CAZENOVIA — On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce (GCACC) held its Annual Membership Dinner Meeting at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Cazenovia.
The evening featured a cocktail hour, dinner and dessert, an award ceremony, updates on upcoming initiatives, and a performance by Dewayne Hill (dewaynehill.com), a comedy magician who has performed on “America’s Got Talent” and for many chambers of commerce and businesses across the country.
The mission of the GCACC is to benefit the local economy and enhance the community’s quality of life by actively serving, representing, and enhancing business growth and success, and by providing programs and activities that increase the interaction between local businesses and the Cazenovia area community.
Last spring, the GCACC launched the Caz Life events committee to help foster local business development, promote tourism, and implement effective marketing strategies to enhance the vibrancy and economic growth of the village.
“The whole project of Caz Life started out with [some people] having coffee in the morning and talking about what a great community we had,” said GCACC President and Caz Life member Ralph Monforte. “We were kind of concerned we weren’t doing enough. One of the biggest concerns was that we had all this talent, we had all these people, we had all these things going on throughout the whole community, and we really didn’t know how to get it all together. We were fortunate enough to put together a team [to try to make that happen].”
Shortly after its establishment, Caz Life launched the website Cazenovialife.com to highlight upcoming community events hosted by local merchants as well as non-profits and other organizations.
Annual Chamber Awards
During the dinner, Monforte announced the GCACC awards for Citizen of the Year, Non-Profit of the Year, and Business of the Year.
Citizen of the Year
This 2023 Chamber Citizen of the Year award was presented to long-time Cazenovia resident Joan Brooks.
Her husband, Paul, spoke about some of her many contributions to the community throughout the years.
Brooks, who is a life-long lover of the arts, currently serves as the director of the Stone Quarry Art Park Board of Directors. She has also served on the Cazenovia Art Trail Steering Committee and the boards of the Cazenovia Public Library, the Cazenovia Children’s House, Project Café, and other organizations. Additionally, she organized numerous community events as an employee of Cazenovia College and was involved in the early planning of the GCACC.
“[We] are grateful that you have chosen Cazenovia as the town to leave your mark on, and quite a mark you’ve made,” said Paul. “Thank you for your involvement in the community and your drive to continually make things better. You are the champion of so many projects over the years. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.”
Brooks said she accepted the award in honor of all the amazing people in the community who make a difference every day.
“Living in this community makes you want to be involved and work on things that matter,” she said. “. . . We are really lucky that we live here.”
Non-Profit of the Year
The Chamber Non-Profit of the Year award was presented to the Cazenovia Area Community Development Association (CACDA) for exemplifying the spirit of community collaboration and innovation.
CACDA is an independent, community-based organization that represents a broad cross-section of stakeholders in the greater Cazenovia area. It was formed to assist local organizations, governments, and residents by helping them accomplish goals and objectives through consensus building, planning, cooperative efforts, networking, locating funding sources, grant writing, project implementation, and programs that educate the public on important issues affecting the quality of life and the environment.
GCACC member Barbara Houghton presented the award to CACDA Executive Director Lauren Lines and commended her organization for securing three significant grants on behalf of the Village of Cazenovia — a Restore New York Communities Initiative grant for the redevelopment of vacant properties, an Environmental Protection Fund grant for improvements to Lakeland Park, and a New York State Department of State’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant for the preliminary engineering design and permitting for the partial removal of the Mill Street dam.
“[These] are not just financial milestones but crucial steps towards a brighter and more sustainable future for Cazenovia,” Houghton said.
For more information on CACDA, visit cacda.net.
Business of the Year
20|EAST was named the 2023 Chamber Business of the Year.
“This person really shows all of us how to be passionate, how to be always constructive, how to be always positive,” said Monforte, when announcing 20|EAST Owner McKenzie Houseman as the award recipient. “She’s an amazing person. We all love her. . . . Really, Caz Life was her brainchild from the beginning.”
“Revitalizing Lincklaen Street”
Colleen Prossner, who managed the Catherine Cummings Theatre for 21 years prior to the closing of Cazenovia College, introduced a new Caz Life initiative called “Revitalizing Lincklaen Street.”
“As you know, there are a few open stores there, and one of the main attractions on that street happens to be the theatre, which you know is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “. . . There is a little group that has gotten together to talk about revitalizing and hopefully bringing the theatre back.”
She announced that the group is planning to rent the theatre for the month of April to get shows back in the space.
“[The theatre] is such a part of our community,” Prossner said. “It’s bigger than Cazenovia College because we didn’t acquire it until 1968. That opera house has been there since the turn of the century, involved in our community. Our goal is to bring it back bigger and better and in different ways. One thing that I just want you to remember is that arts and culture are the driving forces of tourism.”
Monforte announced the chamber’s plan to introduce a “Caz Life Day” in the schools next spring, during which every student will wear Caz Life branded apparel.
Caz Life t-shirts, hoodies, pet outfits, baby clothes, and more are currently available for purchase through the Caz Life Facebook page. Proceeds go towards supporting community events in Cazenovia.
Monforte also announced that Caz Life is planning to set up a curling sheet at Meier’s Creek Brewing Company this winter with the goal of turning Cazenovia into “Central New York’s Curling Capital.”
“So, there are lots of things going on, there are lots of things that have already gone on, but we do need funding, we do need your help, we do need you to become part of the chamber,” Monforte said. “Ninety percent of the budget today going forward will go into marketing. It’s going to be a very important part of what we do.”
To kick off the holiday season, the GCACC has partnered with CazCares food pantry and clothing closet to support local families in need through the fifth “Giving Tree” initiative.
Giving Trees are positioned at 20|EAST, The Brae Loch Inn, Cazenovia Abroad, the GCACC office, Cazenovia Jewelry, the Cazenovia Public Library & Museum, Community Bank, Miori Martial Arts, and The Brewster Inn. Each tree features ornaments labeled with gift requests from local children of all ages. Customers are encouraged to select an ornament, purchase the listed item, and donate it to help make a holiday wish come true.
Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off at Community Bank at 48 Albany St. or at any other Giving Tree location by Dec. 1. Gifts can also be dropped off at Community Bank during the Dec. 1 Christmas Walk while visiting Santa after the tree lighting.
There is also a QR code linked to a CazCares Amazon wish list to allow people to order online and have their gifts sent to Community Bank.
All donated items will be delivered to CazCares for distribution to local families.
Jingle & Mingle
Caz Life is bringing the chamber’s traditional Men’s and Ladies’ Nights back to life by introducing “Caz Night Out – Jingle & Mingle” events on Nov. 16 and Dec. 7.
On the first night, community members and visitors were invited to stop in the downtown shops from 6 to 8 p.m. to do some holiday shopping, enjoy an adult beverage, get their Caz Life passports stamped, and fill out a wish list to be mailed home to encourage loved ones to shop local.
Passports with three stamps earned shoppers a free beverage at the Brae Loch Inn afterparty from 8 to 10 p.m. and the chance to win Caz Bucks raffle prizes and a grand prize Simon Pearce glass Christmas Tree from Cazenovia Jewelry.
The second Jingle & Mingle event will follow the same schedule. However, there will be different specials and vendor pop-ups, and the afterparty will be held at The Lincklaen House. s
Christmas Walk Weekend
The GCACC’s 46th Annual Cazenovia Christmas Walk, coordinated by Lori Lewis and Fred Agerter, is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1.
The stage will be set up on Sullivan Street near Dave’s Diner, and the festivities will kick off at 6 p.m. with Christmas carols and performances by the Cazenovia High School (CHS) Chamber Choir, the CHS String Ensemble, and Allure Dance Studio.
Santa Claus, escorted by the Cazenovia Fire Department, will arrive around 7 p.m., just in time for the tree lighting.
Non-profits will have booths set up along the sidewalks and the downtown shops will be open before and after the main festivities.
The GCACC is extending the Christmas Walk celebration into the weekend this year with additional community events scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3.
On Dec. 3, Caz Life will introduce its “Sunday Stroll – Brunch, Sip, Shop!”
Start off the morning with 10 a.m. brunch and beverages at The Lincklaen House, then take an afternoon stroll along Albany Street and support local shops. Many of the merchants will be offering special holiday deals and promotions. Finish up the afternoon by stopping by the Brae Loch Inn for the Limestone Creek Hunt’s “Holidays, Horses, and Hounds” sale from 1 to 5 p.m. Register for the brunch by Nov. 29.
Check the Caz Life calendar for other Christmas Walk Weekend events.
For more information on the GCACC, visit cazenovia.com.