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Syracuse's Buy Local Bash, bigger than ever, came from humble beginnings

Tom Magnarelli
The Life of Reilley Distilling Company gives samples at the Buy Local Bash in Syracuse in 2015.

Syracuse’s Buy Local Bash is Monday and it highlights local food, beverages, arts and retail in the central New York area. The event has been growing for the past seven years and this one could be the biggest yet. The event is being held from 5-9 p.m. at the Central New York Regional Market.

Syracuse First, the nonprofit that organizes the bash, was founded in 2009 by Chris Fowler, who says he remembers well what it was like in those early days.

“So the first year we did the event, we only had a dozen different businesses participate and we had around 50 attendees," Fowler said. "To think that in a few short years we have around 120 businesses and last year we had around 1,000 attendees and we’re hoping for something similar this year, is amazing. It's a reminder to community members how important it is to support locally owned, independent businesses during the holiday season in particular because so much of the annual revenue for locally owned businesses is during the holiday season.”

The event is about supporting a thriving, sustainable local economy, which Fowler said benefits the city in different ways. Fowler said it’s the local businesses, not the chain restaurants, that people will remember when they visit Syracuse.

“How many times have we heard about people when they come and visit they talk about the Dinosaur, places like Pastabilities, Empire Brewing, and a number of other places unique to central New York?" Fowler asked. "The Café Kubals, the Recesses are the character and fabric of our community.”

And for all the businesses he has seen grow over the years, Fowler said the event is also about bringing people together. One incident sticks out to Fowler in particular.

“Two people, came to the Buy Local Bash, met for the first time and are now married," Fowler said. "Talk about going to a place where like-minded people are. It doesn’t get any more significant than that.”   

And these central New York like-minded people are one part of the bigger "buy local" trend that has been growing throughout New York state and the nation for several years.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.