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Heading back to school: What’s new in your district this year?

It’s once again time for kids across Central New York to start getting ready to head back to school. Both Liverpool and North Syracuse students head back Thursday, Sept. 4. Both districts had some changes in store for students and staff; read on to find out what’s new.

Visit the Great New York State Fair on a budget during Special Fair Days

Here in Central New York, we have the benefit of being right next door to The Great New York State Fair, which brings a wide variety of attractions and events for the entire family and showcases the best products our state has to offer. This year, consider taking advantage of Special Fair Days that can enhance your experience at the fair and even save you money.

Café’s revamped kitchen inspires culinary creativity

During the second week of this month the Café at 407 at Ophelia’s Place was closed in order to install new state-of-the-art stoves and ovens. The popular coffee shop re-opened Aug. 11. The café is located at 407 Tulip St., in the village of Liverpool.

Gus Macker tournament a success

By all accounts, the Gus Macker event held Aug. 8 and 9 at Drivers Village was a huge success. It was the fifth year of what has become an annual event. It was well-organized and events proceeded like clockwork. There were 178 basketball teams that participated, many travelling from distant communities like Buffalo, the Southern Tier and the North Country.

LETTER: Fifth Gus Macker tournament a success

Well, we just wrapped up our fifth year of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament held at Drivers Village, and what a weekend it was. The weather cooperated beautifully and that provided us with extremely large crowds which included at times three generations of family members. We also maintained a quality event for the 178 four-person teams that registered to participate. Our volunteers, 145 strong, the backbone of this event, put in almost 1,500 hours. These highly enthusiastic volunteers allow us to continue the Friends of the CanTeen’s ultimate mission of raising much needed funds to operate the CanTeen teen center.

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North Area YMCA day camp encourages daily reading

The North Area Family YMCA on Wetzel Road is offering kids the full camp experience: swimming, arts and crafts, field trips… and reading? This year, the Y’s Camp Y-Noah, which serves kids who have completed kindergarten through sixth grade, has launched a new program to encourage literacy. In addition to traditional camp activities, the roughly 150 campers stop what they’re doing twice a day to read for 15 minutes.

Composting will help cut waste and promote a clean environment in Central New York

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency’s (OCRRA) Amboy compost site, where we discussed their efforts to cut waste in our community. After becoming a pilot location for food composting, OCRRA upgraded its facility at the Amboy site to compost over 9,000 tons of commercial and institutional food waste every year, generating 30,000 cubic yards of compost. Instead of filling up landfills and potentially harming our environment, the waste that makes this compost goes toward creating healthier, nutrient-rich soil to grow great local produce and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It can also help improve stormwater controls, keeping our community safe.

Sea Scouts tented on Onondaga Yacht Club lawn

There’ve been plenty of friendly sailing excursions at the Onondaga Yacht Club this summer including a rare visit by nearly 30 young Sea Scouts from across the Northeast. They were here participating in the first-ever Erie Canal Flotilla Sea Scout Regatta Aug. 1 through 3, on Onondaga Lake.

Guest column: A model TNR program at Casual Estates

We’ve written before about TNR, or trap-neuter-return, in dealing with feral cats. Feral or “community” cats are those cats that roam free and are frequently too wild (unsocialized) to adopt. If left alone, they reproduce, and the sheer numbers may make them a nuisance. With TNR, they are trapped humanely, neutered and vaccinated, and returned to the area they came from. An established colony will keep new, unaltered cats out, and because they can’t reproduce, the colony gradually gets smaller instead of quickly getting larger.

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Sharkey’s to host country music festival for Clear Path for Veterans

Too often, veterans returning home from combat zones aren’t getting the support they need. That’s especially true if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an often silent disability triggered by a traumatic event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. While PTSD can happen to anyone who has experienced trauma, it’s particularly common in veterans; while it occurs in approximately 7 to 8 percent of the general population, 11 to 20 percent of Afghanistan or Iraq vets, 10 percent of Gulf War vets and 30 percent of Vietnam vets suffer from PTSD. In order to support these veterans, a group of volunteers has organized a benefit called the Victory for Vets Country Music Festival to take place Aug. 16 at Sharkey’s in Liverpool. The proceeds from the event will go to Clear Path for Veterans, a nonprofit based in Chittenango that provides support for returning veterans, including peer-to-peer support, classes, service dogs and more.

Rat Packer rolled strikes at Flamingo Bowl

The village welcomed the swingin’ Sixties because George Tortorelli knew how to swing. The former boxer who lived in Liverpool on Tulip Street near the cemetery had become a musician, a bass player who excelled as a bandleader and master of ceremonies. Using the stage name George Orelli, he worked at all of Central New York’s top nightclubs, from Andre’s Tic Toc Club down city to Three Rivers Inn north of here where he accompanied touring stars such as Connie Francis, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Durante.

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Syracuse Crunch raises funds for Red Cross Disaster Relief

Donation sparked by Smithfield tornado and East Syracuse storm damage

In the wake of the tornado and severe storms that hit Central New York on July 8, the Syracuse Crunch recently raised more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross through a jersey auction fundraiser. The money raised will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which will be used to help provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance for victims of future disasters.

The state fair is a Central New York tradition

Some of my fondest summer memories are of time spent at the New York State Fair, and each year, I look forward to making new memories with my family. In fact, my 89-year-old mother-in-law still goes to the fair every day. For her, the tradition is what’s important. While the fair has certainly stayed true to its roots, there is always something new to see, hear or taste. That’s why I’ll be heading down to the Great New York State Fair from Aug. 21 to Sept. 1. I invite you to join me. The iconic fair provides an opportunity for all of us to revisit old memories and make new ones as we celebrate “Summer’s Best in Show” — this year’s theme.

LETTER: Volunteers made Little League event a success

To the editor: I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing a very professionally run baseball tournament held at Central Park in Cicero last week. For those who missed it, it was spectacular. Six Little League teams from all over the state of New York, including Colonie, East Meadow, Wappinger Falls, Throgs Neck, Grand Island and Whitestown, competed in the New York State Little League Championship to gain entry to the Mid-Atlantic Division in the 2014 Little League World Series. The event went off without a hitch — well, maybe until the rains on Sunday morning that dampened but didn’t deter the enthusiasm of volunteers set on getting the field in condition to play the championship game.

LETTER: Thanks to those who helped with golf tournament

To the editor: On July 19, the fourth annual Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Golf Tournament was held to raise money for the Jenni-Lyn Watson Memorial Scholarship Fund. We feel the tournament was a success and want to thank all who supported it.