Editorial: Orleans County is chock-full of fun, without the big-name drama
(Editor’s Note: Each year I write, in about 500 words, the welcome message for the Orleans County Visitor’s Guide, which is published by the Lake Country Pennysaver. The new issue will be out soon. I encourage others to write a pro-Orleans essay. You are welcome to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
No casinos. No big-name bands or professional sports. We don’t even have a movie theater. You’d think there was nothing to do in Orleans County.
Wrong. I can tell you every weekend there are lots of things going on. Local business associations and civic groups keep community festivals and celebrations going throughout the year. There is always something to do.
But it isn’t “big time.” It’s very much “small town.” And that’s a good thing.
Kids still play baseball and the games are often thrilling nail-biters, played until the last light of dusk. You will see kids with huge smiles riding in the back of a pickup, on their way to the ice cream stand to celebrate after a game.
High school football is still popular and Albion and Medina can count on big crowds for “Friday night lights.” People show up in droves for the football, the pep band, the popcorn, the home town pride.
Our school districts put on musicals that are regularly recognized as among the best in the area by the Rochester Broadway Theater League.
The local 4-H Fair is alcohol-free but that hardly makes it a bore. About 30,000 folks attend the week-long event each year making Orleans the most popular youth fair in the state. The community supports the 4-H kids showing their animals and participating in many contests, including a pie-eating showdown.
One of the fair’s biggest draws: The greased pole climbing contest. It’s an Orleans tradition, with about 1,000 people gathering each night to watch teams try to climb a utility pole slathered in grease. It’s quite a spectacle, watching the teams slip and struggle, with many completing the tough challenge, gobs of grease covering their clothes and embedded in their hair.
The fair also has a midway, carnival games, deep fried dough, taffy, fireworks and a very entertaining karaoke contest. A local grocery store employee is among the crowd favorites with his high-energy country music renditions.
We still have parades with fire trucks, Scouts, and veterans in the Honor Guard. The local marching bands give their best show of the year in the local parade. People still line Main Street, sometimes a couple hours early, to see the patriotic displays.
We still do campfires, fly kites, and talk to neighbors on our porches. We have tournaments for kickball, bocce, bowling, horseshoes and darts.
Fishing remains big here, whether by boat, casting from the pier at the Oak Orchard Harbor, or pulling on the waders and trying our luck in local creeks. Even the most camera-shy people lose any reluctance to pose for a picture when they have caught a 30-pound Chinook salmon.
You still see kids selling lemonade from tables in their driveways, kids riding bikes or skateboards down the sidewalks, or Boy Scouts filing into the parish hall for the annual Pinewood Derby.
The church bells still ring from steeples that were built more than a century ago.
The only Elvis sightings we’ve had are a nearby impersonator at the Super Cruise in Medina, when Main Street is blocked off for about 300 classic cars.
I guess Orleans County hasn’t hit the big time. But that’s just fine by us.