The Week: What Caught Our Eye

June 19, 2021

Adirondack Life Magazine cover with headline "10 Reasons to Love Lake George"A Lake George vacation is the perfect salve for many a weary soul. And Lake George is having a well-deserved moment in the media sunlight.

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

FIRST Owen Wilson, now Woody Harrelson. Who said all the acting in the Capital Region takes place inside the Capitol?

WELCOME TO THE last official weekend of spring. What a great time to reopen the world — or at least our slice of it. But even as we are liberated from 472 days of restriction, there’s a palpable hesitancy. We hear and cheer the all-clear, of course, but know that even with scientists, public health experts and elected officials reassuring us that the fully vaccinated are free to resume more-or-less normal activities, without a mask, it will still take time for many to readjust and let their guard drop.

TODAY WE also celebrate Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Cornell history professor Margaret Washington last year talked about the significance of the holiday to North Country Public Radio.

AND TO ALL the fathers and father figures among us, Happy Father’s Day!

THE FORCE IN ENFORCEMENT: Let’s face it, code enforcement officers have a tough job, and some are, let’s say, more vigorous and doctrinaire than others. Essex, N.Y., a tiny community that overlooks Lake Champlain, hired a new code enforcement officer in December. Six months later, more than 70 residents — about 10% of the year-round population — packed a Town Board meeting to complain about him, including two local residents of note — former Gov. George Pataki and his wife, Libby, who told the board, “This is not the town we know, and this is not the town we want.”

BUILDING BRIDGES: Political polarization and lack of trust in one another are tearing at the fabric of the U.S. It doesn’t have to be that way. New York Times columnist David Brooks has some thoughts about how to begin rebuilding trust, modeled after best practices in the workplace, and USA Today business reporter Nathan Bomey explores the stories of people and organizations who are working to overcome divisions in the aptly titled “Bridge Builders.”

A TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATION: Not long ago, the mere sight of a bald eagle in the wild was cause for celebration. The population decimated by consumption of fish that were contaminated by a now-banned pesticide, by 1960 only one nesting pair was known to live in New York State. Today, the state has at least 426 occupied bald eagle nests, and the national bald eagle population has soared to more than 300,000, a more than fourfold increase just since 2009.

A painting showing a hotel along a lakeshore.THE VIEW IS JUST THE BEGINNING: “The view from the piazza of our well-kept, convenient hotel,’’ wrote the New York correspondent, “is one of the most beautiful that it has ever been my fortune to behold.” The effusive New York Herald travel writer found much to his liking when he visited Lake George and the brand-new Fort William Henry Hotel in 1855. Writer Maury Thompson recalls the luxurious digs of Lake George lore.

A painting of the Horicon steamboat on Lake GeorgeSAILING TOWARD 205: At first, its purpose was commercial shipping. After the Civil War, it became the “last mile” for a railroad carrying visitors from New York City to Lake George. And then, in 1947, a young maritime lawyer from New York City acquired the Lake George Steamboat Co. and, with the ongoing support of his family, turned it into the very symbol of a Lake George summer.

CASH COWS: Chobani, the yogurt maker based in upstate New York, is working with powerhouses Goldman Sachs and Bank of America on an initial public offering, according to those in the know.

SUSTAINING GIFT: An $850,000 gift from the estate of the late Hilton International chairman Curt Strand will help a beacon of the performing-arts in rural Washington County, N.Y., pay off debt, establish an endowed scholarship, purchase housing for artists and make renovations. The gift was in honor of Strand’s daughter, Karen Strand, who was a volunteer and later employee of Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, N.Y. She died in 2006.

WELCOME BACK: After a COVID-19 year off, the 44th annual Mayor’s Cup Regatta & Festival, one of the biggest yearly celebrations in Plattsburgh, N.Y., will take place on Lake Champlain on July 10. The sailing competition includes races in three divisions — Cruising, Racing, and Multihull. This year’s festival is moving to Plattsburgh City Beach, one of the longest stretches of sand on fresh water in the United States and the only one with beautiful views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains.

JONAH LIGHT: A commercial lobster diver off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., was in about 45 feet of water when he was struck by something heavy and his world went dark. At first, he thought it was a shark attack, but he wasn’t in any pain. Then it dawned on him: He was in the mouth of a whale.

CRUELTY OR SPORT: We’re big fans of Saratoga’s racing season; we also know the sound of a fire bell in the night. Patrick Battuello lives not far from that cathedral of horse racing, Saratoga Race Course, a historic gem, center of the social whirl and driver of the summertime Saratoga economy. He understands the impact a ban on horse racing would have on the Capital Region, but in his view, the money and excitement generated by racing does not outweigh the immorality of a sport that he believes is inherently cruel. “It's just wrong,” he told the Times Union’s Chris Churchill, “and there's no way to make it right.” Churchill warns that, as public support wanes, horse racing may go the way of dog racing and circus shows.

NEWS FOR WHOM? Many words have been written about the demise of local news. Words that assign blame (loss of ad monopoly, cheapskate owners), words that express worry (who will cover local corruption?!?), words that exhort (support the journalism you depend on!). But what if the typical citizen just doesn’t care any more about local news?

SUMMER BREEZE: No one wants to stay inside on a beautiful summer Friday evening, so the Park Theater in Glens Falls, N.Y., is taking live entertainment out of one park and bringing it to another.

BIG SKY CALLING: People escaping crowded cities for wide open spaces have discovered all sorts of expansive options, and a lot of them have taken a shine to Montana. Speaking of Montana, authorities there just solved a 65-year-old murder case using genetic genealogy, which gained popularity as a crime-solving tool following the 2018 arrest of the so-called Golden State Killer. It’s believed to be the oldest homicide case solved using the technique.

WORM WORRIES: We think of earthworms as the helpful little critters who keep our soils aerated and healthy. That’s not the case with an invasive species known as “crazy worms,” which, despite the relatively benign moniker, are a serious threat to sugar maples and the maple syrup industry.

PAYING IT FORWARD: Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, whose 4% stake in Amazon makes her one of the world’s wealthiest women, has given away another $2.74 billion to charitable organizations, in addition to the $6 billion she donated to nonprofits in 2020. Scott got the stake in Amazon as a result of her divorce from founder Jeff Bezos and is moving quickly to fulfill her pledge to give away her fortune, which has risen to about $60 billion thanks to Amazon’s performance in the stock market.

OUTDOOR RECREATION: Whether the goal is peace and tranquility or a quickening of the pulse, outdoors guides in the Adirondacks are gearing up for the return of group excursions. If you’re looking for a place to stay between outings, Forbes found family fun in Saratoga’s Adirondacks, at the Alpine Lake RV Resort in Corinth, N.Y., complete with side trips and great food options like Corinth’s Vested Veterans Grill (10% of profits to fighting PTSD among local veterans) and Saratoga Springs’ fantastic farm-fresh 9 Miles East. And to make sure you know all about what upstate has to offer, New York State is putting $40 million into an international tourism awareness campaign to show off the hidden treasures of Upstate New York.

CALLING ROBIN HOOD: The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has opened the state’s first archery range in Wilton.

EXTRA CRISPY: A pizza restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, came up with a limited-time specialty pizza. It’s a limited time because it’s topped with cicadas, foraged locally. The pizza isn’t for sale, but the restaurant did livestream a panel of people sampling the creation.

CHAMPIONS

KD AND THE NETS: Four years ago, the Brooklyn Nets were the worst team in the NBA. They lost 76 percent of the time and finished 33 games out of first place. Now, The New York Times says, they may be the greatest basketball team of all time, with James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. A four-time scoring champ, two-time finals MVP and 11-time All-Star, KD is the greatest scorer of his basketball generation and, The Times says, “one of the defining athletes of our time.”

HE’S NO DJOKE: Novak Djokovic has played much of his professional tennis career in the shadow of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, his charismatic contemporaries and rivals who generally are treated as the sport’s two greatest champions. But there’s a strong case to be made that, when their playing days are finished, Djokovic — already atop the world rankings longer than anyone else — will be widely recognized as the greatest tennis player who ever lived.

BURNED BY A BURRITO: Shelby Houlihan, an Olympic hopeful and current national champion and U.S. record holder in both the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter running events, is instead facing a four-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid. She blamed the result on a burrito that she said was purchased and eaten about 10 hours before the test “from an authentic Mexican food truck.”

COOKIE CRUNCH: The pandemic took a huge chunk out of Girl Scout cookie sales, and now the organization is stuck with 15 million unsold boxes. The lost revenue is causing some troops to postpone improvement to their camps or forego hiring in the face of already-declining participation. The cookies have a 12-month shelf life, and the companies that make them are working with the Girl Scouts to donate the boxes to food pantries and the military.

DEVIL OF A TIME: Thrill-seekers, rejoice: The world’s tallest single-rail roller coaster just opened at Six Flags Great Adventure in central New Jersey. It’s called the Jersey Devil, and it lives up to its name. But if a top speed of 58 mph and a 130-foot initial drop is too tame, you can always head over to the Kingda Ka in the same park, which climbs to 456 feet and is more than twice as fast.

LIVES

BILLY FUCCILLO was a fixture on Capital Region TV screens for years, hawking cars with deals he promised would be huuuuuuuuge. He was out-sized in every way, a giant man with a personality and charisma to match. He was 64.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“See, people come into your life for a reason. They might not know it themselves, why. You might not know it. But there's a reason. There has to be.”
― Joyce Carol Oates, “After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away.” Born June 16, 1938, native of Lockport and Millersport, N.Y., educated at Syracuse University, author of 58 novels, and called an “unruly genius,” by The New Yorker.

THE SIGNOFF

ROAD TRIP: An elderly woman driving a Winnebago led police in Michigan on a pursuit that lasted for miles, damaged several vehicles and ended with her rear-ending a patrol vehicle. The Winnebago contained items police believe were stolen from a local Walmart. After all that, the driver and her passenger were arrested without incident.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Lisa Fenwick, Matt Behan, Joanne Conley, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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