Chittenango Choo-Choo!

LAURIE: Our wedding guests will be driving or flying in to Central New York from New York City, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Germany, possibly Israel, possibly Indonesia, possibly England. I will need to put together a list of suggested amusements and attractions to occupy my guests’ downtime between Friday’s “rehearsal dinner” picnic, Saturday’s ceremony and reception, and Sunday’s bagel brunch. This means that I need to change my attitude about the place where I grew up. I need to stop saying, “It’s pretty, but there’s no culture, and nothing to do.” I was bored senseless as a teenager, but I didn’t have a car.

There are a lot of things I’ve never done and seen in the area. There’s an art park, a historical society, a lake and a yacht club in fancy-pants Cazenovia. I’ve passed the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, literally hundreds of times and never been inside. Sylvan Beach, on Oneida Lake, is the small-time, freshwater version of the Jersey Shore, complete with deathtrap carnival rides, scary bikers and fried everything.

Chittenango, the actual town in which I grew up and went to high school, is the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz. Downtown Chittenango, such as it is, has yellow brick sidewalks, several Oz-themed businesses, and a small Oz museum; every June there is an Oz Parade, at which a handful of surviving Munchkins make trembly appearances.

munchkin coroner.jpg
Oohs and Oz.

The whole Oz thing was miles beneath my contempt as a teenager, before I knew the value (or, to be honest, the definition) of kitsch .

There are dozens of golf courses in the area, three separate Erie Canal museums, a salt museum, the museum of freaking distance running, places where you can pick your own berries, state parks for hiking and swimming, ice cream stands and family-run dairy farms.

Something for everyone, if I can just keep myself from apologizing for the lameness of it all.