© 2023 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Madison County promotes its tourism

Ellen Abbott

You don't need a U.S. passport to take in the sights of central New York this summer, but officials in Madison County are hoping a passport of a different kind encourages visitors to their community.

When you talk to tourism types in Madison County, you have a lot of “Did you know?” moments.

For example, did you know...

  • that D.W. Griffith worked for the American Biograph Company and the American Biograph Company started in Canastota, New York?
  • there is a very rich history in the abolitionist movement and the underground railroad in Peterboro?
  • and in the Cazenovia Library, there is a museum that contains a mummy from ancient Egypt?

Library Director Betsy Kennedy says the library tries to personalize the mummy.
"I try to call him by name -- we know his name is Hen. And we talk about him with respect. That he’s not a statue, he’s a person. And he’s teaching us how he lived two-thousand years ago," said Kennedy.

The Cazenovia Library and Museum is one of the venues in one of the newly created Madison County Cultural and Historical Attraction Passport Program. Visit eight of the twelve sites on the passport, and get a chance to win an iPad. The idea is to get visitors to come to the small county nestled between Oneida and Onondaga counties.

Chris O’Neill, executive director of the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, says that many people looking for something to do just forget what’s in their own backyard.

"Everyone who makes the effort to visit one of these places comes away enriched; they come away enjoying their experience and having a new appreciation for the history of New York State and Upstate New York," said O'Neill.

Most of the attractions feature the rich history of the area. For example, National Abolition Hall of Fame Museum Historian Dot Wilsey, says Peterboro was key in the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movements. And one of those abolitionist leaders, James Caleb Jackson, went on to take part in the burgeoning health movement of the time, inventing a health food you find in grocery stores today.

"He put some nuts and grains and seeds together and called it 'granula.' And when Kellogg’s started making 'granula,' there was a lawsuit, and they changed their name to granola," Wilsey said.

The challenge, says Wilsey, is to bring history to life.

"I often say facetiously that I wish George Washington had slept in Peterboro so we could say here’s the bed, here’s the sheet, and here’s where it happened. And people could conceptualize that,"  said Wilsey.

Hard times

These venues are happy for the chance for a little more publicity because this is a hard time to be a non-profit, with the economy still reeling from the recession, and the government support for many of these groups eroding.

This is the third year of an austerity budget for the Earlville Opera House, according to Executive Director Patty Lockwood-Blais.

"So we’re doing everything with less money, and we’re surviving. Hopefully the economy will turn around because it’s like, how long can you be in that austerity mode?"  said Lockwood-Blais.

As for the Opera House (which doesn’t feature operas, but things like blues, folk, and Americana music) the passport is an experiment.

"You know, we’re actually on the southern part of Madison County, so we’re going to have the biggest challenge of all the partners in the passport, but we think it’s worth a try,"  said Lockwood-Blais.
You can get the passport at one of the museum locations, or you can download it from the Madison County tourism website.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.