This year was completely different from any that I had experienced in the 15 I’ve served as editor of the Courier-Standard-Enterprise — one of The Daily Gazette Company’s recent acquisitions. The year 2020 has a specific line delineating our pre- and post-pandemic lives, so four of my five choices for the most impactful and memorable events or stories I’ve covered are directly COVID-19-related.
While the pandemic has significantly affected 2020, what stood out for me the most this year are the same things that always have: the ways the tri-village area — Canajoharie, Fort Plain, and St. Johnsville — always comes together during times of need.
The ways that local individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and others show up for one another — even when they’re suffering themselves — provides me with a constant source of inspiration both professionally and personally.
I’m continually thrilled to be able to positively highlight the best attributes of the community that literally raised me.
The primary stories I’m most proud of reporting this year are the ones related to how local businesses dealt with the onset and evolution of COVID-19. In the April 3 edition of the C-S-E, I profiled the experiences of businesses throughout the tri-valley area, learning that though many were taking losses, they remained open specifically because of community need.
The fact that the community comes together for one another, over and over, through unfathomably devastating times, remains a constant source of joy and inspiration. In hard times, the people of these communities are always the silver lining.
And, I’m always happy to promote a local business with the hopes that they’ll remain in the forefront of peoples’ minds, so that they may be properly patronized.
Elves Night Out
The story that I enjoyed covering the most this year was Elves Night Out — Dec. 11 — and the newly-added Parade of Lights. Elves Night Out, which takes place throughout Canajoharie and Palatine Bridge at the outset of each December, is normally a community-encompassing happening that involves businesses, organizations, churches and citizens.
Obviously, the event had to be scaled back this year, which is why the new Parade of Lights was created. The goal was to provide an event full of resplendent holiday cheer while keeping revelers socially distanced. The Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge Chamber of Commerce did a fantastic job of that. It felt good — on a weekend wherein a dozen Christmas events were whittled down to one — to see community members out and about with smiles on their faces and holiday cheer in their hearts.
It was very impactful for me to be able to cover, in the final 2020 edition of the C-S-E, local healthcare worker and one of the area’s first COVID-19 vaccination recipients — Palatine Bridge resident and Nurse Practitioner Rita O’Neill. There’s understandably been a lot of conversation, including locally, about the safety of the vaccine. I felt it was important to provide the viewpoint of a trusted area individual who had not only had the vaccine, but had done so with a nurse practitioner’s researched knowledge.
I feel that it’s important for the community to understand what its members are going through, because living in a small set of villages and towns, it’s often the experience of those you’re familiar with that you’re likely to turn to and trust during uncertain times.
Covering this story also just felt like a brief moment of reprieve from a constant onslaught of terrifying COVID-19 coverage.
The opening day of school in September (covered across several stories in the Sept. 18 C-S-E) is always memorable, despite the fact that it’s largely the same each year. This year, opening day at the Canajoharie, Fort Plain and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville central school districts was very different from previous ones, and will therefore stick with me more than any before.
It was important, I felt, not only for the community, but also for myself — I have nieces, nephews and the children of friends enrolled locally — to see the ways in which local administrators worked to keep students safe. It was fascinating to learn how parents had been involved in the re-opening process every step of the way, and to see how devoted every member of the faculty was to keeping students safe.
Also memorable were this year’s graduation ceremonies. Despite the fact that they were all untraditional — two were held at the El Rancho Drive-In — the school communities came together to make each event special for graduating students. Those students can now say that their graduation ceremonies were entirely different from those of any class before, or hopefully after.
The many demonstrations I covered locally — primarily this summer and notably the Black Lives Matter events — were some of the most impactful happenings that I’ve ever photographed and written about across the past 15 years.
Seeing local people exhibit such a level of devoted passion — standing up for what they believed was right with such vigor — was continually inspiring. It’s always good to know that in a time of need, this community stands with individuals that have been marginalized. Protesters didn’t have to come out on sweltering days, but they did time and time again.
While I know that this community will always come out for and support one another, it was fantastic to see locals issuing such vocal support for groups of people across not only the local area, but also the nation and world.