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Puddle Splashing

A tried and true method for enjoying the rain.

Memories of Elmira summers…

As someone who moved to Elmira from the desert landscapes of New Mexico, I have never ceased to be amazed by the greenery and lush colors present everywhere. This quiet liveliness describes my entire experience living here. There are so many small things that are abundant in Elmira, which can often be taken for granted.

Growing up, I spent every day playing outside in the summertime, whether in my own sprawling backyard or running through the fields and trails along the slumbering Chemung River. When I was younger, the whole world seemed like a giant playground where my imagination could run wild–the “bamboo” (actually Japanese knotweed, but it’s more fun to call it bamboo) growing everywhere became spears or swords, tall trees became enemies or forts or obstacle courses, puddles became great floods. In fact, every time it rained my brother and I would run outside to play in the temporary streams. Moving from the southwest, I never lost my appreciation and awe of rain. We would play outside until we were soaked, then we would run inside shaking like wet dogs.

These experiences would not have been possible if we had moved somewhere else. This freedom and access to the outdoors allowed me to have an amazing childhood. In the winter, my family would cross country ski on snowy days, or take our sleds down the dike for hours on end. There are few places with as easy access to nature as Elmira, and it made all the difference in my childhood to be able to do such things.

I grew up in a welcoming neighborhood, with other kids to play with and adults that always came together to help us when little disasters came through town. The sense of community contributed to my ease as a child, and made me always feel comfortable roaming the nearby neighborhood while I played. Elmira is a very unique town, and I am so thankful to have gotten to grow up here, taking full advantage of all that the area has offered to me.

Guest writer Tallulah Keeley-LeClaire graduated from Elmira High School in 2018 and will be a sophomore at Yale University in the fall. She is spending the summer studying in South Korea (read more about it on her blog).

Your Guide to Summer Camps!

Summer camp, 80s style

Happy May, Elmiraland! We’ve compiled a list of summer camps in the area. This is a work in progress so please feel free to leave other camps and links in the comments and we will update accordingly.

Town of Southport Summer Parks Program will have online signups in June. Also, the Chemung County Youth Bureau’s SPOT program will be at Chapel Park again this Summer. Please check www.townofsouthport.com in the coming weeks or call the Parks and Rec office at 607-732-4265.

The Southside Community Center is open each weekday all summer from 2-6 pm (except for July 4). We have a variety of activities and daily snack and dinner, all free! We are open to children and teens age 4-18. Register online and get more information at sccelmira.org

Chemung County Youth Bureau Summer Cohesion is a six-week summer, drop-in, recreational, educational and cultural enrichment program, which provides children, ages 4 through 12, with a safe, structured, and fun summer. This school based program takes place at numerous locations throughout the county. Youth participate in daily activities such as arts and crafts, indoor/outdoor games, attend special performances, and travel to local libraries, parks and museums. Summer Cohesion serves over 800 children each summer. Click the link above for info and registration.

Wine and Design in Elmira is hosting Art Buzz for kids… see below.

The Town of Elmira hosts summer sports camps for kids age 6-12 at the Town Park … schedule and information is on this link.

Tanglewood Summer Camp … fabulous outdoor activities for kids Pre-K and up. We challenge you to browse the catalog and not be envious that you have to go to work instead.

GST Boces Summer of Innovation Progams are held far and wide with tons of different subjects for students of all ages. But sign up soon as they do sell out!

Chemung River Friends will hold youth summer camps in giant canoes on the Chemung River in July! Link to register here.

Please feel free to send us other links via the comments section or email (hello@elmiraland.com).

I Scream, You Scream

Some call it Spring …. I call it ice cream season.

It’s here! The time of year when my favorite mom-and-pop-style ice cream stands eagerly turn their signs from closed to open for business! I can’t wait to get that first taste of my favorite, chocolate and vanilla twist with chocolate sprinkles. Sure, temperatures still dip into the teens in the evening, and you may freeze standing in line for your favorite treat. But the payoff is so sweet as you take that first lick or scoop. It is spring in a cone, here to help us through the last doldrums of winter.

Because it is still chilly outside, I offer the following winter ice cream rules:

  1. Do not order a banana split – they take way too long!
  2. Know what you want to order before you get to the window.
  3. Tip your server! He or she is likely a high school or college student. Ice cream = kindness.
  4. Bring cash. Most of these stands are small businesses who may have to pay extra for credit or debit card transactions.

Whether you’re a cone, sundae or shake kind of person, where do you go for the best ice cream? Here’s a list of my favorite stops in Elmiraland:

KING KONE / 1315 College Avenue

Krunch Kote anyone? King Kone used to be one of the only stands that you could get this marvelously crunchy topping, which has since caught on at other places. This remains, however, the only one with bright yellow paint and a giant gorilla-holding-ice-cream on the roof. This stand is one that you might visit while on a first date after having seen a movie. It’s vintage! (And one of the first to open every year.)

BIG TOP/ Miracle Mile

Big Top is fantastic, so don’t let its location on the busy Miracle Mile scare you away! This little stand has been around for what seems like forever. While I used to be put off by all of the signs in the windows saying things like, “cash only” or “know what you want to order before coming to the window,” I now appreciate that they keep the lines moving. The Erie Railroad tracks run behind Big Top and occasionally the train will stop so conductors can grab lunch or a cone. That’s always fun to see.

FAIR SHAKE / Pine City

Fair Shake is really more of an experience, especially if you have young kids. They offer over 50 flavors of ice cream plus several dairy- or sugar-free options, a bunch of old arcade games inside, a fish pond in the back and a homemade barrel train that gives rides to little ones for FREE!

GRAND CENTRAL CREAMERY / Elmira Heights

Serving ice cream since 1959, Grand Central Creamery is the only local stand providing both walk-up AND drive-thru service. Here you’ll find 9 Perry’s soft-serve custard flavors along with over 40 varieties of hard ice cream. You can also spot the dole-whip flavor-of-the-week on their sign – I know a few friends who get really excited for pumpkin every year.

SERENDIPITY / Route 352, Big Flats

Serendipity is the new kid on the block. Stop here to break up your commute from Elmira to Corning or grab a sweet treat to enjoy at one of the tables outside. Serving Hershey’s ice cream, you’ll find all of the standards – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry – hard and soft, plus a bunch of other flavors. They have coffee, too, which I hear is great! This is a really nice place and a modern variation to the traditional stands we typically see in Elmira.

This wraps up my list of favorites … now get out there and enjoy some spring in a cone as we usher in the warmer weather!

Sara Palmer

Spring in Elmira!

Elmira’s Record-Setting Human Shamrock
(Courtesy 4kphotoflight)

Well, it’s official. Spring has sprung! Which means frosty mornings, thawing yards, pink sunrises, and muddy shoes. Oh, and the occasional snow storm. But let’s not talk about that.

As I look outside on this sunny day with an impossibly blue sky, I’m thinking about Spring in all those feel-good, I-read-this-on-a-magnet ways. Spring is new beginnings. A promise of all that is green and wonderful. It’s satisfying breezes reminding us that not only are warmer days yet to come, but that everything exists in a cycle. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Birth. Life. Death. Repeat. Right now, I can’t help but think about how Elmira fits into the cycle. I blame the blue sky.

Surely we have seen our Winter. Shops closed and businesses gone. Declining population. Vacant properties. Poverty. Crime. But now, I like to think that we are at our Spring. Budding businesses popping up downtown like little green shoots in flower beds. Think Downtown Grind and Turtle Leaf Café. New construction for the first time in decades. Look at the development at 100 West Water Street Apartments getting ready to open its doors. People moving here for opportunities like LECOM. Developers taking back long-dormant, vacant properties and turning them in to housing for all different income levels. Institutions and individuals collaboratively addressing poverty and crime. All of us working together as a community toward a better future.

As silly as it was impressive, the giant human shamrock coordinated by Elmira Downtown Development on St. Patrick’s Day was more than a new world record and fantastic PR event. It was proof–green and wonderful–of the unique spirit of this community. Our ability to come together. Bitingly cold, muddy, and with snow flurries dotting the sky, 1200 Elmirans donned thin green ponchos and formed that shamrock; hundreds more came to show their support. That’s crazy! And cool. And not something just any community would or could do. And THAT is Elmira.

I’m ready for Spring, are you?

Who Wants to Help Set a World Record?

Let’s rephrase that … I mean, who DOESN’T want to help set a world record!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in our house, we spend a fair amount of time watching YouTube videos in which five bros utilize an exorbitant amount of money and energy breaking Guinness World Records on athletic feats. First of all, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. Second of all, what I’m about to describe is going to be way more fun than watching videos at home. Speaking of lucky, taking part in the revelry below may also bring you good luck.*

*This is not guaranteed.

Elmira Downtown Development (EDD) is organizing–in the most amazing way–an attempt to form the World’s Largest Human Shamrock this Sunday in Eldridge Park. EDD is hoping to attract 1,000 willing participants, wearing kelly green, for a photograph in the shape of a shamrock. What better way to kick off your St. Patrick’s Day? Seriously.

Facebook event link … see you there!

Elmira’s 5 Bridges … An Update

Lake Street Bridge conceptual design (courtesy Labella / TWLA)

I just spent entirely too long trying to come up with an interesting title for this blog post. It didn’t happen. But hopefully the information below will be helpful for you, reader friends!

We have been fortunate to receive rehabilitation funding for all five of our river crossings. One of them – the Clemens Center Parkway Bridge – is complete, and the other four projects are coming up. Below is an overview, moving from west to east. (Please note that while the dates may change, this information is current as of February 2019.)

The City will rehabilitate the Walnut Street Bridge thanks to a BRIDGE NY grant, with an estimated start date of July 2019. In early July, closures will begin, but the project will maintain two-way vehicular and pedestrian traffic until 2020 (Date TBD), when the bridge closes entirely for construction.

The City will begin rehabilitation of the Main Street Bridge in 2021. The project will repair the bridge decay and enhance public safety while preserving the structure for another 20 to 30 years.

The Lake Street Bridge, closed to all traffic in 2011 due to structural deficiencies, will be open for pedestrian and bicycle use from March—June 2019, while the Madison Avenue Bridge (below) undergoes rehabilitation. After Madison re-opens, Lake Street will undergo its own rehabilitation as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The bridge will be a linear park connecting the City’s downtown and south side, while providing a new community gathering space and link to amenities such as Brand Park and the Lackawanna Rail Trail. State and federal programs, with cooperation from local utilities, are fully funding the project. Anticipated dates of construction are August 2019 through 2020, although some work will begin this spring. Note: the graphic above is a preliminary design concept from the public meeting and is subject to modifications during final design.

Finally, the Madison Avenue Bridge will undergo its rehab (also with BRIDGE NY funding) starting this week. On February 26, the city will close one lane of the bridge in order to add communication lines in advance of the rehabilitation. The project will maintain two-way traffic until mid-March when the bridge will close until late June. As stated above, the Lake Street Bridge will be the alternate route for pedestrians and bicyclists while Madison is fully closed to traffic.

Thank you to our pals at Chemung County Department of Public Works for this information!