Mountain Home, January 2021

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HOME Pennsylvania & the New York Finger Lakes

Love in the Time of COVID Wedding Hopes and Dreams Find Their Way Around the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

E FasRtheEwind

By Lilace Mellin Guignard A Bouquet Grows in Wellsboro Take a Chance on Love at Tioga Downs There’s Sew Much More in Coudersport



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Volume 16 Issue 1


A Bouquet Grows in Wellsboro

Love in the Time of COVID

By Lilace Mellin Guignard Sow Flora plants a flower shop on Route 6.

By Lilace Mellin Guignard


Sew Much More By Kathryn Ross

Everyone is beautiful at this Coudersport dress shop.



It’s in the Cards

Wedding hopes and dreams find their way around the SARSCoV-2 virus.

Pitch a Tent

By Gayle Morrow

By Karey Solomon Outdoor weddings bring a breath of fresh air.

Take a chance on love at Tioga Downs Casino Resort.


Back of the Mountain By Nigel P. Kent Golden blues.

18 “I Do” on Deck

Cover by Gwen Button; cover photo Emily and Andrew Wildman, by Memory Makers. This page (top) Noyes and Sarah Lawton by Ryan Dalton; (middle) courtesy Keystone Tents & Event Rentals; (bottom) courtesy Skip Cochran, River Valley Transit.

By Linda Roller Local boats offer weddings afloat.

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w w w. m o u n ta i n h o m e m ag . co m Editors & Publishers Teresa Banik Capuzzo Michael Capuzzo Associate Publisher George Bochetto, Esq. D i r e c t o r o f O pe r a t i o n s Gwen Button Managing Editor Gayle Morrow S a l e s R ep r e s e n t a t i v e s Joseph Campbell, Shelly Moore, Richard Trotta Circulation Director Michael Banik Accounting Amy Packard Cover Design Gwen Button Contributing Writers Elaine Farkas, Lilace Mellin Guignard, Carrie Hagen, Don Knaus, Nicole Landers, Janet McCue, Dave Milano, Cornelius O’Donnell, Brendan O’Meara, Peter Petokas, Peter Joffre Nye, Linda Roller, Kathryn Ross, Jan Smith, Karey Solomon, Beth Williams C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s Helen Barrett, Bernadette Chiaramonte, Cameron Clemens, Diane Cobourn, Ryan Dalton, Bruce Dart, Jan Keck, Nigel P. Kent, Roger Kingsley, Aaron Rush, Travis Snyder, Deb Stafford, Linda Stager, Sherri Stager, Mary Sweely, Curt Weinhold, Gillian Tulk-Yartym D i s t r i b u t i o n T eam Brian Button, Grapevine Distribution, Linda Roller T h e B ea g l e Nano Cosmo (1996-2014) • Yogi (2004-2018) ABOUT US: Mountain Home is the award-winning regional magazine of PA and NY with more than 100,000 readers. The magazine has been published monthly, since 2005, by Beagle Media, LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, 16901, and online at Copyright © 2021 Beagle Media, LLC. All rights reserved. E-mail story ideas to editorial@mountainhomemag. com, or call (570) 724-3838. TO ADVERTISE: E-mail, or call us at (570) 724-3838. AWARDS: Mountain Home has won over 100 international and statewide journalism awards from the International Regional Magazine Association and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for excellence in writing, photography, and design. DISTRIBUTION: Mountain Home is available “Free as the Wind” at hundreds of locations in Tioga, Potter, Bradford, Lycoming, Union, and Clinton counties in PA and Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca, Tioga, and Ontario counties in NY. SUBSCRIPTIONS: For a one-year subscription (12 issues), send $24.95, payable to Beagle Media LLC, 39 Water Street, Wellsboro, PA 16901 or visit

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Love in the Time of

Natural nuptials: mandates on social distancing and masks have couples searching for alternate venues and ceremonies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.



Wedding Hopes and Dreams Find Their Way Around the SARS-CoV-2 Virus By Lilace Mellin Guignard A year ago, who could’ve imagined the challenges we’d face in 2020? Not me. With all the scheduling, rescheduling, postponing, and canceling of what used to be common events, I have planner’s fatigue. And I’m not trying to plan one of the most special days of my life—I checked that off twentyone years ago. Yet the pandemic doesn’t change the fact that many women (and, yes, men) who’ve daydreamed about their wedding since they were kids are now engaged, staring 2021 in the eye, and weighing their options. Because COVID-19 can stop a lot of things, but it can’t stop love.

Aaron Rush

See Love on page 8


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Love continued from page 7

Beautiful Barn and No Big Deal Noyes Lawton of Wellsboro was all set to propose to Sarah Brion last March. He had the ring. He had tickets to see a play—one they’d both been in years before. “So they cancelled the performance because of COVID,” he says. He carried the ring around for days before taking her to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and proposing there instead. Then the lockdown happened. “I don’t think either one of us planned on marrying that summer,” Noyes chuckles, “but we had months in the house together and we said we will never have this much time to plan a wedding. So it happened fast.” Luckily his friends, Jim and Tricia Reifer, had renovated a barn just outside of town and were renting it for events. Red Barn Hollow was the perfect choice due to the location and the flexibility of the owners, as well as the beautiful site itself. They used the wooden arbor built by Jared Stone, who donated it after he and Courtney got married there in 2019. It’s movable, and Jim says everyone who’s gotten married there since has used it. Outdoor weddings have always been popular in our area, but, with an airborne virus hanging around, barns, tents, or a combination are being chosen for safety as much as ambience. Noyes and Sarah ended up with about forty people attending. They used the Red Skillet as caterers and a friend as photographer, sat families together, and did most everything outside, including games for the kids. At the time, they went with twenty-five percent building capacity to determine how many they could invite, and of course not everyone showed. The Reifers received queries over the summer from folks in New York whose weddings were canceled due to state restrictions, and of course they had some cancellations too. One couple’s event survived by the skin of their collective teeth. They’d planned their wedding for June, and just in time Tioga County went into green phase, lifting many restrictions. The couple had been out of the country due to their work in government security. (They could tell you more, but then they’d have to, you

(3) Ryan Dalton

know…) No one had heard from the not-returning-any-calls caterer. Arrangements had been made pre-COVID, so they weren’t sure if he was still coming. “I was emptying my work van, getting ready to pick up pizzas, when the guy rolls in,” Jim recalls. “He was all chill, like what’s the big deal?” That’s the kind of stress brides and grooms prefer to avoid. Happy Planner Something sweeter than COVID must’ve been in the air last March, because that’s also when Landen Kennedy proposed to McKenzie Frank. In their case, the shutdown had already happened before he popped the question. McKenzie says, “I think getting engaged during the pandemic made it even more special! It was definitely something to celebrate and Restricted rites: from be thankful for.” the proposal to the They set the date for June 12, 2021 and McKenzie ceremony Noyes and seems to have everything planned already. “I love planning! Sarah Lawton had to I actually had to make myself wait a while after he proposed alter their wedding to make it last.” She booked the Red Barn Hollow—which plans, but also had she and Landen can see from their house on Williams lots of time to do it. Circle. They knew they didn’t want a fire hall or church and did want to use local vendors. Ed-U-Caterers from Galeton will handle the food, and they’ve decided to do a dry wedding, which means they won’t have to worry about added insurance for alcohol. Skipping a DJ and going with a pre-made playlist and speakers also simplifies things. Captured by Carrie Photography in Columbia Cross Roads has already been booked to document the big day. Family will play a large role in the preparations, and the couple is blessed with talented relations. Landen’s mom, Lori Kennedy, does wedding cakes, and McKenzie’s mom, Chris Frank, is a retired hair stylist and former owner of Magic Touch in Mansfield. “But she’s only doing my hair and hers,” McKenzie emphasizes. “We found out from my sister’s wedding that it’s too much for her to do the entire bridal party.” McKenzie learned a lot by being her sister’s maid of honor, and now the roles are switched. They are using artificial flowers so that they know exactly what to expect, and so her sister can set up and decorate the day before. They are going for an intimate and elegant feel, with a motif of olive green, cream, and gold. The ceremony will be outside if the weather cooperates, and the guest list of sixty is mostly immediate family. Family Affair Amanda Painter and Kyle Wood of Mansfield have been planning their wedding for a while, having gotten engaged on February 16, 2018. “It was a few minutes after our first son was born,” she laughs. “We knew we wanted another child and it’d be a few years before we could plan the wedding we imagined.” Sure enough, when Kyle Jr. was eight months old, Amanda got pregnant again. Larson was born in July of 2019. They chose August 28, 2021 for their date so that both boys could be ring bearers. Then the pandemic swept in. “Kyle’s sister got married in September 2020. She was stressed out, but they couldn’t postpone since we’d already made plans for the next summer,” Amanda tells me. Both families are dairy farmers, and that means they grew up adapting to See Love on page 10


Love continued from page 9

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environmental variables. Kyle and Amanda live near Wood Acre Farm off Route 549 in Mansfield, where Kyle still farms full time. Amanda grew up on Painterland Farms in Westfield, and that’s where their ceremony and reception will be held. “My dad’s a good guy,” she says, which is an understatement. Bradley Painter built a large wooden pavilion in his backyard for the reception’s food and dance floor. He’s also putting in a large playground for all the kids. This is a short walk from the field where they’ll be married. “We’re having the ceremony by two maple trees we call George and Myrtilla after my greatgrandparents.” Amanda’s voice gets warm and intense. “It looks like one tree, the trunks are so close. But they’re really two.” It seems like Amanda has imagined having her wedding at that exact spot for a long time. “When I was a little girl, I’d play dress up with my cousins in Gramma’s dresses. We’d have to take turns being the boy. I always knew I wanted a sunflower wedding.” This is the reason for a late August date. And of course her dad is planting the sunflowers. But the pandemic has cast a bit of a shadow over the planning. They’re keeping the guest list local and smaller than they would under other circumstances. Amanda would like to be able to invite people from high school and people who’ve moved away, and hopes everyone understands why she can’t. “And dress shopping is a nightmare now because you have to make appointments.” She orders what she can online, which means measuring the boys for their suits. “And then when you try to order things, they’re out of stock or delivery is delayed. Everything is just so hard now,” she sighs. “But the sunflowers will be cheerful, you know?” Still Blooming Photos from Westfield will take photographs and a friend will smoke the meat, with family stepping in to help with the rest of the food. She gets excited again as she describes the elements of her country style wedding. They gathered old milk jugs, barrels, and tins from their family farms to use in decorating. The bridesmaids will wear burgundy and the little girls’ dresses will be really poufy. The ring bearers, Junior (three years old) and Larson (two years old), will have sunflower yellow bowties and suspenders. The ceremony is set for noon, so the reception will be done in time for the evening milking. No Show Bridal Shows What about if you don’t have family land, or people who’ll do your hair, cake, flowers, photography, or food? Normally you’d go to a bridal show to see a variety of vendors, taste cakes and appetizers, look at photo portfolios, and watch dresses parade down the runway. But the February bridal shows are being canceled. There are online sights like and withjoy. com to help brides set up their own websites, manage guest lists, and add a registry, with lots of articles on the smallest details. But if you don’t have the time or inclination to do that, you could consider hiring The Wedding Planner. “Wedding planners are good for brides who work full-time or get stressed easily,” says Cat Rush, who planned many weddings through her business, Rush Events, before she started working full time for Tri-Co Connections. A planner can help the couple decide a budget and stay within it, and can assist with finding middle ground if they disagree on whether to spend more money

on photography or the cake. A planner has a list of vendors they know work well together, can suggest the ones that fit the couple’s personality and vision, and, best of all, they can make the calls. “A wedding planner will bring up issues before they arise,” Cat says, “and we always have a backup plan.” That sounds especially important these days. A planner can be the one looking from a safety perspective while the bride and groom can concentrate on choosing colors. And they can keep track of cancelation policies and deposits. Cat has helped mediate when the bride has wanted a magical Renaissance feel rather than the traditional church wedding her mother wanted. In this case, the bride got her theme and the groom’s aunt, who was a pastor, presided. “When you feel like you don’t have control over anything,” Cat explains, “a wedding planner can bring back that sense of control and calm.” But she knows that in lean, uncertain times, the wedding planner is the first budget item to go. Some might consider hiring a day-of coordinator for much less, a person who will touch base with vendors right beforehand, and be sure the emcee and photographer have coordinated so no one misses first dance or cake cutting photos. Brides who don’t hire anyone can ask a family member or friend to be point person on the day. Be sure they have all the vendor contact information and a clear event timeline. (At my wedding, my bridesmaids took terrific care of me—right until I became a Mrs. After that, our attendants, who’d been working hard, ate and drank and danced, and no one thought to set aside plates of smoked pork for Jimmy and me. When we got done with photos we were famished. My brother, who had three helpings, says it was excellent.) A New Twist In a lot of cases, the pandemic has created more demand for vendors and venues in 2021, rather than less. Many folks who were planning weddings for 2020 postponed them for a year, thinking this would all be over. So now, according to Sonja Harvey, who established Special Event Network, “there are two years’ worth of girls trying to book one year’s worth of weekends.” But there is a fairly new option people are considering as they try to plan for every contingency—going online for part or all of the event. Kelly Raleigh, a former student of mine at Mansfield University, found herself helping friends stream their September wedding on Facebook Live. The bride waited till early August to scale their 200-person wedding down to forty. Their venue, Reading Liederkranz, was very flexible, even understanding when they canceled the catering, but the couple lost their deposit on the band. Facebook Live was a simple and free way for Emily and Andrew Wildman to have friends share their day. Kelly was the equivalent of the online emcee, letting folks know that the bride was running late. “It was really fun. People snapped selfies of themselves watching the wedding and posted them to the Facebook page,” Kelly says. And though they couldn’t communicate directly with the bride and groom during the event, the way weddings done via video conferencing platforms like Zoom would allow, there was more interaction than possible from a YouTube livestream. The Facebook guests could comment See Love on page 12


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Love continued from page 11

in real time and communicate with each other: OMG She looks so beautiful! Oh, Andy’s crying. The comments are saved so when the video is played back later the bride and groom can read them. They modified the reception to include only a first dance and socially distanced receiving line, at the end of which guests picked up individually boxed cupcakes. No cake cutting. When asked what she charged for her services Kelly laughed. “I got paid in cupcakes.” Onward, Upward, and All Around

(2) Courtesy Red Barn Hollow

Alysha Walters, from Sayre, isn’t interested in a virtual or hybrid wedding. “At this point, we have just decided to plan as if everything is normal.” Josh Simpson, of Waverly, proposed to her November 1, 2019, long before the virus was a factor. Alysha has watched co-workers limit guest lists and try to plan for all potentialities. She says there’s “a major chance we’ll have to postpone our wedding” planned for October 9, 2021, “but there’s no point expecting the worst. We’d rather have everyone safe and have the wedding we want.” What she wants is a cozy, welcoming feel that’s not too elegant, a mediumto-large barn wedding at Dewing Farms in Rome, Pennsylvania. They plan to have people seated Sensational substitutes: at tables for the ceremony many venues, like Red so they don’t need to move Barn Hollow, offer for the reception. She’s guests alternative ways to have a wedding chosen warm brown and and maintain social burgundy tones, and has distancing, like outdoor already contracted Traveling ceremonies and special Portraits Photography, a seating. husband and wife team from Sayre. “It’s great because she can stay with the bridal group while he shoots the groomsmen,” Alysha says. When asked about flowers she says, “lots of roses.” She has had trouble getting a caterer. The one she had lined up is from New York, and backed out once travel restrictions were put in place. This is another hitch, since the couple lives in New York, about twenty miles from their venue in Pennsylvania. When she was a little girl, Alysha liked to pretend she’d marry rapper Aaron Carter or singer Jesse McCartney.


See Love on page 23


Picking passion: Sarah Reese carefully chooses the perfect cosmos to use in a wedding bouquet. Some popular blossoms include (right, from top) Dahlia Bracken, Dahlia Wizard of Oz, and Shiloh Noelle.

(4) Courtesy Sow Floral




A Bouquet Grows in Wellsboro

Sow Flora Plants a Flower Shop on Route 6 By Lilace Mellin Guignard


here’s a new and really local florist in Wellsboro, which means even the flowers are local. Sow Flora, started by sisters Sarah Reese and Cheryl Hall, has been around for three growing seasons. “Cheryl is the main green thumb,” Sarah says, “and a majority of the flowers are grown at her house in Wellsboro.” They started out selling bouquets and table arrangements at the Wellsboro Growers Market on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church (Thursdays from May through mid-November), creative combinations of wildflowers and sweet peas, augmented with the textures and colors of cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, and globe thistles. Dahlias are one of their specialties. “Flowers bring people so much joy,” Sarah says. “Our regulars come up to the booth saying, ‘I’m here for my weekly bouquet!’” And these bouquets last longer than average. Perhaps the varieties they use are hardier. They’re definitely super-fresh. In 2019, Sow Flora rented and started renovating the barn at Animal Care Sanctuary, across from Weis Markets at 11765 U.S. Route 6. Now they plant a sunflower field right out the door. You won’t see the barn easily from the road—it’s the big red one behind the kennels. Behind the shop (closed now for the season), ACS put in trails for members of their dog park, with lovely views that include the barn and flower patches. Veterinarians have long asserted that dogs see the world in black and white. But, according to the American Kennel Club, dogs can see yellow and blue—which means they can enjoy the sunflowers, too. Cheryl works part-time at ACS and Sarah works full-time at Elmira College, so a seasonal business is a good fit for their lives. They both grew up in Wellsboro and returned to be near family.

This year the store was open June through November. “We were planning some holiday sales,” Sarah says, “but with the COVID-19 cases on the rise we cancelled them. We plan to open the store in May.” In addition to fresh flowers they sell dried flower arrangements, wreathes, and other locally crafted items. Sarah makes natural gemstone jewelry she sells as Hidden Gems Designs. Additional unique local finds include Cheryl’s precisely painted mandala rocks, birdhouses and feeders made by Cameron Clemens of Wellsboro, and home décor and laser-engraved gifts made by Smith Woodworking of Covington. “I wanted to start a community-based business,” says Sarah, who liked the examples she saw when she lived in Asheville, North Carolina. They hope to add more local artists next year. With the barn renovated and store open, Sarah plans to hold workshops and classes on various aspects of growing and arranging flowers. “Figuring out how to run a business takes most of my attention right now,” Sarah tells me. One of the most interesting services the sisters offer is a Community Supported Agriculture membership. Since they grow their own flowers, they are technically flower farmers. Your CSA membership allows them to expand their small floral business and aids in the cost of seeds, fertilizers, infrastructure updates, and other necessities they may need to prepare for the season. In return, you receive a personal share of the flowers they grow during the months of summer. A share costs $200 for ten weeks, and runs July 13 to September 14, 2021. Pick-up is every Tuesday at the shop between 11:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Each week, they also provide members with information on the varieties in bloom, gardening tips, and growing See Bouquet on page 16


Bouquet continued from page 15

Jim and Tricia Reifer

(2) Cameron Clemens

techniques. The bountiful share will include flowers, herbs, foliage, and forage items found on their land. These arrangements will be wrapped in paper and a hydrating wrap to keep them as fresh as possible until you can get them home and into a vase of your choice. Their dahlias come in various sizes, from pom poms to dinnerplate types that look lovely in large arrangements. Their names are as beautiful as they are: Bracken Sarah, Brown Sugar, Midnight Moon, Café au Lait. If ten weeks is just too much joy to handle, they are also offering a three-week bouquet subscription next season for $40. The subscription bouquets will be slightly smaller than the CSA bouquets and can be purchased at any point during the growing season (with consideration of frost) and can be picked up on Fridays or Saturdays. For other special bouquets, it’s best to call at least a few hours ahead so they have time to prep what you want. If you have a wedding or other special event, be sure to contact them months ahead of time—the sooner the better. They’ve already done some weddings and are a unique option to consider, especially for couples getting married in August and September who want a real Tioga County feel and look. “Smaller weddings are best for us,” Sarah explains, though they have worked with other florists, such as Mann’s Country Gardens in nearby Gillett, to meet larger demands. Cyndie and Steve Bortz got married at Red In full color: (from top) Barn Hollow in Wellsboro last August with Sow Sarah Reese and sister Cheryl Hall grow the Flora flowers. “We wanted to keep everything flowers used in bridal as local as possible,” Cyndie explains. “I met bouquets; wildflowers with Sarah a couple times in person early on, may be simple, where I showed her pictures of what I liked. but make stunning Then she bought and planted seeds based on arrangements; Cyndie my choices. If she couldn’t grow the exact flower Bortz (with husband in the picture, she was able to come up with a Steve and daughter substitution that gave me the look I wanted.” Stella) proudly displays The blush tones of the Café au Lait dahlias were her bouquet that includes Café au Lait a favorite of Cyndie’s. dahlias. Weddings and flowers are definitely joyful, even if joy is a little harder to come by lately. The pandemic was less of a hit to Sow Flora’s business than the early frost. But having to be flexible with weather and growing conditions means they’re also ready to adapt to whatever comes along. “We didn’t know if it’d take off,” Sarah admits. “Wellsboro is kind of a small town.” Clearly it is also a town that appreciates joy and beauty. Check out Sow Flora on Facebook and Instagram, or contact them at or (570) 8460498. If you are interested in planning a wedding, set up a consultation over the winter so they can plant seeds with your special day in mind.

Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro where she plays outdoors, gets wild with community theatre, and shakes things up at Sunday school. She’s the author of When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America.


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Pitch a Tent

Outdoor Weddings Bring a Breath of Fresh Air By Karey Solomon


space created just for your wedding, set in a picturesque landscape as large as your love, inspired many couples to choose an outdoor wedding, long before health and safety concerns limited access to many indoor venues. Add a tent for protection from sun, rain, and brisk breezes, style it with special lighting, colorful flowers and table linens, and all the possible choices expand nearly into magic. An event under canvas can be formal or casual, open-air, or more like an indoor space. Those tent sides with cathedral—a.k.a. French—windows create part of the difference these days. There’s a lot of flexibility in tent sizes, and the location—backyard, park, meadow, pond, or streamside—plays a role, too. A tent might not be for everyone, says 18

Krystle Putnam, co-owner with her parents and husband of Keystone Tents and Rentals in Canton (keystonetentseventrentals. But for those who choose a tent wedding, and for their guests, she’s noticed, “It’s more relaxed. People let their guard down just a little.” “A great thing about a tent wedding is you start with a plain tent and design your own surroundings and atmosphere,” says Sonja Harvey, who with her husband, Howard, owns Crystal City Wedding and Party Center in Big Flats (ccpartycentertents. com). They’ve done this for more than thirtythree years, and they’ve seen, and planned, a lot of weddings. “You make it uniquely yours by adding a tent liner, leg drapes, chandeliers, fancy linens, chair covers, a backdrop behind

the head table.” A country or rustic-styled wedding might be styled with wood slabs under centerpieces, bright colors for table linens and flowers, wine barrels used as part of the décor, and faux burlap table runners. A more formal wedding would use tent liners and leg-drapes to cover much of the tent’s frame inside, almost-floor-length tablecloths, chair covers, and white or ivory linens. The planning for a tent wedding—and with tents in greater demand, advance planning is more important now than ever—begins with the number of people expected and the possible locations for the tent. Howard Harvey uses a computer-aided design program (CAD), as do the Putnams, to help decide on the tent size needed.

Courtesy Crystal City Wedding and Party Center

Modern tents, whether they’re frame tents like those used by Crystal City or center pole tents like those from Keystone, are created of sections of canvas so they can be expanded from the basic twenty- or thirty-foot square starting point to lengths of 105 feet or longer as needed. Five-foot round tables or, less commonly, long rectangular banquet tables, seat eight people and require space around them. Will there be a head table? Cake table? A gift table? A bar? Dance floor? Will the meal be served by waitstaff or is a buffet planned? Will there be a band or DJ? Are caterers working on site? These all affect the size of the tent or the number of tents needed. Sonja and Howard often suggest using smaller auxiliary tents for the caterer and DJ to allow guests unimpeded conversation and less distraction from the festivities. “You have to listen to the girls,” Howard often says in discussing tent possibilities. You get the feeling he does a lot of listening. Making sure the bride has the day she wants means using the couple’s wedding planning skills to cover all the details. And after more than three decades of wedding and event planning, they’ve got a lot of experience, recommendations, and suggestions. These include Sonja’s comment that a friend at the gift table should be armed with a roll of scotch tape to make sure all gift cards are securely attached to presents to avoid later confusion, and Howard’s suggestion that if the cake cutting ceremony happens early in the meal, those photographs are checked off the list, the caterers can finish portioning cake so the dessert service goes smoothly, and no one has to worry about dancers bumping into the cake table. Planning also means an analysis of the event site. Once, a couple decided they’d like windows behind the head table—but as things had been designed, that meant their guests would have a cinematic view of the porta-potties. Changing things on paper was easier than rearranging things later on. The details are many. Crystal City makes sure tables are leveled, and they can supply a dance floor. They can coordinate with florists and DJs, check with utilities about buried lines, and work with code enforcement for safety. On one instructive occasion, both the caterers and the band came with extra equipment and Howard had to bring in an electrician to make sure everyone safely had the wattage they needed. Starting with a white tent of whatever

size is needed, the space becomes a blank canvas for the bride’s décor. The Harveys install chandeliers on dimmer switches. Krystle Putnam says she sometimes uses chandeliers and sometimes, in smaller tents, the special effect of perimeter lighting. Sometimes a DJ will supply multicolored uplighting near the dance floor. Knowing who’s coming and what they need helps the planning and the big day run smoothly. The Harveys recommend holding the ceremony in a venue other than the tent, allowing the planners and caterers to set up the tent during the ceremony. For instance, using one set of chairs for the ceremony and different ones for the reception means no bustle of activity moving chairs and a smooth progression between activities for guests. It’s important for brides to know the outdoor tent season in our part of the

country is a window of time mostly between May and mid-October. The tent canvas does not benefit from heavy rains or snow and tent suppliers try to avoid cold weather work. Says Jason Wilcox of Wilcox Tent Rentals in Troy (find him on Facebook), “Some of the most beautiful weddings are outdoor weddings, but be aware that Mother Nature can change things in an instant!” After he put up tents for his brother’s wedding, an unexpected heavy downpour made a few adjustments necessary. “You have to take everything in stride.” Much like the marriage being celebrated... Karey Solomon has had the pleasure of helping plan several weddings, most recently one under a rented tent. 19

Bernadette Chiaramonte

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Travis Snyder


Sherri Stager

Curt Weinhold

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Hunker Down


anuary is a test of our patience. Technically winter is only a few weeks old, but it feels as though it’s been cold and dark forever. In January, a pony turns against flurries and a chilly wind. A little bird regroups on a snowy branch that itself seems to shiver. Time, like the leaf caught in a stream’s immobile swirl, seems frozen. Be patient. In January, the sun creeps slowly but steadily higher in the sky. Every day warmth and light are returning.

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Love continued from page 12

But other than that, she’s holding onto her dreams. “Having the pandemic come now at my special time is a little heartbreaking,” she admits. “But what would really wreck me is if my grandma couldn’t be there.” Heather Thomas is having a hard time bringing herself to start planning her September wedding. After she uprooted Justin King to come back to Tioga County, she says she abandoned him “for a good nineteen weeks” while she completed the Police Academy at Mansfield University. On one of her weekends home in September, he proposed. Heather wishes things would settle down so she could enjoy this, but she’s worried a wrench will be thrown in their plans. They’re thinking of a small wedding at her parents’ property in Warren County and maybe a reception at the local fire hall. The next time they’re in Vermont they’ll celebrate with Justin’s family. “My mom has been trying to prompt me to give some ideas or details of what I want, but I’ve got nothing,” Heather says regretfully. When asked what’s most important to them about their wedding day, what do they have to have for it to feel right, she says immediately, “for Justin’s son to be there.” Justin has primary custody but the mother can be unpredictable. “It’s been a roller coaster for sure.” One friend told me that every couple she knows is already living together, so what’s the point? They should take care of the legalities and celebrate when the virus settles. While many are choosing that route, or postponing the whole shebang, others don’t want to. After all, putting off a wedding doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly. There have always been variables brides and grooms can’t control. The health and attendance of family and guests is never guaranteed. People who plan outdoor weddings have always been gritting their teeth and gambling that nature will cooperate. Does it really matter that it’s the time of COVID? Love—and weddings—will always find a way.


Lilace Mellin Guignard raises her kids in Wellsboro where she plays outdoors, gets wild with community theatre, and shakes things up at Sunday school. She’s the author of When Everything Beyond the Walls Is Wild: Being a Woman Outdoors in America.


Courtesy Skip Cochran, River Valley Transit

Water wedding: Doug and Lynne Gettig chose the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat and the Susquehanna River as the setting for their nuptials.

“I Do” on Deck

Local Boats Offer Weddings Afloat By Linda Roller


on’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?” ~ sung by Frankie Ford in 1959. There’s something romantic about a boat on the water, whether it’s a canoe paddled by someone who is attracted to you, or you’re rowing your love to a secluded spot for sweet kisses. But the boats can be bigger—my memory holds a special evening on a sea ferry coming back from Catalina Island with a longtime love. And the commitment can be bigger, too. For that, several boats in our area can provide those magic spots for not only falling in love, but for engagements and even weddings. One of the longest running cruise ships in the area is Captain Bill’s, berthed at the southern tip of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. The Simiele family bought the sightseeing boat and business in 1963. It’s since then

expanded to two boats, a restaurant in the old train station, and the marina. The larger of the boats, the Seneca Legacy, is a perfect spot for a wedding on the water. According to Mark Simiele, owner, president, and son of the original Captain Bill, a wedding charter goes up to Hector Falls, on the east side of the lake, for the ceremony and wedding photos with the falls as a backdrop. The trip can be as long as three hours, but the Legacy can also do an afternoon one-hour cruise with ceremony and cocktails. Of course, the boat can be chartered not only for weddings but for other special events. “One gentleman chartered our entire 150-passenger vessel for two people—where he proposed to his future wife, complete with a special menu for the proposal,” says Mark. With a restaurant owned by the same family near the dock, the possibilities for a wedding party are many. Both the boat and

the restaurant have full-service bars and two separate kitchens. Up to 270 guests can board, but Mark suggests that 215 guests can be seated comfortably for dinner, which can be either a sit-down or a buffet. The boat usually hosts about a dozen weddings a year, with more weddings in the winter months at the Seneca Harbor Station restaurant, located in the old railroad station at the tip of the lake. The beachfront patio is also a popular venue for weddings and can be rented separately. It is also a very popular place for a wedding rehearsal dinner, with the restaurant hosting two or three wedding parties every Friday night. Just one lake to the east, Discover Cayuga Lake and the MV Teal offer another type of wedding on the water. Director of Tourism and Outreach Astrid Jirka says that the Teal, which can accommodate eighty people, can See Deck on page 27


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Courtesy Astrid Jirka, Discover Cayuga Lake

Deck continued from page 24

Mountain Home contributor Linda Roller is a bookseller, appraiser, and writer in Avis, Pennsylvania.

Courtesy Captain Bill’s Seneca Lake Cruises

be chartered for many private events, including weddings. They have run public cruises and private charters for about a dozen years, and two years ago bought a new boat for touring. For this cruise, people planning the wedding choose their own caterer, and the staff on board will work with the caterer and any entertainment to make the wedding a reflection of the couple. The Teal does have a license to allow alcohol on board, though they do not provide a full-service bar. Private events on the Teal support the larger vision of Discover Cayuga Lake. As a non-profit organization, the mission is to educate people on the ecology and history of Cayuga Lake and its watershed. As Astrid explains, “It’s a floating classroom, where the community can learn about their lake and the ecosystem.” Along with grants, private charters like wedding cruises support the educational trips for young people and the community at large. But not all watery weddings happen on lakes. The Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat, docked at the Susquehanna State Park in Williamsport, is a beloved summer attraction and is available for private rental. It’s a lovely location for a wedding, as the Floating fantasy: boat holds one hundred people, with fifty on the upper deck. from fabulous According to Kim Cillo, operations manager for the Hiawatha, food and live wedding charters can be made for one to three hours, and entertainment to with the pavilion at the state park available for rentals, there full bar service is a lot of flexibility for the wedding ceremony and reception. and stunning photos, weddings Couples provide their own caterer, and the Hiawatha can on the water suggest companies that have worked with the boat in the past. provide everything The Hiawatha retains a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board you need for a License and provides full bar service on board. Kim reminds romantic day. people looking to have an event both on and off the boat that “bar service is only available on board. The pavilion is in a state park and alcohol is prohibited there.” The boat has been a popular wedding spot for locals for years. “It’s a lovely venue. Last July, we had a proposal on a public cruise. That couple then married in a private charter on the Susquehanna in August,” she recalls. Kim says that they often set up the upper deck so that the bride can have a procession down the steps to an archway at the back of the boat. It’s a wonderful spot for creating lifelong memories: “One older gentleman makes a trip with us every year and remembers his late wife in a special way on this trip,” Kim relates. “They were married on the boat.” For more information and to make reservations, contact Captain Bill’s and Seneca Harbor Station at senecaharborstation. com. For cruise reservations call (607) 535-4541, and for restaurant reservations call (607) 535-6101. For Discover Cayuga Lake reservations or information, visit or call (607) 327- 5253. The MV Teal’s home dock May through October is at the Allan H. Treman Marine State Park at 1000 Allan H. Treman Park Road, Ithaca. For Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat reservations or information, visit or call (570) 326-2500. The Hiawatha docks at 2205 Hiawatha Boulevard, Williamsport. The administrative office is at 1500 W. Third Street, Williamsport.


Kathryn Ross

Altered trade: Janice Darrah has managed to stay busy during COVID and added her sewn face masks to the store’s offerings.

Sew Much More

Everyone is Beautiful at This Coudersport Dress Shop By Kathryn Ross


estled amid waves of mountains lightly dusted with snow, in picturesque Potter County, one woman continues the work of her lifetime—sewing. Janice Darrah is the owner of Sew Much More, a bridal and formal wear alteration shop in downtown Coudersport. Easy to find, the shop is just two doors down from the towering Crittenden Hotel, dating from the late 1870s when Coudersport was a boom town. Whether it is the times or a trend toward nostalgia, it’s Darrah’s shop that is now booming, even amid COVID-19. “We specialize in formal wear for all occasions at reasonable prices,” Janice says. “We have bridal gowns, mother of bride and groom, prom, homecoming, flower girls, special occasion dresses, veils, shoes, and


accessories both new and gently used. Many of the gowns are brand new with the tags still on them.” She says she learned to sew when she was just nine years old, when a neighbor took her under her wing. “I became her adopted daughter,” says Janice of Bonnie Torrey, who had only boys and no one to pass her sewing skills to. Growing up on a hobby farm with beef and sheep, Janice was a member of her mentor’s 4-H club. By the time she was fifteen or sixteen, she was such an accomplished seamstress that the outfit she’d sewn went to the Harrisburg Farm Show, where it placed fifth among hundreds submitted by 4-H members from across the Commonwealth. “Bonnie taught me the basics of sewing and how to follow a pattern. We used to

be able to purchase Butterick, McCall’s, and Simplicity patterns that you could buy anywhere in most five and ten cent stores. They were very popular, not like it is today,” Janice remembers. She graduated from Coudersport Area High School in 1972 and continued sewing at home. In the mid-1970s, a woman from her church started a bridal shop and soon needed help. “She knew that I liked to sew, so when the bridal shop took off, she approached me to see if I wanted to work for her,” Janice says. She jumped at the opportunity and went to work altering new gowns. Hundreds of needles and thread later, the shop closed in 2014 and Janice moved her alteration business into her son’s garage. Early on, she worked on different projects, including the repair of an RV cover that was

welcome to so big she had to spread it out on her lawn to do the work. With Coudersport located a distance from any larger cities, Janice was soon wondering if there was a market for gently used formal wear and, of course, bridal gowns. There certainly was. That market is mostly during the school year for seasonal dances and prom. Noting that 90 percent of her business is in consigned dresses, she comments that, “Heaven forbid teenagers should wear the same gown twice.” The wedding season, however, has expanded from June to a year-round business. And while her alteration work includes everything from jeans to uniforms, Janice’s bread and butter is bridal gowns. She travels to Rochester and other regional cities to purchase inventory from shops that are going out of business, who have seasonal inventory left over, or have merchandise from cancelled weddings. Her gowns range in size from petite to plus sizes, and she, along with one other employee, alters them to fit the new owners. She says most of the time they only have to alter for length, but sometimes there are other modifications, like adding a bustle or a train. Some alterations can be more extensive. Janice recalls when one young woman brought in her mother’s wedding gown. “She loved the train and the front of the skirt but not much else. By the time we got all the alterations completed it was kind of like a whole new gown,” she says. Janice is also working on a woman’s grandmother’s wedding gown. “She found it in a bag stored in a garage. Mice had worked on the lace and on the under part of the dress,” she says, noting she has mended the lace and is creating a whole new underdress. Business for Sew Much More is keeping Janice and her associate busy. She credits the Lord for keeping the business going, and also is finding that in today’s economy people don’t mind spending money to alter a gently used, discount, or antique gown to their needs. “December, January, and February are our slow times of the year,” she says. “But, before COVID hit, we had four weddings in December [2019] and sold several dresses in January and February that kept me busy when we had to shut down because we aren’t considered an essential business.” After reopening in May, business has continued to boom. She sold between forty and fifty dresses for weddings and occasions in September and October. But there is an addition to the gowns hanging on the racks this year. In her free time, Janice has sewn over 500 face masks. She takes orders for masks and some are available in the shop. As for the girls and their dresses, Janice admits that her best moments come when her customers are satisfied. “All the girls are pretty in their own way,” she says. “Get the right girl in the right dress and they are beautiful.” Find Sew Much More at 127 North Main Street, Coudersport, and on Facebook. The shop is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For appointments call (814) 335-8681.

A survivor of the 60s, twice, Kathryn Ross is a 35-year plus newspaper journalist, who now works as a freelance writer/photographer in Wellsville, New York.



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754 Canton Street, Troy PA • 570-297-7770 HOURS: Monday-Saturday 8am-5pm 29

(4) Courtesy Tioga Downs Casino Resort

It’s in the Cards

Take a Chance on Love at Tioga Downs Casino Resort By Gayle Morrow


ow about a wedding celebration that includes a mix of activities, entertainment, and lodging— something for everyone, as they say—and all in one place? Choosing to have your special day, or weekend, or week, for that matter, at Tioga Downs Casino Resort, just off Route 17 in Nichols, New York, would be a very safe bet, even if you’re not inclined to be a gambler. “Tioga Downs is a unique venue for a


wedding,” says Stephanie L. Rogers, director of sales. “We have multiple locations for ceremonies and receptions alike. Couples may choose to incorporate the racetrack, the golf course, or the casino floor as much or as little as they would like. We have the capabilities to host the bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette parties, wedding, and farewell breakfast, making Tioga Downs an easy one-stop shop. Having the hotel connected to the event center makes getting

ready and overnight accommodations a seamless transition.” Area residents may remember Tioga Downs Casino Resort from years ago as Tioga Park. Stephanie, something of a facility historian, relates that the park originated as a quarter horse track back in 1976, then was revived and refurbished to become the 5/8-mile harness track known as Tioga Downs Racetrack in 2006 as a See Tioga on page 32

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Tioga continued from page 30

Class II gaming facility. At the end of 2015, Tioga Downs Casino Resort won the bid to become a New York State Commercial Casino with Class III gaming. In December 2016, table games at Tioga Downs officially opened. One year later, Tioga Downs completed construction on the 160-room hotel and event center. “In the spring of 2018, the Clubhouse at Tioga Golf Course was completed, providing another amenity to Tioga Downs Casino Resort,” Stephanie continues. Tioga Downs is not new to the wedding venue business— the facility has been hosting nuptial celebrations for over ten years. But “the event center and clubhouse are newer, having been completed in 2017 and 2018 respectively,” Stephanie says. “Couples seem to like the fact that they can have guests come in, spend the weekend, celebrate, and never have to leave the property. With a variety of entertainment options, guests can celebrate all weekend.” In addition to the obvious—attending a race, trying your hand at betting, the slot machines, and the table games, or playing a few rounds of golf—wedding guests and wedding party members can treat themselves to a few relaxing laps in the heated saltwater indoor pool, take a turn on the outdoor water slide (a great option for younger wedding guests), or enjoy a massage or a facial at AgeLess Spa. Brides, you could even make participation in a spa package part of your attendants’ “duties.” As for food, “receptions can vary from buffet to served dinners to stations, allowing for each bride and groom to make the event as personalized as they can envision,” Stephanie says. Wedding guests who arrive early or stay late also have a full plate of other dining and beverage options, including the County Fair Buffet, Mr. G’s Post Time Pizza, Sideshow Lounge, P.J. Clarke’s, Java G’s, and Carousel Bar. Couples planning a wedding for this year can still opt for a Tioga Downs event. “We do have some limited availability for 2021 weddings,” Stephanie says, and “we are currently booking well into 2022.” And, since the world we’re in now still includes COVID-19, the facility is “obligated to follow all New York State COVID-19 guidelines,” she continues. “At this time that requires events of fifty people or less, masks worn at all times unless seated and eating or drinking, maintaining social distancing, and no dancing.” Need help with planning or deciding which of Tioga Downs’ options might be best for your special day? “Alicia [that’s Alicia Iacovelli, sales manager] or myself act as wedding coordinator during the planning process and the day of each wedding,” Stephanie says. “We have worked with a variety of cultural traditions and are constantly educating ourselves to offer the best service to our couples.” Contact Stephanie at (607) 699-3900, ext. 4205, at (607)221-2235, or at Contact Alicia at, at (607) 699-7685, or at (607) 972-6164. Find out more about Tioga Downs Casino Resort at or (888) 946-8464.

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Golden Blues By Nigel P. Kent


n an early January day I drove down to Naples for a hike and noticed that the hills south of town were pure white‌ totally covered in soft, fluffy snowflakes. I drove up into the hills and wandered for many miles, not caring about where I was or what time it was because this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I was determined to get it all. Towards the end of the trip I saw the setting sun flickering through the trees, and that was my final shot of a perfect day.


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