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News of Otsego County

Carol Mandigo

Hometown 4th: Oneonta to revive holiday celebration

Hometown 4th: Oneonta to revive holiday celebration

By PATRICK DEWEY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — The Hometown 4th Festival will return to Oneonta’s Neahwa Park to celebrate the July Fourth holiday next weekend, with a theme of honoring essential workers.

The goal is to honor the workers, including grocery store staff, teachers, police officers, firefighters and healthcare workers, who took risks for the community good during the coronavirus pandemic, according to festival officials.

“We wanted to do everything we could to let them know that the First Night Board and the whole community appreciates them,” First Night Board Chair Carol Mandigo said.

The celebration will kick off at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 2, in Neahwa Park, with a free concert by country artist Michael Christopher.

At noon, Sunday, July 4, the parade will line up at Foothills Performing Arts Center on Market Street.

Puppet theater to return to Oneonta

Puppet theater to return to Oneonta

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Carol Mandigo poses with some of her puppets in this undated photo.

A puppet theater with local roots will perform an old time musical with a modern message in Oneonta on Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15.

The Catskill Puppet Theater, which has been around since the late 1970s, will be performing “The Villain’s Mustache,” which is described on their website as a “lively musical” and a “traditional old-time melodrama.”

“The play is fast paced and exciting enough to hold the attention of even the youngest children but contains enough real drama and good music to grab the audience as well,” said the website description.

“It’s a cool show for Oneonta because it’s about the old railway,” Carol Mandigo said, co-founder of the Catskill Puppet Theater.

Little Nell, the show’s young heroine, struggles when her family falls on hard times. They come to the city in order to make money where she meets a ragtime piano player named Moe and a hobo named Curley.

Audiences are encouraged to get involved by cheering, shouting advice or booing at the characters.

Let There Be Lights!

Let There Be Lights!

Against All Odds, Festival Takes Flight
Santa Claus is flanked by Oneonta First Lady Connie Herzig, left, and Festival of Lights organizer Carol Mandigo. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

As dusk settled over Neahwa Park, Carol Mandigo wasn’t sure what to expect when she flipped the switches to turn on the Festival of Lights.

What she saw were cars lined up as far as Main and River streets, waiting their turns to be driven around the 37 displays of holiday lights and decorations set up around the park.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Mandigo said. “I had no idea it was going to be as popular as it was.”

Organizer Mandigo scrutinizes those pesky tripping circuits.

The event – it began last Friday, Dec. 18, and continues every night from dusk until 10 p.m. through Sunday, Jan. 3 – was a spin-off from the traditional First Night celebration, which, along with the Hometown Fourth of July, was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Everyone on the board was really sad that we had to cancel,” she said. “We got together to decide if we should do something for New Year’s or just bag the whole year. No one would blame us if we didn’t put on an event.”

But Mandigo had seen the Lights on the Lake event in Liverpool, the Syracuse suburb, and although it cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to have it professionally put together, she pitched the board an idea: “What if we asked the community to put up displays?”

The board agreed, but she still wasn’t sure if the community at large would embrace the idea. “Then it would be lame, and that would be terrible for us,” she said.

She reached out to Ben Guenther at Five Star Subaru first to see if he would sponsor a display. “He was all about it,” she said. “And once I knew he was backing us, I knew we had something special.”

The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce sent out a call for displays in its newsletter, and soon, the emails started pouring in. “I was shocked,” she said. “I really thought we were going to have to do it all by ourselves.”

Several of the displays were dedicated to John Hayen, who in 2017 hung 23,500 lights in his home and yard on Tilly Avenue, surpassing the record set by Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” He passed away in November.

Bassett Healthcare employees’ display paid tribute to front-line workers, while the Brooks’ BBQ display featured Santa surrounded by chickens.

There were logistical challenges to overcome, including how to power each display without tripping circuits. “I’ve been living out in the cold from morning until night,” said Mandigo. “We had to figure out how to power everybody, how to run all these cords and how to protect the displays.”

And then came the snow.

Overnight snow on Thursday, Dec. 17, dumped 29 inches of powder on the city, burying all but the tallest displays. “People were worried that it wouldn’t work,” she said. “But no one ever said to postpone it.”

Instead, the groups came out to shovel out their displays. “It was a miracle,” she said. “We were still tripping circuits, but by 3:30 p.m. on Friday, we were ready to go.”

The event opened at dusk with entertainment, including Cosmic Karma Fire, Mike the Juggler and Santa Claus.

“Santa went to each car and asked the kids’ names and what they wanted for Christmas,” she said. “And the kids were so excited to see him.”

Even Mandigo donned a set of light-up wings to welcome visitors over the weekend. “I had so much fun seeing the kids faces light up,” she said. “That’s what First Night is all about.”

Festival of Lights Opens In Neahwa Park

Festival of Lights

Opens In Neahwa Park

Connie Herzig, left, and event organizer Carol Mandigo, right, wave to visitors alongside Santa Claus during the opening night of The Festival of Lights in Neahwa Park earlier this evening. Visitors can make their way through the park via car and enjoy plenty of colorful displays created by local businesses and organizations. The event, sponsored by First Night Oneonta, is open each day at sundown for the next three weeks.(Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Kelly Ames, Carol Mandigo HonoredAs Oneonta’s ’19 Woman Trailblazers

Art & Caring

Kelly Ames, Carol Mandigo Honored

As Oneonta’s ’19 Woman Trailblazers

Oneonta Trailblazers flank Mayor Gary Herzig, Carol Blazina at right, and Kelly Ames at left, at the Tuesday, April 2, reception in Oneonta City Hall. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JENNIFER HILL • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal

ONEONTA  – Early on in Carol Mandigo’s career, she decided to combine art with social services “to give a better quality of life in a fun way.”

“I wasn’t drawn to putting art in a gallery in a city with only a limited amount of people looking at it,” Mandigo said.  “I brought art and theater to inner city schools, so kids could be exposed to art because their families might not be able to do that for them.”

The director of the Catskill Puppet Theater, a prevention specialist at LEAF Inc and the artist behind the murals on the side of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, Mandigo was named as one of the 2019 Women Trailblazers, alongside Kelly Ames, Catholic Charities.

Ames, Mandigo Honored As Oneonta’s 2019 Trailblazers

Ames, Mandigo Honored

As City’s 2019 Trailblazers

Oneonta’s 2019 Woman Trailblazer Award winners Kelly Ames, left, and Carol Mandigo were honored this evening with a City Hall reception before the Common Council meeting. Mayor Gary Herzig and Joyce Miller, chair of the city’s Commission on Community Relations & Human Rights, presented the annual award before a gathered crowd of friends, family and public officials. “(Kelly) embodies the phrase ‘service above self'” said Herzig, “whether it is through her work, volunteering, or her personal life, she makes life better for the under-privileged.” He went on to praise Mandigo, saying, “I can think of no one else more deserving of this award. Her combination of her talents, energy, doing coordinating large groups and doing whatever it takes has lead to events like First Night and the Hometown 4th of July Celebration, two of the City’s most successful events, and ones that are enjoyed by tens of thousands.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Stewart’s Shops Donates To First Night Oneonta

Stewart’s Shops Donates

$1,000 To First Night

Andrew Zeh, manager of the Oneonta’s Stewart’s Shops, presents Carol Mandigo,  First Night Oneonta chair, with a $1,000 check in support of annual Hometown Fourth of July celebration and New Year’s Eve events. “They have been one of our signature supporters for these events.” said Mandigo, “God bless them.” Zeh, who has been manager for the last three years, said they have been giving ever since he took the position. “As a company, we give as much as we get.” said Zeh, “It keeps us local and keeps our areas running. We have to take care of our communities, kids and adults.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Fifth History Center Mural Unveiled, Completing Cycle

Fifth History Center Mural

Unveiled, Completing Cycle

Young Felix Palmer of Cooperstown mimics the pose he took for the photo that became the basis of the fifth of five murals for the Dietz Street side of the Oneonta History Center, unveiled this afternoon. The photo was taken when he was 7; next week, he turns 13. Also depicted in the mural are Felix’ mom, Angelica, and Gary Aney, Jordanville, a Farmers’ Museum docent who appears as David Wilber himself.   The mural’s subject is Wilber National Bank, one of the History Center building’s occupants over the 150-year history of the first brick building in Oneonta’s downtown. At left is artist Carol Mandigo, who created the murals with the help of a NYSCA grant under the sponsorship of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.  Murals already completed are of Laskaris’ candy store, Gallin’s Jewelry, Brown Hardware and Joann Dress Shop.  Wilber National Bank merged into Community Bank five years ago,  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Day Of The Dead Celebration

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FAMILY PROGRAM – Noon – 2 p.m. Celebrate Latino Heritage month with Day of the Dead event. Make paper flowers, learn about Mexican traditions, listen to story time, more. Participants encouraged to bring photo of loved one who’s passed away. Designed for children aged 4-12 + family. Light snacks provided. Cooperstown Village Library. 607-547-8344 or visit www.facebook.com/VillageLibraryOfCooperstown/

FUNDRAISER – 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Construct you cat a cardboard castle with Superheroes in Ripped Jeans. Materials provided. Bring goods or monetary donation. 3rd floor, Community Room, Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-432-1980 or visit www.facebook.com/hmloneonta/

Artspace, Meet Artists!

Artspace,

Meet Artists!

Focus Groups Underway Today, Thursday

Carol Mandigo of Catskill Puppet Theater and the painter responsible for the murals on the side of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, explains to the visiting members of Artspace that her rented studio space is inadequate and that increased support for working artists is not only wanted but needed in Oneonta.  To her right are James McKilroy, Nathaniel Francisco and Madeline Walker. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Anna Growcott, director, consulting and strategic partnerships with Artspace, keeps track of everyone’s ideas.

ONEONTA – Whether they were painters, metalworkers, glassblowers or sculptors, many of the 31 gathered at the first Artspace focus group had one thing in common.

They were all using their own homes as their creative space.

“I do wood-burning at my dining room table,” said Anne Vrooman.

“I practice my dance and music in my living room,” said Elizabeth Raphaelson, owner of the Underground Attic.

“I’m trying to record music while the garbage trucks are driving around,” said James McIlroy.

Artspace, the Minneapolis-based not-for-profit, is in the city for three days, meeting with focus groups, touring sites and assessing whether or not one of their buildings – which offers low-cost live/work space for artists, community rooms and storefronts – would be a welcome addition to Oneonta’s downtown.

Third GOHS Mural Is Unveiled: Libby, Ian At Brown’s Hardward

Third GOHS Mural Is Unveiled:

Libby, Ian At Brown’s Hardware

Artist Carol Mandigo, right, this evening unveil the third in a series of five murals planned on the Dietz Street side of the Oneonta History Center, as Libby Cudmore and Ian Austin, depicted in the mural, look on with delight.
Artist Carol Mandigo, right, this evening unveils the third in a series of five murals planned on the Dietz Street side of the Oneonta History Center, as Libby Cudmore and Ian Austin, depicted in the mural, look on with delight.  Mandigo and Frank Anthony of Hamden have been creating one mural for each of the tenants of 189 Main St., the old brick business block in downtown Oneonta, now marking its 150th year.  Galinn’s Dress Shop and Wilber Bank murals are complete, withLaskaris Restaurant and the History Center remaining.  Each painting includes a local couple in a historic setting.  Libby and Ian, both of Onoenta, are Hometown Oneonta photographer and reporter respectively.  (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Second Mandigo Mural Unveiled at GOHS

GOHS Unveils 2nd Mural 

The Laskaris Mural, installed on the side of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, was unveiled at 6pm today by artist Carol Mandigo and Bob Brzozowski. The mural is the second in a series tracing the history of businesses that have occupied 183 Main St. since the 1800's. (Ian Austin/ allotsego.com)
“Laskaris,” a mural depicting the candy store that used to be in 183 Main St., now home to the Oneonta History Center, was unveiled at 6 p.m. today by artist Carol Mandigo and Bob Brzozowski, executive director of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.  The mural is the second in a series tracing the history of businesses that have occupied 183 Main St. since the 1860s. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
First Of 4 Murals Unveiled On History Center Exterior

First Of 4 Murals Unveiled

On History Center Exterior

At 6 this evening, artist Carol Mandigo unveils the first of four murals planned on the Dietz Street wall of the Oneonta History Center, depicting the tenants who have occupied the downtown's first brick commercial block in the past century and a half. She collaborated with muralist Frank Anthony of Hamden. This mural depicts Galinns Jewelry, the last tenant. The second, to be unveiled next month, recreates the era when the building housed Wilber Bank. (Jim Kevlin/allotsego.com)
At 6 this evening, artist Carol Mandigo unveiled, “Galinns,” the first of four murals planned on the Dietz Street wall of the Oneonta History Center, depicting the tenants  that have occupied the downtown’s first brick commercial block in the past century and a half. She collaborated with muralist Frank Anthony of Hamden. This mural depicts Galinns Jewelry, the last tenant. The second mural, to be unveiled next month, recreates the era when the building housed Brown’s Hardware and Wilber Bank. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
All First-Night Action Under Foothills’ Roof

All First-Night Action Under Foothills’ Roof

By LIBBY CUDMORE • HOMETOWN ONEONTA

Edition of Friday, Nov. 21, 2014

Like the snowflakes that flutter down on New Year’s Eve, each First Night celebration is different. “We’re always starting new traditions,” said David Hayes, one of the organizers. “We’re not afraid to try new things.”

This year, you won’t even have to face the snow and cold to enjoy the magic of the celebration. First Night has teamed up with Foothills to bring the city-hopping party under one roof.

“It was tough for families, especially with young children, to go to a venue, then have to bundle everyone back up and walk back across town to see something else,” said Carol Mandigo, who chairs the First Night board. “It’s a great partnership.”

Acts will be divided up between the Atrium, the 620-seat Main Stage, and the Production Room Theater and smaller Upstairs Theater in the administration building. In the future, Mandigo hopes heated tents can be placed outside to bring in more performers.

Though at first they were worried that people would think First Night was shrinking or on the verge of vanishing completely, Mandigo said she’s heard nothing but good things about the change. “People are relieved,” she said. “Last year was so cold, and some venues weren’t as well attended as other because people didn’t want to have to walk.”

For the first time in a while, there will be no First Night parade on New Year’s Eve. It has been shifted to the two-day Hometown Fourth of July, celebrated for the first time this year in Neahwa Park. “It’s much easier to recruit musicians and community groups in warm weather,” said Hayes. “If we’re going to do a parade, we want it to be a robust one.”

Instead, an opening ceremony, featuring puppets, dance troupes and Cosmic Karma Fire dancers is planned at 5:30 p.m. at Foothills, with a special dedication to Mayor Dick Miller. “We want to celebrate everything he has done to support First Night over the years,” said Mandigo.

With Gandolf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams as the headliner, Mandigo hopes the event will have a “three-ring circus” feel. “We’re a month out and we’re hiring more clowns and magicians,” she said. “We want to provide something unusual, something people haven’t seen before.”

Popular First Night performer BJ the Clown has even added to her repertoire for an enhanced carnival feel. “She took a balloon sculpture workshop, so she’s going to put together a big ‘Life Enjoyed’ sculpture in the atrium,” said Mandigo. “There will even be a balloon drop from the ceiling just before the fireworks!”

Volunteers are still needed for the event, and volunteers get a free admission button. To volunteer, sign up at www.firstnightoneonta.com.

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103