News of Otsego County

Christmas 2020

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: St. Mary’s Christmas Dinner 12-25-20

St. Mary’s Christmas Dinner



CHRISTMAS DINNER – Annual holiday dinner continues this year with takeout and delivery only due to Covid19. Free, donations gratefully accepted. Presented by the Friends of Christmas Dinner from St. Mary’s Church, Oneonta. Call 607-435-9198 for delivery, 607-287-5089 for take-out.

Owl-Fresco Crowns Alfresco’s Holiday Explosion

Owl-Fresco Crowns

Alfresco’s Holiday Explosion

At Oneonta Restaurant, Christmas Rules
If you look closely, you’ll see Owl-Fresco amid the branches.

Owl-Fresco, the Christmas Pickle and a creche tucked in a corner are only a few of the hidden gems amid Alfresco’s Italian Bistro holiday decorations this season.

“We want to get people in the spirit,” said owner Elisabeth Webster. “Alfresco’s is not just a place to eat – we want it to be a true evening out. Even if you’re not eating here, you can come in and look at the decorations.”

Preparation at the restaurant, which Elisabeth and husband Gerald have run for 33 years in the former Oneonta Dairy, started Thanksgiving Day when the “Main Tree” – this year, a 17-footer from Filor Farms in Cooperstown – was brought into the dining room and decorated by the Websters and the Alfresco’s staff over the weekend.

“It takes about 50 hours to put everything up,” she said. “And 75 to take it all down.”

There are five trees across four dining rooms, including a black tree covered in Italian masks, a tree themed to the French countryside and a fiber-optic sci-fi tree decorated with “Star Wars” and superheroes in homage, in part, to their son James Cory, who works as a comics illustrator.

This year, they added a new twist on an old Webster family favorite. “We’ve always had owls on our tree, but we brought this one down for the main tree,” she said. “We tell people he’s Rocky’s cousin who decided to stay in the county for Christmas.”

“We call him Owl-Fresco,” said Gerald.

Owl-Fresco, along with the traditional glass German gherkin, is hidden on the tree for diners to try and find among the pizza and Santa ornaments.

For 33 years now, Alfresco’s proprietors Elisabeth and Gerald Webster have been building their annual Christmas display – it’s not to be missed. (Ian Austin/

“Stanislaus, who does our sauce, sends us a beautiful tomato ornament every year,” Elisabeth said.

Friends donated decorations over the years, and Elisabeth often gives away decorations to staff or customers. “We recycle,” she said.

Every corner is filled – an army of nutcrackers overlooks diners from a shelf near the ceiling, and a Lenox china crèche is tucked off the main dining room. Even the outdoors is decorated by Gerald with wreaths and poinsettias from Mount Vision Garden Center.

“We really enjoy going all out at Christmas,” Elisabeth said. “Not everyone has the space to host or decorate but we hope that our efforts help to bring an element of that to those that can’t.”

Diners on Christmas eve will even get a party favor of their own; a traditional “Christmas cracker” with a prize inside. “We always give these away,” she said. “And kids can get a candy cane too.”

The decorations will remain up until mid-January, when the tree will serve a second purpose – protecting the restaurant’s rose bushes, a tradition Elisabeth has carried on from her childhood growing up in Potsdam.

“We used to get made fun of in high school for collecting the trees that others had thrown out,” Elisabeth said. “But my dad – an economist and passionate about his rose bushes – highly suggested we do it; it’s a tradition we continue.”

STERNBERG: Vaccines, Part II: They Arrive

Vaccines, Part II: They Arrive

Richard Sternberg, retired Bassett Hospital orthopedic surgeon, is providing his professional perspective weekly during the COVID-19
threat. A village trustee,
he resides in Cooperstown.

I wish I had the time, stamina, and column inches to write an article daily. That’s how fast the news is coming.

Since last week, Pfizer has begun distribution and vaccinations around the nation, the Moderna vaccine has been approved and it will start distribution by the time you read this, with inoculations going into arms probably by Thursday the 24th.

The 350 Tier One healthcare workers from Bassett Healthcare will have been inoculated, though they all had to travel to either Utica or Elmira to receive the network’s allotted doses, according to a Bassett spokesman. They will get the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the Governor, we can expect more doses in the weeks ahead.

All I want for Christmas is my two vaccines.

There have been some surprises with the roll out. It seems some five dose vials of the Pfizer vaccine actually contain six doses. On the other hand, the logistics have not gone quite as well as we were told to expect. I guess that’s not a surprise.

In the United States, the priority for the order of who gets the vaccine has been announced.

Tier One-A is front-line healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.

Tier One-B is essential workers.

Tier One-C is high risk individuals which includes those over 60 or 65 depending on their state of residence and those with other risk factors.

After that I am not sure but it seems to be everyone else lumped together. It is not clear when and if minors will get the vaccinations, since they haven’t been tested in those under 16.

There has been some controversy over the 1-B group, not so much if essential workers should get it next, but who is an essential worker.

Overall, there are probably more than 20-30 million people in this category in the United States: police, fire, EMS, teachers, other healthcare workers who interact with the general public, grocery store workers, food processing plant workers, certain other government employees, and many others.

As someone with eight risk factors and counting, I am willing to wait my turn for most of these, but unfortunately there will be some who get moved up the list but probably don’t deserve it.

For example, an attorney friend of mine in New Jersey says they are classified as essential workers.

Shakespeare would definitely not agree. Neither do I. Some yes, but all of them? Corporate attorneys who haven’t been in a courtroom in decades and only represent clients who can pay them more than $500/hour?

There are other vaccines coming out soon. Janssen/ Johnson & Johnson, AstroZenica/Oxford, and Novavax are among those in stage three testing in the USA that may be able to get FDA approval.

China and Russia have both approved their own vaccines and are inoculating people at home and overseas.

The entire United Arab Emirates’ Tour de France winning cycling team has been inoculated with the Chinese Sinopharma vaccine.

Hopefully the vaccines from outside North America and Europe will also generate honest, reproducible data. We need every dose that can be produced that works. There are seven billion people in the world and frankly most of them would benefit by being vaccinated.

In the meantime, we can decrease deaths and slow down progression of the disease with the same simple methods that I have been advocating for nine months. (Yes, it’s that long.) Wear a mask, socially distance, don’t get lackadaisical just because you know some else well.

My god-daughter and her husband both contracted it from their 11-month-old. All are well. We just lost an Otsego citizen who caught COVID from a group home worker who contracted it at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Small group, known people. But someone died because of it. We are so close, people: Stay the course (and any other cliché you can think of).

Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a New Year that at least begins to approach sanity.

Santa Arrives In Oneonta To Read Letters, Host Virtual Visits

Santa Claus Arrives In Oneonta

To Read Letters, Host Zoom Visits

Santa Claus arrived in Oneonta today to pick up letters and say hello to the kids of Oneonta, explaining that this year, visits will be virtual, rather than face-to-face visits at his Muller Plaza cottage as they have been in previous years. “Santa can’t get sick,” he assured viewers. “But I want you to keep wearing your mask.” Kids can sign up for a one-on-one Zoom chat with Santa, or drop off letters at his cottage, which will be read and responded to by his elves. (Photo Credit: Destination Oneonta)
In Oneonta, Santa, Other Staples Virtual

In Oneonta, Santa,

Other Staples Virtual

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

David Cyzeski is bringing the motorized window display back to downtown Oneonta. Here he is seen assembling a wooden Christmas Carousel, complete with wooden gears, that will be on display in the window of his wife’s shop Theresa’s Emporium. “Everything is wood except for the motor,” he said. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – For Common Council member Mark Drnek, it’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.

“We were in Brooklyn one time during the holidays, and all of a sudden, we heard music in the streets,” he said. “It was a game-changer.”

A similar 16-speaker system, designed by Carrie Schmidt of Bitbybit Solutions, was put in place for the downtown dining event and, come Black Friday, will fill Main Street with the sounds of holiday cheer, courtesy of the Pandora Christmas music station.

“We want to bring back that sense of community shopping downtown,” Drnek said. “We want to train people not to just go straight to Amazon.”

After Thanksgiving, downtown merchants will implement “Shop Small Weekends,” opening Saturdays and Sundays throughout the holiday shopping season.

“By not crowding it in one Small Business Saturday, we’re able to lessen the crowds and facilitate social distancing,” he said. “It’s a great downtown shopping experience.”

COVID-19 restrictions on large crowds forced Destination Oneonta to cancel the annual Santa parade, but that doesn’t mean Santa is skipping Oneonta entirely.

Instead, he will Zoom live from the North Pole to meet with kids – no bundling up or waiting in the cold required.

“Kids can sign up for a time to Zoom with Santa, and one of his helpers will let you into the chat,” said Katrina Van Zandt, Destination Oneonta’s director of membership and events. “Then you can visit one-on-one with Santa.”

Destination Oneonta is also looking for a way to record the chats so that the kids will be able to take them as a memento, Drnek said.

In addition to the Zoom chats, kids can leave letters to Santa in the mailbox at his cottage in Muller Plaza.

The annual Gingerbread House and Festival of Lights tree-decorating competitions will also be held virtually.

“This year’s theme is to build a traditional gingerbread house,” said Van Zandt. “You take a picture of yourself with it and post it on our Facebook page in each category.”

Though many categories – including Best Candy Use, Most Intricate and Tallest – are voted on by the board, there is still a chance to vote for the Viewer’s Choice, determined by who gets the most likes.

The Festival of Trees will be held much the same way, inviting homes and businesses to show off their elaborately decorated trees. “We want to see you, your pets, your families in the photo so we know it’s not one you found a picture of and submitted,” she said. “It’s hard to Photoshop yourself in!”
Both contests are live now, and winners will be announced on Dec. 10.
But there’s no Christmas without some holiday decorations, and the city will begin decorating downtown with banners and snowflakes this weekend. Destination Oneonta has purchased additional banners to promote the merchants and restaurants.

Posts navigation

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