Erick Tichonuk, Utica, NY
It was a glorious sun filled, blue sky day in Utica. We had entered Oneida County and were now under the caring eye of Kelly Blazosky, President of Oneida County Tourism. Many months ago I had done a reconnaissance trip along the canal thanks to a planning grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Corridor. My goal was to make contact with communities where we hadn’t been in a while or people in various positions had changed. I worked with our principal partners, the New York State Canal Corporation, to get contacts and stakeholder names in the various communities. It’s a long process to plan out 37 ports-of-call!
Kelly was my rock star. She embraced the coming tour, made all the necessary contacts with communities within her area, and set up meetings for us to attend to make connections and build excitement. Some facilities along the canal lack certain amenities such as showers. You can imagine how our crew smells after a day on the water in the blazing sun. Let’s just say engaging the public can be a challenge. Kelly provided us with a hotel room in both Utica and Rome so the crew can rotate through and “freshen up.” It’s people like Kelly that make things happen.
Beverly Esche, General Manager of Aqua Vino, has hosted us before. Her restaurant is on the best section of dock in Utica and she welcomes us with open arms. She also serves up some delicious food in a great atmosphere. We started off right in Utica, being hosted on a morning talk show and getting great coverage on the local television news. Mayor Robert Palmieri stopped by shortly after opening to get a glimpse of the history upon which his City was built. He was fascinated and appreciative of our boat and tour efforts, and excited to accept our gift of White Oaks and White Pines. They’re currently working with NY DEC to inventory their city trees and have a park in mind for planting our contribution. The Mayor could appreciates our style of engaging folks on a personal level through conversation. He was on his rounds of the City doing exactly the same thing.
The crew is looking forward to a down day in Utica to explore everything the City has to offer. Maybe that will even include a laundromat. Hey, it’s a great gig, but it’s not all glamorous. Next stop is Rome where we’ll join the City celebrating the very beginning of construction of the Erie Canal.