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It’s a Familiar Time of Year: Ithaca’s Downtown Winter Festival

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Winter Festival in Ithaca

Get into the Holiday Spirit with Ithaca’s Downtown Winter Festival

An Ice Sculpture. Photo Courtesy of the Downtown ithaca AllianceI don’t eat at chain restaurants, as a rule, but I understand the concept, the comfort many find in the familiarity of color schemes, menu items, and layout. It’s why I miss Wegman’s whenever I’m away. Suddenly, I find myself thrust into fluorescent lighting, steering a large cart, unsure of where to find the olive bar and organic foods. Whereas I was once familiar with my supermarket spiral (circling the outer edges until I dropped into the middle to pick up that one must have for a quick dinner), I now track and backtrack the aisles like some grocery store version of Dig Dug looking for peanut butter. It’s frustrating. Familiar is nice.  Familiar is safe.

I’m fairly certain this same concept is what made Norman Rockwell so famous, not just the ubiquitous Saturday Evening Post covers that brought him into just about every American home at some point, but the idea that he was also familiar with daily life in the American home. We, as people, find comfort in knowing that others are having the same experiences we are. It makes us feel safe, particularly when the world outside our door no longer does. It validates us in much the same way we are validated when we see the packed parking lot of the Chili’s or Applebee’s when we pull in.

It is also why, in the age of “omg, dial-up is just way to slow,” when slightly more than a decade ago the internet, or world-wide-web (a term almost as obsolete as the modem itself), was mind-blowingly innovative, we still seek out and/or create traditions. It’s why we still seek out the familiar, because any second now, it’s all going to change, or at least, in part, that’s what we fear.

It is also, sadly, what makes writing a weekly blog around the holidays so incredibly hard.  This is, for the most part, the one time of year when all events seem familiar. As we physically and emotionally hunker down for the winter we seek out the warm fuzziness of familiarity, whether it be comfort food, or comfort events. We seek out familiar faces, familiar places, and familiar songs. We seek Norman Rockwell. It’s what makes the Christmas scenes in Funny Farm so great. At least I am willing to admit I secretly want that and I don’t even celebrate Christmas. I think many others do too.

That’s not to say I don’t like a little innovation, which is why I love one of Ithaca’s long standing traditions, the Downtown Winter Festival, which starts this weekend. The festival kicks off on December 2nd with Gallery Night (a familiar event for Ithaca’s art fans) with a special focus on art from the wine country. Then on Saturday, Santa arrives in a semi-traditional way: He’ll fly in, then after landing on the roof will rappel down to the crowd awaiting him on The Commons. You can end the night of festivities with the Harlem Gospel Choir at the State Theatre.

But that’s not all, the very next week the festivities continue through the next week and culminate on the weekend with everyone’s favorite chainsaw and chowder event: the Ice Wars and Chowder cook-off. Whether it’s family fun, familiar favorites, or simply getting into the “spirit of the season,” there’s plenty of reasons to head to downtown Ithaca!

Jennifer B. Brown is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=16097

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