The Odyssey Ends in Watkins Glen
By mid-September, the Corning GlassBarge will have travelled over 500 miles in its journey from Brooklyn to Watkins Glen. Four months is not the equivalent of the Greek hero’s ten-year ordeal but, the crew of the GlassBarge has had many adventures on this one-of-a-kind passage. Like Odysseus and his men, they’ve weathered high winds, white-capped waves, and sweltering temperatures (we don’t know about Sirens or Cyclops). The thirty-by-eighty foot barge has gone through the narrow passages of locks and made dozens of stops along its route. At each port, thousands of spectators turned out to learn from the crew of educators, historians, and gaffers about the art of glassmaking and the history of tugboats, canals, and industry.
One hundred fifty years ago when the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company brought its tugboats and barges loaded with equipment to Corning from the Atlantic coast, the Erie Canal, and its auxiliary system of canals, allowed for the entire odyssey to be done on water. Today, the last leg of the trip—from Watkins Glen to Corning—will be on dry land. The conclusion will be a splendid homecoming celebration incorporated into Corning’s Harvest Festival on September 22.
But, before that milestone, another celebration is brewing. Watkins Glen is the final stop on the GlassBarge’s watery voyage, and the village at the southern tip of Seneca Lake is organizing a party—a big one—for the third weekend of September. “The community decided to plan a celebration that surpassed all other stops on the tour,” declares Tim O’Hearn, Schuyler County’s administrator and chair of the GlassBarge local planning committee. Cities, towns, villages, hamlets, and ports along the route of the GlassBarge have cheered, toasted, enjoyed barbeque and bands, shared stories of working tugboats, and stood in awe as the Lois McClure, a replica of an 1862 class sailing canal boat, unfurled its sails. All of that—and more—is in the works for Glass in the Glen and The Market. The Watkins Glen stop will be a weekend-long community celebration. Glass at the Glen will feature glass artisans showcasing their talents, antique boating enthusiasts explaining their craft, and children and adults learning from the experts. Hot glass demonstrations onboard the GlassBarge will take place all weekend (seating is limited and reservations are recommended—make those at cmog.org/glassmaking/demos/hot-glass-demos/glassbarge). The Market, at Seneca Harbor Park, 3rd Street, and Lafayette Park, will host an array of local vendors and artisans. Visitors will see the Finger Lakes anew through the eyes of its local artists, taste the bounty by sampling delicious produce from area farmers, and be entertained by local talent while strolling through downtown or stopping for lunch. In the evening, revelers can enjoy world-class bands, and fireworks will soar over Seneca Lake on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Saturday’s musical entertainment features the Destination and will be just as enticing. Partiers may find themselves dancing their way to the Saturday night fireworks after listening to this nine-piece band. The Destination features a range of musical genres from rock to Latin. Enjoy Patsy Cline? Maybe the vocalist, Karen Lonsky, will sing one of her tunes for you. Want to dance to the percussive sounds of Led Zeppelin, the rhythm of Aretha Franklin, the blues of Stevie Wonder? The Destination has it all.
To close the Glass at the Glen festival, the organizers have lined up the Sim Redmond Band for Sunday afternoon. This local band with worldwide recognition has travelled the globe, including eight tours in Japan. The SRB blends roots, rock, and Afro-Caribbean sounds into inspiring melodies that could bring on that mellow feeling—just the sensation a person might need on a Sunday afternoon on the shores of Seneca Lake.
Glass in the Glen and The Market is the perfect combination to celebrate the GlassBarge’s last port of call. Tim O’Hearn sees it as “an opportunity to partner with the Corning Museum of Glass to commemorate their anniversary while welcoming thousands of visitors to our community. From music to reworks and great food to historical educational opportunities, this festival will have it all.” The weekend gets underway September 14 at 10 a.m. with a glass ribbon cutting on the GlassBarge. There are demonstrations all three days on the GlassBarge. Music starts Friday evening at 6 p.m. with Donna the Buffalo; the Destination plays Saturday night, beginning at 6 p.m.; the Sim Redmond Band plays Sunday starting at 2 p.m. The Market opens at noon all three days. For more information about the weekend go to watkinsglenchamber.com or cmog.org.