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Sights, sounds, sweets: Holiday cheer rocks around Ithaca

Kaeleigh Banda
Ithaca residents attended the Habitat for Humanity annual cookie walk on Dec. 2 at The Ithaca Commons for the first time since 2020 due to restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Dec. 1 to Dec. 3, Ithaca celebrated the holidays by hosting The Factory Holiday Art Market, The Habitat for Humanity Cookie Walk and the Ice and Lights Festival.  

The Factory Holiday Art Market

Lasting from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3, The Factory Holiday Art Market gave local artists and artists from the surrounding area an opportunity to share and sell their work. The market was held at the South Hill Business Campus, located at 950 Danby Road, across the street from Ithaca College.

The market was filled with artists, showing off a variety of different styles from woodworking, poetry, painting, glass art and photography, to a team who printed old newspaper ads onto t-shirts. The exhibits were placed in a winding indoor alleyway, which led to new artists after every turn. Each day the event was held, around 60 people walked along these alleyways to appreciate the artworks.

Michael Sampson, curator of the Gallery at South Hill and an abstract painter, said the market gives the public the chance to see unique types of art where a variety of different mediums are practiced. 

“There are a little bit over 70, either invited or studio artists, in Artist Alley,”  Sampson said. “[The market gives the] opportunity for the public to come in and see either paintings or dice makers or ceramics by local artists.”

Inside the market, there is also The Gallery at South Hill. Sampson said the gallery is currently exhibiting its third annual small works invitational.

“It’s a really interesting way for the public to sort of see the intimate smaller pieces,” Sampson said. “Us at the Factory Art Market like to tie in the small works with this even; it’s a good pairing.”

When the market is not in session, these alleyways, located on the ground floor of the South Hill Business Campus, provide artists with rentable studio space in what they call Artist Alley. Many of the artists with rented space opened up their studios for the market so that the public could explore the area in which they work. During the market, these artists sold their work right from their studios.

While people walked around the alleyway, the vendors continued to work on their craft. One woman worked on her wood carvings, another stitched her mittens made from old sweaters and another watercolored greeting cards.  

Maryam Adib, one of the market’s vendors and renter of the studio space, said she’s been renting studio space since 2020 and selling her work at the market for the past three years.  

“I bounced around to a couple of spaces but this is one where I could expand,” Adib said. “I needed a place to hang my work, which is pretty large, so I moved to this one which I am able to have my shop and my gallery.”

Adib’s specialty is large murals and upcycled clothing. Adib said that while she was glad many people showed up, she wished more people would purchase her work. 

“It’s mostly people wanting to chat about the artwork,” Adib said. “I think people are more apt to buy smaller things. I’m selling my new collection, but they are at a higher price point so less sales and more chatting.”

Adib said she encourages Ithaca residents to attend and shop at this event every year.

“It’s good to support small local artists,” Adib said. “It gives money back to people in our communities and keeps the art scene alive in Ithaca and beyond.”

Visitors at the Factory Holiday Art Market at the South Hill Business Campus, across the street from Ithaca College. (Kaeleigh Banda)

Habitat for Humanity held their annual cookie walk Dec. 2 at Center Ithaca on the Commons where volunteers could sign up to bake cookies for the community. 

Shannon MacCarrick, executive director at Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties, said the cookie walk had been happening in the community for 11 years but recently has not been held since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic; however, many volunteers returned for the event.

“We had a lot of repeat bakers, which was nice,” MacCarrick said. “We were a little worried if they were going to come back after the 3-year hiatus.”

The room was filled with tables in a circular pattern, piled with cookies, including chocolate chip, gingerbread, snickerdoodle and sugar cookies.

The cookie tables also had a wide selection of allergen free cookies. There was a clearly marked gluten-free section while the other cookies in the general area had ingredient lists attached to them.  

Shoppers walked around the tables filling their containers provided by Habitat for Humanity with as many cookies as possible. With a deal of $10 per pound of cookies, many shoppers could not resist.

Shoppers are encouraged to buy as many cookies as they can. MacCarrick said the proceeds go towards funding Habitat for Humanity. She said she expected to raise around $5,000 from the fundraiser.  

“Our fingers are crossed that the same thing will happen again this year — that we run out of cookies by 3:00,” MacCarrick said.

At the end of the fundraiser, MacCarrick said via email that Habitat for Humanity raised around their goal amount.

“We raised just about $4,700 at the Cookie Walk!” MacCarrick said.

This year, shoppers had the opportunity to pre-order their cookies, using a form on Habitat for Humanity’s website, so they would not have to wait in line. There also was an option for pre-packaged assorted cookies for the people who did not have time to spend looking for cookies. 

These options helped to ensure everyone who wanted to buy cookies had the opportunity to. McCarrick said she was excited to see the variety of cookies they had this year. 

“We had 100 bakers today; there’s a couple of duplicates, but there’s a lot of variety,” McCarrick said. “We had people make some really cute ones like polar bears and reindeer and they are super fun to look at.”

Ice and Lights Festival

The Ice and Lights Festival, a two-weekend celebration of the start of winter, kicked off on Dec. 2. 

Stands filled The Commons with beer, wine, hot chocolate and chowder for the annual downtown-wide chowder cook-off. Attendees became taste testers for the chowder and voted on their favorites.  

A stage with neon strobe lights was set up for a silent disco where everyone put on headphones and could select which music to listen to. A giant light-up unicorn sculpture stood by the silent disco with a ladder for people to climb and take a picture on it. 

Ithaca College firstyear Caitlin Moran said she attended the event because it seemed like a way to celebrate the holidays.

“[The festival] seemed like something fun around Ithaca,” Moran said. “I wanted to see what the silent disco was all about and I wanted to see all the ice sculptures”

The festival began with a Krampus parade, where around 20 people dressed as Krampus, a horned figure from European folklore designed to scare kids into being good, walked along The Commons playing instruments, like the tambourine, the accordion and bells, then gathered in a circle and began dancing. The parade left the commons after 15 minutes and made their way to Liquid State Brewing Company, about a mile away from The Commons.

Throughout the day, there had been off and on rain, making the weather not the most ideal for this festival. First-year Tripp Corson said he felt the weather did not deter people from attending the event.  

“The weather, it’s not the best, but it’s what you expect for a winter event,” Corson said. “Everyone is bundled up.”

The damp weather made the hot chocolate stand one of the highlights of the event. Moran said it was her favorite part.

“You get to customize with all yourself with toppings,” Moran said. “I wanted the hot chocolate that wasn’t the dining hall’s hot chocolate.”

Corson said he liked to have fun creating delicious combinations with the hot chocolate bar. 

“Mine was a whole peppermint extravaganza,” Corson said. “I had peppermint whipped cream and Candy Cane marshmallows.”

Moran said she loved how beautiful the event was and she looks forward to attending again the following weekend. Moran said she is excited to see Santa, who will be there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 9 on The Commons. 

“[The festival] looks like a movie,” Moran said. “It is really beautiful.”

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Sarah Mooney, Staff writer
Kaeleigh Banda, Assistant Photo Editor
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