she says. “And she looks straight. But I guess they all do these days, we should really start marking lesbians.”

Times have changed.

On October 25, Gillie Waddington, president of Ithaca’s Out Loud Chorus, led “It Gets Better!,” an evening to celebrate the Dignity for All Students Act and support young LGBT students at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. The act, a bill that prohibits harassment and discrimination based on race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender, was passed by the state of New York this September. The event was inspired by recent LGBT deaths associated with bullying.

The Out Loud Chorus performs at the It Gets Better event in Ithaca on October 25th

“We decided we needed to do this event last fall,” Waddington said. “It was right after Tyler Clementi and a couple other boys committed suicide, and that really lit the fire for us to do this.”

The evening featured performances by the Out Load Chorus, a local LGBT choir, two choruses from Lansing High School, Voices Multicultural Chorus and the New Roots Charter School mixed chorus. Between the vocal groups, speakers took to the mic to talk about tolerance education, videos of LGBT student’s stories and a slideshow in homage to kids who took their own lives after being bullied at school.

Lee Cutler, secretary-treasurer of New York State United Teachers, spoke at the event. Culter was a long-time teacher before he left the classroom to work as an advocate for social justice in education. He emphasized the need for citizens to work to encourage schools to create real change in their communities.

“This is a moment you can either squander or really celebrate,” he said. “We now have legislation that forces every school district in the state to implement meaningful training, and I emphasize meaningful, to staff.”
Courtney McGuire, a youth programs assistant at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, works to build inclusive communities in the bureau’s after-school programs and said tolerance education needs to begin at a young age.

“They leave our after-school program and they go home and they teach their parents things,” she said. “They stand up for the other kids.”

Fall Events in the Finger Lakes

By Hayleigh Gowans and Suzette Moschetti

Fall has been quickly spreading into the Finger Lakes area. The air is getting colder, leaves are changing into vibrant colors, daylight is getting shorter and pumpkin flavored hot drinks are becoming more popular for people in the corn mazes.

Now that it’s time to break out heavier jackets and start using scarves and gloves, some people may feel discouraged to leave their houses and go to community events. However, despite the cooler climate there is still plenty of fun activities to partake in during the Fall season.

Besides the Trumansburg corn maze, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) is sponsoring a Zombie Lurch, a haunted house, a Halloween parade and trick-or-treating, and an Octoberfest for the 21 and up age group.

Vicki Taylor-Brous, the associate director of the DIA, said that the main goal of sponsoring these events is to give people of all ages things to do during the fall months.

“We want to make sure people feel comfortable here and we do it to give back to the community,” Taylor-Brous said.

The T-burg Entertainment Center’s corn maze is the largest corn maze in the Finger Lakes area. The owner of the company, Mike Cirri, said that when he bought the mini golf area, he initially didn’t think of using the field as a corn maze. This will be the corn maze’s fifth year.

The corn maze is 10 acres and includes over 3 miles of walking trails. Each year, the corn maze has a different theme, with this year’s theme being a mini-golf course.

“It [the corn maze] allows us to generate income, because typically, mini-golf courses close down after Labor Day,” Cirri said. “Having the corn maze actually makes September and October our busiest months in the year.”

On October 27th, there will be a haunted maze, hay ride and “trail of terror” at the corn maze, which Cirri estimated there will be close to 600 people.

Cirri said as part of his business plan, he wants to make his company to be actively part of the community.

“We tend to have many different events throughout the year to try to incorporate all different age groups so everyone has a reason to come out here,” Cirri said.

With Halloween right around the corner and one option is to check out the Triphammer Mall and to visit The Costume Place.

Halloween mask on display at the Costume Place

John Worthing, the owner of this store, as well as one that is located in Binghamton, has been running these seasonal businesses for the past 25 years.

“The sales have been pretty close to the same as last year,” Worthing said. “The real trick is to see how we do the last week to ten days.”

Click here to hear John Worthing explain his business at The Costume Place.

Ithaca hotels welcome proposal for new Marriott downtown

By Hayleigh Gowans and Kristy Zhen

Ithaca’s current hospitality industry welcomes the possibility of a Marriott Hotel to 120 South Aurora Street in hopes that it will improve consumerism downtown.

The plan for the Marriott includes 159 guest rooms, 10 floors and approximately 2400 square feet of conference space.

David Dier, the co-owner of William Henry Miller Inn, and General Manager Tiffany Gallagher of the Holiday Inn are excited that “a new hotel will generate more foot traffic and help businesses on The Commons like the State Theatre,” Dier said.

David Dier, owner of the William Henry Miller Inn does work in the dining room of the hotel

Although the Holiday Inn will have to compete with the Mariott for guests, Gallagher said that the demand for a new hotel to be built is positive reinforcement of the healthy hotel and tourism industry in town.

“The demand that comes in Tompkins County is very good for all sorts of businesses and we’re happy to be able to contribute to that,” Gallagher said.

General Manager Richard Adie at the Statler Hotel hopes the new conference space will help to attract new business associations to Ithaca and meet demands for more meeting facilities.

The proposal still needs to go through the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board and other departments, said Charles Pyott of Ithaca Department of Planning and Development. If passed, construction of the hotel is expected to start March 2013 and end July 2014.

Dier said he does not feel his inn is threatened by this addition to Ithaca’s hospitality industry.

“People like hotels and people like bed-and-breakfasts. As long as it is a good property and run well so that it makes us all look better, I think it’s a good thing,” he said.

“There’s not enough meeting facilities that meet the demands that currently exist in the community and so I’m hoping this Marriott will have meeting facilities that can house banquets, and weddings and such,” Adie said.

Click here to hear David Dier talk about the hospitality business in Ithaca.

Exhibit puts Universe into perspective for viewers 5,000 miles apart

By Natalie Krawczyk and Hayleigh Gowans

The Sagan Planet Walk, a walking exhibit for Ithaca’s Sciencenter, became the world’s largest permanent exhibit at more than 5,000 miles long breaking the previous record of 66 miles of subway art in Stockholm.

The newest portion of the exhibit includes a fact station about Alpha Centauri, the star closest to the sun, and had an opening ceremony on September 28th in Hawaii at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in the University of Hawaii.

Participants view facts about Alpha Centauri

The Sagan Planet Walk was dedicated to Carl Sagan, a long-time professor of astronomy at Cornell University. According to the Sciencenter website, it was developed in 1995 to provide Ithaca with close-up view of the solar system and “inspire excitement for science through interactive exhibits and programs that engage, educate, and empower.”

The walk, which mimics what our solar system would look like on a 1-to-5 billion scale, begins at the sun in the Commons and travels three-quarters of a mile through Ithaca, to finish at the Sciencenter on its last stop, Pluto. Teresa Smith, spokesperson at the Sciencenter , said the main goal of the planet walk is to get visitors thinking about the universe on a relatable scale.

“The original concept was to kind of illustrate the vastness of space,” Smith said. “You can actually walk and know how far it is between each of those planets.”

The exhibit is a self-guided walking tour and has a station for the sun, every planet in the solar system and the asteroid belt that orbits in between Mars and Jupiter. The stations provide exhibit viewers with a scaled down version of each planet as well as a photo provided by NASA. In addition to the facts on the stations, visitors can download an audio tour for the walk, or use a phone to call a number, where Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” narrates the tour.

The Sciencenter has been working with the University of Hawaii, Cornell and NASA to make the new Alpha Centauri station possible.

“It’s fantastic to be part of this expansive exhibit, but more so the idea of visitors sitting at Alpha Centauri and contemplating the enormity of just the distance between the Sun and Star closest it, is inspiring,” said Vinnie Recinto, marketing coordinator at the Imiloa astronomy center.

On September 29th, the Sciencenter put on a free Hawaiian-themed tour through the walk, which concluded with an example of what the Alpha Centauri station looks like, despite being more than 5,000 miles away.

Greg Sloan, a senior researcher at Cornell, was the tour guide for the Sciencenter’s expansion celebration event. Sloan said the planet walk includes information that is interesting and useful in inspiring curiosity about the universe.

“The more we understand the world around us, the better we understand our world within it,” Sloan said.

Karen Rebis, a resident of Corning, has done the planet walk before, but said that the expansion is an interesting way to put the universe in perspective.

“It’s a nice way to walk and think about things larger than ourselves,” Rebis said.


Increased aging adult population leads to need for educational programs

by Hayleigh Gowans and Jackie Eisenberg

From left to right; Libby Liberatore, Sylvia Lindenbaum and Barbara Noyse wait for a GIAC Adult program event to begin at Ithaca College

As Tompkins County’s aging population continues to increase, local programs aim to help senior citizens learn to lead healthy lifestyles and stay active in the community.

The number of older adults in Tompkins County had 34 percent overall growth in the 60 and above population age from a decade ago, according to the 2010 census. The Tompkins County Office for the Aging’s 2012 annual report mentions an increasing need for programs that cater to the needs of aging adults.

David Stoyell, aging specialist for the Tompkins County Office of the Aging, said that as people age, they often face situations that that they did not have to deal with before, like diminishing health, applying for Medicare insurance, learning to use new technologies and finding leisure time activities during their time of retirement.

According to the Office for the Aging, services provided through the office reached almost 4,000 older adults in Tompkins County during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Stoyell also said the office has installed a new falls protection program to educate senior citizens how to prevent harmful falls and what to do if they experience one.

“We collaborate with other agencies, offering workshops in fall prevention and resource guides for people, and we do assessments in the home,” Stoyell said. “A worker will go and help do an assessment and make suggestions for modifications to reduce the risk of falls.”

One of these agencies that the Office for the Aging collaborates with is the adult program of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC).

Zack Nelson, the senior program coordinator at GIAC said that the main goal of the adult program, which is for residents in the Ithaca area that are sixty or older, is to “combat isolation among seniors.”

A survey done in 2004 by the Tompkins County Office for the Aging showed that 20.4 percent of senior citizens surveyed in the county “had not visited in person with anyone either at their own or someone else’s house within the past week.”

“The other main part I would say is to provide stimulations, intellectually and socially,” Nelson said. “They’re engaged in society and the culture through a variety of programming.”

GIAC, which has 132 participant, can choose from a variety of activities, like arts and crafts, computer typing classes, exercise classes, cultural events and social outings.

Sybil Daniels, a participant of the program for three years said she has learned many crafts, how to type on a computer and Tai Chi through the adult program.

“I’ve met many people [through GIAC] and I’m very happy about this because I was very lonesome, I was going into depression and I was not well before I started going,” Daniels said. ”But you meet the people there and they’re like a second family.”

Daniels said she has also learned to keep better control of her health with programs she has attended through GIAC.

“To have an open and inquiring mind, trying to learn and process problems is a great way to maintain yourself and prolong your life,” Nelson said.


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