By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Following the success of the downtown Halloween events, where SUNY and Hartwick students decorated scarecrows and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters, Council Member Mark Drnek, Eighth Ward and chair of the Survive, Then Thrive committee, has invited students to help decorate downtown for Christmas.
“If you or your friends are artistically inclined, we would love it if you would help decorate our windows for Christmas,” he said during the final meeting of the SUNY COVID Control Room this semester. “We think it’s something people would want to see when they’re shopping downtown.”
Similarly, Mayor Gary Herzig also invited them to decorate Neahwa Park as part of the drive-thru “Festival of Lights,” sponsored by First Night in place of the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
“If you’re staying here for the break, please get involved,” he said.
Drnek praised the students, saying that the pandemic has opened new avenues for the often-fraught Town-Gown relations.
“If we in the downtown can empathize with students, who might feel like they’re underappreciated, then, in turn, students might begin to understand what the local businesses need to survive,” he said. “It’s important that you engage with our downtown, because it’s your downtown too.”
“I’ve found that any time these students are called upon, they’re masked and ready to go,” Said Al Rubin, owner of A&D Taxi and chair of the Otsego County Chamber Board. “We’re building bridges, and that’s exciting.”
Additionally, Rachel Dobkin, a SUNY student and member of the Control Room, said that her group has been working to come up with social media campaigns that would highlight local businesses, including a “Why I Wear a Mask” video that she hoped downtown would contribute to.