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With Another Tourism Season In Doubt

Otsego Looks Outdoors

By GREG KLEIN • Special to

Lori Paparteys and her dog, Bailey, pose during their Otsego Octet Ultra Challenge. Paparteys and Bailey completed the trail challenge in one day.

With tourism dealt another pandemic-related blow last week, Otsego County’s leaders are increasingly turning to outdoor adventures to lure visitors.

“We’re actually in the process right now of trying to launch a massive campaign to tout our outdoor adventure,” said Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corporation, which promotes tourism in Otsego and Schoharie counties.

Harrington said the tourism news has been mostly dismal in the week since Cooperstown Dreams Park announced it would require all teams playing at the park’s summer tournaments to be vaccinated for the coronavirus pandemic. The uncertainty of getting vaccinations for children and a hard refund deadline has left dozens of teams in a catch-22, leading to hundreds of reported cancellations.

23 fifth grade students from Milford Central School also completed the Otsego Octet Challenge from Otsego Outdoors.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s winter announcement that it was moving its postponed 2020 Induction Weekend to a virtual event, had already crushed pre-pandemic hopes for a record sized crowd for Derek Jeter’s induction.

However, the reopening of the baseball parks, Dreams Park in Hartwick Seminary and Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta, was a big pillar of the county’s hopes for a renewed summer of tourism. All-Star Village has not announced similar vaccination requirements for its teams, but the Dreams Park changes make its June opening unlikely, Harrington said.

“Now that the bottom fell out with Dreams Park, our accommodations are dealing with a flood of cancellations,” she said. “So, we really need those outdoor visitors more than ever.”

Harrington said DMC is in the web development stage of an outdoor adventure site that links to other outdoor sites, such as Otsego Outdoors and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Once tasked with drawing visitors from far away and mostly from outside state lines, now her efforts are to find people closer to the region and inform them about the great outdoor recreational opportunities around Otsego and Canadarago lakes, the Susquehanna River and in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.

Historic interpreter Joelle Lachance poses in
front of Bump Tavern at The Farmers’ Museum, where outdoor spaces have contributed to a relatively good tourism season despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, her peers in the tourism business are also adjusting. Live performances are returning, but mostly to outdoor stages. The Glimmerglass Festival will return Thursday, July 15, after a season’s hiatus, with outdoor shows. The Farmers’ Museum and Fenimore Art Museum will also return to staging outdoor events over the summer.

The twin museums, which are just outside the village of Cooperstown, in the town of Otsego, have had divergent experiences during the pandemic, according to New York State Historical Association officials.

NYSHA Director of Marketing and Publicity Todd Kenyon said 2020 attendance at The Farmers’ was a bright spot, as it held up well compared to Fenimore numbers.

“Regarding attendance, we drew approximately 30% of what we recorded in 2019,” he said. “With capacity restrictions and the fact that we didn’t open until July, we feel we did quite well. As the year went on, people felt much safer venturing outdoors and the museum was a great alternative for people in the region looking for something fun to do.

“During our ‘Celebration of Autumn’ in September and October, we placed as many activities as we could outdoors,” he continued. “That’s one of the main reasons we did so well in the fall.”

Kenyon said the museums had huge drops in attendance for school and adult group visits, as well as major events.

“Those basically were non-existent in 2020,” he said.

The museums will attempt, pandemic and state regulations willing, to hold Art by the Lake on the Fenimore’s back lawn on Saturday, Aug. 21, and Harvest Festival and The Farmers’ on Saturday, Sept. 18 and Sunday, Sept. 19.

“It all depends on what the state guidelines are at that time,” Kenyon said.

The Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce is also planning to hold its fall event, Cooperstown Artisan Festival, on Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, Sept. 4, and Sunday, Sept. 5. The event would take place outdoors on Otsego County property at 197 Main St. in Cooperstown, but again, is subject to the pandemic and state regulations.

The pandemic has also increased outdoor recreation options for locals. Otsego Outdoors new patch program has been an amazing success, according to Otsego 2000 executive Director Ellen Pope.

The Otsego Octet Winter Outdoor Challenge offers a commemorative patch to anyone who hiked eight of 12 sponsored trails in Otsego County by a deadline of Friday, April 30.

Pope said more than 100 people and at least one day will have completed the winter challenge by the time it ends next week. Among the patch-winners were Lori Paparteys and her dog, Bailey, who were among the participants who finished all 12 hikes in one day, which Pope dubbed the Ultra Octet.

Another group of participants were the entire fifth grade class of Milford Central School. Led by teachers Chris Cottrell and Michelle Dibble and aide Melissa Banks, 23 fifth graders hiked the trail, finishing their eighth hike in April.

“We had no idea what to expect when we started the challenge,” Pope said. “Once the teacher called to let us known he was taking the kids on the challenge, we were like, ‘we better order more patches.’”

Outsego Outdoors is a partnership between Otsego 2000, the Otsego Land Trust and the Otsego County Conservation Association. Pope said part of the combined mission is to highlight all of Otsego’s trails and activities for non-experts.

“We don’t have the high peaks of the Adirondacks or the Catskills,” she said. “The way we designed it, we want to be a location for activities for people of all abilities.

“The idea is to get people outside,” she continued. “The idea is to showcase this is a really cool place to live.”


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