Auburn Pride: Cheap Beer and Great Community

Workers restoring the historic Genesee beer sign in Downtown Auburn.

Asset-based development — the notion that a community is better served by building off existing assets, as opposed to courting outside developers to build projects with little connection to the community’ history and values —  has long been recognized as a best practice.

But what if one your assets is a giant beer sign? And what if it hasn’t been lit in 40 years?

The answer to the first question is easy: All the better!

That’s especially true in Auburn, which knows how to have a good time, a fact that will be on display all weekend, from the Founder’s Day celebration on Saturday, to the sign lighting beer bash on Saturday night, to the party following the Great Race Sunday.

This is a significant selling point for this small city. It’s great that we are embracing our proclivity for fun and taking pride in it. And why not? Austin has become an epicenter for creatives by celebrating weirdness. Surely, there’s worse things to celebrate than knowing how to celebrate. If you have any doubt about that, check out this list. Did you know that two U.S. cities are fighting over the moniker “Cowtown,” or that Charleston, West Virgina, goes by the nickname “Chemicalville”?

The second question has required quite a bit of work for the community to answer. The Genesee Brewing Co. has made the investment to restore the sign with LED lights. The Auburn Downtown Improvement District has handled the event logistics and much of its promotion, two things that were key to making the brewery’s investment in the project worthwhile. The city of Auburn is providing security and other support. Local businesses have stepped to the fore to supplement and compliment the event with efforts of their own, with dozens of places offering various specials and enticements. The local fundraising powerhouse known as Majorpalooza is teaming with with Tinkers Guild to man the Genny Beer truck and raise money for charity during the event.

I personally had absolutely nothing to do with any of this, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a role in making it happen. Thank you all!

Through this cooperative, collaborative effort, a fanciful idea has become reality, and the Genesee Beer sign will be re-lit tomorrow night. Whether you are from Auburn or not, you should come down and take in the spectacle.

From a public relations perspective, it’s fair to say the event has already been a success. Google it, and you’ll find dozens of outlets have picked up on the story and are celebrating the accomplishment with us. That includes this piece in the Citizen, and this one in The Post-Standard, both of which have more details about the lighting and all the other Founder’s Day events tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Auburn Pride: Cheap Beer and Great Community

  1. As a long-time resident and homeowner in Auburn, I’m torn on the beer sign. Though I recognize that it’s been a part of the downtown landscape forever, it’s…Genny. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been partial to that particular brand, but I feel like there are so many other, more important things we should celebrate. There are so many better marketing opportunities.

    For example:
    We’re home to the world’s first electric chair, and our prison has a long, macabre history. Shouldn’t we have an interactive wax museum, highlighting the famous prisoners and wild tales from behind the walls?

    Sound on film was invented here. Yes, the Case Film Festival is a good start, but shouldn’t we have a ‘talkies’ festival each year to celebrate the achievement? We could shut down Genesee Street and throw a giant block party, with films playing at what should be a renovated Schine Theater.

    We’re home to important historic figures…Seward, Tubman, Holland, Osborne and more. Should we not have a way of touring our historic sites and Fort Hill Cemetery?

    My opinion on Auburn has always been that we are a city of people who are willfully ignorant of all the things we have to be proud of. And though I’m glad to see a small part of our history revived with the lighting of this sign, I can’t help but feel frustrated that our focus is here. Maybe we are lighting a sign that shows we know how to have a good time. Or maybe it’s a sign that we just aren’t confident enough to embrace how great we really can be.

  2. I had a similar conflicted reaction to the community’s lighting the beer sign while Auburn and Cayuga County are promoting tourism in the Finger Lakes wine district and also hoping to attract economic development opportunities, which would involve executives moving their families here.

  3. No reason to be torn. It doesn’t have to be fun versus substance. We can celebrate both. Having events that speak to all parts of the community has great value on many fronts, I think. Tubman was the natural choice this year, but the decision to wait until 2013 – the 100th anniversary of her death – makes a heck of a lot of sense as well. And it may well be that more people upstate work at breweries — Genny, Bud in Lysandar, FX Matt, all the micro brews – than work for wineries. The brewers are thriving. Let’s celebrate it all!

  4. Great comments Greg. Like you Greg I have been a spectator watching this Genesee Beer sign project from a distance & I must say that it has been an impressive endeavor & everyone that has had a part in its progress deserves thanks & praise for a tremendous effort. For me the Genesee Beer sign re-lighting symbolizes that Auburn & the Finger Lakes/Central NY region is making a comeback. In all of my life living in this region I have never had more hope for the progress being made. The wine trails, the history, the lakes, the efforts that each Finger Lakes city & village is making to progress, we have so much going for us. The resurgence of the beer industry through the development of small craft breweries to larger efforts such as FX Matt in Utica & the North American Breweries’ effort to rehab the Genesee Brewery & brand in Rochester is just another exciting development of an industry happening in upstate NY. As far as anyone who wonders why we should bother with rehabing the Genesee Beer sign, here are a couple more reasons why it makes sense: Genesee brews their beer with water from the Finger Lakes & Great Lakes region, and, the beer is named Genesee for the same reasons why most main streets in cities & villages throughout central NY are named Genesee. During its existence in Auburn, NY that sign has seen both good & bad times, it has lingered for decades in disrepair & over the years many would have predicted its demise. However, like Auburn & many upstate cities, that sign has survived & brighter days are yet to come.

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