AURELIUS — About 1,600 people were drawn to the first Upper Finger Lakes Home & Lifestyle Show hosted at the Fingerlakes Mall Saturday and Sunday.
Ninety different vendors gave home improvement advice, sold artisan goods, crafts, food and drink as part of the show, while other special events like face-painting and breakfast with the Easter Bunny took place for children.
"This is our first event for the Finger Lakes," said Eric Roberts, president of Media Resources Marketing Inc., which put on the show. Roberts said this new location was an experiment to try a middle ground between Syracuse and Rochester, where most large home and lifestyle shows are held.
Roberts said one of the big draws to the event was the chance to participate in a vintage RV giveaway. Each guest who came was guaranteed one chance to guess the five-number combination of a safe that held the RV's keys. If you were able to open the safe, you won the RV. As of 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the RV's keys were still locked inside the safe. Extra entries could be earned by mingling with other vendors.
One vendor in particular became a conversation piece among other vendors.
David Chalker's booth was decked with cookies, a cake and a pizza – that he made in the event space using his solar electric ovens.
Chalker, of Waterloo, is the founder and president of Sun BD Corporation and he said he is the only one in the world, known to him, making hybrid solar ovens. He is still waiting for competition.
His "amazing journey" began about 30 years ago when he sent $3 in an envelop to a P.O. box. Flipping through one of his wife's home magazines he came across, and responded to, an advertisement that said for $3 the magazine would send back instructions on how to create a solar oven.
Although his wife and kids thought he was crazy, Chalker said, when the directions arrived he made a solar oven and cooked a chicken in his yard – and it worked. This began a family tradition of solar cooking on the weekends that spanned many years.
After tinkering and making different models, Chalker was inspired to try to create a hybrid solar oven with an electric back-up in 2004. He could only find one on the internet, and it was made in India.
He ordered two ovens from India, with only one making it through customs intact, and after using the hybrid solar he never went back.
About four years later, Chalker went to India to meet the inventor and learn more. While the ovens were "very well engineered," Chalker said, they were "poor in quality."
Chalker decided to develop his own. Now, since the inventor in India has passed away, Chalker is the only hybrid solar oven maker.
Chalker's first model was called the "Sun Focus" and now his second model - made from cardboard and selling for about $200 less at $389 - is called "The UGLI Hybrid."
Chalker said he's sold a couple hundred of his own ovens, custom making each one as orders come in. Just in case, the ovens "are made to be mass produced as well." It takes Chalker about five hours to build one oven, but he said it would take six hours to build 10 ovens because of the way he's designed them to be built.
Although Chalker didn't sell any hybrid ovens this weekend, and has actually only sold a handful of his ovens in New York altogether, his ovens are in numerous states and have users stretching as far as Sweden, the Philippines and Japan.
The Home & Lifestyle show wasn't slow just for Chalker.
"A lot of vendors lost money, I think," said MaryEllen Weiskotten who had a booth selling wines from Thousand Islands Winery in Alexandria Bay. Renting a booth for the weekend cost $250-$300, and for those like Weiskotten who had to pay for a couple nights in a hotel they may not have come out in the black from the event.
Weiskotten said the indoor garage sale, vendors in the mall outside the main event space, which had the intent of drawing people into the show may have had the opposite effect as people may have not wanted to pay to enter the event when they could stroll the garage sale for free.
The event staff noticed, however, and adapted to continue to draw people into the show. On Saturday, during the early afternoon, staff eliminated the $5 cover charge and went through the mall with handouts inviting people to come for free.
"We did expect more (people)," Roberts said, adding that it was a bit slow but that wasn't rare for a new event at a new venue.
"You're always adapting," Roberts said. "When it's your first one, especially, you've got to learn your dynamics."
Roberts said they will have to evaluate the event as a whole to decide if it will become an annual event at this location, but he did say a positive thing was that those who showed up were "serious people" and had projects in mind when they walked through the doors.
A community information night to hear from the three mayoral candidates and the three trustee candidates for Aurora's upcoming election will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, at the Morgan Opera House.
The event is meant to be a positive informational forum allowing for candidates to inform the community of their election platforms as well as providing the community a chance to ask questions, event organizer and Aurora resident Cody Long said.
As of Thursday night, mayoral candidates Bonnie Apgar Bennett, Barbara Blom and Marie Dentes; as well as trustee candidates Grace Bates, Matthew Bianconi and Janet Murphy all said they plan to attend the event, Long said in an email to The Citizen on Friday.
The goal of the event is for residents to be informed voters when they head to the polls on March 20.
"The intent of this non-partisan event is strictly to be an opportunity to inform the community of the candidates and their election platforms for the upcoming election," Long said in a statement to The Citizen.
Two moderators will be present questions from the public and monitor the question-and-answer forum. Long said the event is happening to provide community members an opportunity to learn more about the candidates.
Doors open for at 6:15 p.m. and the public is invited to submit questions for the candidates until 6:45 p.m. No anonymous questions will be allowed. Ken Zabriskie and John Miller, the moderators, will organize and select qualified questions to ask the candidates.
The event is planned for 90 minutes, with the moderators allowing each candidate two minutes to respond to each question.
Although the event was not initially planned as a debate, Long said, candidates have recently requested that a one-minute rebuttal time also be allowed.
Trustee candidates have also requested a more simple introduction period to allow more time to be focused on the mayoral candidates.
At the end, each candidate will have two minutes to give a closing statement.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to study designating the Finger Lakes region as a national heritage area has cleared its first legislative hurdle.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the measure sponsored by Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to conduct a feasibility study in Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca and 11 other counties in the Finger Lakes region. The study would determine whether the Finger Lakes region should be designated as a national heritage area.
After the committee passed the bill by voice vote, it will now advance to the Senate floor for consideration.
"Thousands of tourists come from around the world to visit the Finger Lakes region to experience the beautiful landscape, the rich history and culture, and to enjoy all that our local businesses have to offer," Gillibrand said. "Designating the region as a national heritage area would help boost local tourism while conserving and protecting the region's previous natural, historic and cultural resources."
A national heritage area "must have nationally distinctive natural, cultural and historic resources that, when linked together, tell a unique story about our country," according to the National Park Service's website. National heritage areas aren't units of the National Park Service and the agency doesn't own or manage any land associated with the areas.
The feasibility study, which Gillibrand has been advocating for since 2015, would help guide the process for designating the Finger Lakes as a national heritage area. Congress has the authority to designate national heritage areas.
There are 49 national heritage areas in 32 states. New York is home to four national heritage areas: Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
Gillibrand believes the Finger Lakes region is a prime candidate to become a national heritage area. The region's tourism industry generated $3 billion in 2016 and employed 59,326 people, according to 2016 data. There are more than 400 registered historic sites and landmarks in the 14-county region.
Becoming a national heritage area could provide an added economic boost. Through partnerships and other initiatives, national heritage areas produce $5.50 in jobs and revenue for every $1 of federal investment.
A bicyclist was found unconscious in the roadway near the intersection of State Street and Arterial East in Auburn Sunday night, according to the Auburn fire and police departments.
The cyclist, a 64-year-old Auburn man, was discovered in the northbound lane on State Street in front of Savannah Bank by a passerby at around 11 p.m., police said. First responders determined the man was not hit by a car, however it is unclear what caused him to fall off his bike.
A helicopter was initially called in to transport the man, the fire department said, but never made it to the scene as it was unable to take off due to mechanical issues. The cyclist was transported to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse by TLC Ambulance where he is being treated for head and facial injuries.
A man was robbed at knifepoint in front of the Dunkin' Donuts on Genesee Street in Auburn early Monday morning, the Auburn Police Department said.
Police said a witness saw three males approach another male who was in his 30s as he was walking down the street at around 4 a.m. One of the robbers had a knife and struck the victim in the head with a closed fist. While the victim was on the ground, the assailants reached into his pockets and took some of his possessions. Police said they do not know what was stolen from the victim, as he does not wish to speak with police.
The witness said the assailants were two black men and a white man. The witness described the white man as being in his 40s, wearing a grey Syracuse sweatshirt with blue and orange lettering and blue jeans. One of the black men was skinny, about 120 pounds, and 5 feet, 5 inches tall. The witness did not provide a description of this man's clothing. The other black man was also described as skinny, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, wearing glasses, a grey and black winter hat and tan pants. No indication was given as to this man's age.
The victim was taken to Auburn Community Hospital where he was treated for injuries related to the robbery.
Anyone who may have witnessed this incident or has more information is asked to contact the department at (315) 253-3235.