AUBURN — It may have been a presentation for the Auburn Correctional Facility at the Founders Day celebration in Auburn, but a good chunk of the focus was on corrections officers.

Officers were hailed for their efforts at a presentation Saturday recognizing the institution, which will be 200 years old this year. The events, in which various corrections officials and government officials spoke, took place during a flurry of vendors, classic cars and motorcycles at Founders Day, which celebrates Auburn's history.

At the end of the presentation, current and retired corrections officers were asked to either stand or raise their hands. Members of a color guard presented flags at the beginning and end of the presentation.

State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Deputy Commissioner Joseph F. Bellnier — who is from Auburn and is set to retire after decades of service — said he had been hearing the question, "How do you celebrate a prison?" to which he said the focus was on people.

"We celebrate the men and women, past and present, who contributed mighty, positively affecting the lives of the incarcerated while keeping our community safe," Bellnier said.

DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci also praised officers.

"For this place to be continually operating for 200 years speaks volumes about the caliber of the men and women who work here," Annucci said. "Because things have to change, they do change, you embrace change and I can tell you as acting commissioner I am so proud, I am so appreciative, I am so grateful of the job all of the men and women do in this entire system but especially in this facility. You are the best."

Annucci also said he wouldn't be surprised if a celebration for the prison were to be held another 100 years from now.

A plaque presentation was lead by Michael Pettigrass, supervising offender rehabilitation coordinator and chair of the prison's 200th anniversary committee, at the end of the event.

Don Langdon, who watched the presentation, said he is fascinated by history, so he wanted to attend Founders Day. Langdon — who isn't from Cayuga County, but said that his girlfriend is — said that he believed that it seemed like there is a strong connection between Auburn and the prison.

Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.

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