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Watertown pool attendance increased by 8,000 people this summer

in Place 120 views

WATERTOWN — Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero continue to disagree about whether the city needs three pools as attendance figures from this summer show an 8,000 visit increase from the previous season.

Mayor Smith is still convinced that the city-owned pools at Thompson Park and the Alex T. Fairgrounds are enough. Councilwoman Ruggiero remains committed to opening a third pool at North Elementary School.

While the debate rages on, Scott M. Weller, parks and recreation superintendent, on Thursday released attendance figures for the two pools that were open this summer showing that 26,327 people swam in them, up from 18,511 in 2021.

Of the total, 21,252 took a dip in the park pool, while 5,075 went to the Steven D. Alteri pool at the fairgrounds.

“An 80 to 20 split tells me we don’t need three pools,” Mayor Smith said, stressing that he’s held that argument right along.

But Councilwoman Ruggiero sees the pool attendance figures a different way.

“I think 8,000 is unbelievable,” she said.

About the comparison in attendance between the two pools, she noted that the park opened on weekends for more than a month earlier and stayed open more than a week later than the Altieri pool. It opened June 28 and closed Aug. 28.

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Summer tourism wrapping up with season ‘back on track’ from pandemic

in Tourist 216 views

With the busy summer tourism season winding down, businesses and tourist attraction operators are optimistic that the local industry is back to normal and that the COVID-19 pandemic is finally in the rearview mirror.

An influx of travelers is expected for the last big weekend of the summer with people having three days off for Labor Day and kids not going back to school until next week.

The Blues in the Bay annual music festival is expected to draw crowds to wrap up the summer.

Blues bands will perform Friday night to Monday afternoon in Alexandria Bay.

The Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Double Barrel Blues Band, performing from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, host the festival. A craft fair will also be held Saturday and Sunday in the pavilion at Scenic View Park.

Mary Compeau, chamber president, is looking forward to the 21st blues festival with a headlining act of Miller and the Other Sinners, a popular Buffalo-based band.

“We should expect a lot of Canadians after two years of the lockdown,” she said.

The leisure and recreation sector of the tourism industry bounced back last summer, said Corey C. Fram, director of the Thousands Islands International Tourism Council.

And this summer the local hotel industry has rebounded, Mr. Fram said. In 2021, area hotels still were impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

But he’s heard that hotels in and around Watertown all are having big years, with business picking up for weddings, corporate meetings and small business gatherings.

“We’re doing well,” said Jody Pettit, general manager for Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal St. “It’s been a busy summer.”

In July, the hotel had an occupancy rate of more than 80% and in August, it hit 86%. Weekends were fully booked, she said.

“Let’s hope it’s a trend that happens for years to come,” she said.

To help travelers look for a room, Hilton Garden Inn employees have had to call Syracuse and Ogdensburg because the region’s hospitality industry was completely sold out, she said.

Business meetings have returned, she said. Bus coaches full of travelers are also back. There were less Zoom meetings and more in-person gatherings and a trend of government entities using the Hilton Garden Inn’s amenities also increased.

The Holiday Inn Express next door also experienced that kind of success, she said.

During the height of the pandemic, the wedding market basically dried up, with couples initially inviting just 20 guests and then maybe 50 people later on. But big weddings of 200 are back; guests are no longer afraid of traveling, she said. Three weddings are booked for Labor Day weekend alone.

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Parents met by changes to Watertown summer playground program

in Entertainment/Place/Sports 661 views

WATERTOWN — A small group of children sat at a picnic table at the North Hamilton playground playing the board game Sorry on a pleasant summer afternoon earlier this week.

“Is it my turn?” asked 6-year-old Bryson VanPatten.

A few minutes later, the little boy got bored and joined a dodgeball game a short distance away.

It’s that time again for making Boondoggle projects, playing kickball and sitting down for a game of Sorry at the city’s summer playground program.

This summer, playgrounds are at the North Elementary School, Thompson Park, North Hamilton and alternate sites at Emerson Place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and at Academy Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The staffed playgrounds are open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until Aug. 12.

Two playground attendants are on duty at each playground, which includes playground equipment, a picnic table, porta-potty and access to water.

It’s the second summer that the playground program is back after an interruption caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But there are some changes that the city Parks and Recreation Department has implemented, which has caused some confusion.

Recently, parent Krystin LaBarge expressed some concerns and wanted some clarification about the program.

“It’s a wonderful resource for our community and I’m happy to see it’s happening, albeit with quite a few changes from the rec program in the past,” she said.

She’d like to see the parks department do a better job to let the public know that the program is available.

Ms. LaBarge also thinks that more detailed information should be provided to parents.

She also mentioned some confusion about its rules and policies, especially regarding whether parents need to attend the playgrounds with their children.

Scott M. Weller, parks and recreation superintendent, said it’s a drop in program that has to follow state Department of Health regulations.

If a child normally frequents the neighborhood playground on their own without a parent, they don’t have to have an adult with them and they are welcome to stay as long as they’d like, he said.

If the child is too young to visit on their own, they need to be accompanied by a parent, he said.

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60% of People Planning Reunions with Family and Friends This Summer

in Entertainment/travel 542 views

A cheery poll found that almost 60% of people are planning to spend their summer vacation on a reunion with family and friends. A further 65% said that spending time with family and friends brings them more joy than other vacation themes.

Now in the third summer since the pandemic began, 32% of respondents said they hadn’t seen extended family in 4-years. 68% said they’d be willing to travel further than ever before this summer to reconnect with family and friends.

The majority of those surveyed said the ideal duration for a reunion would be 3 days, perhaps because 51% of respondents believe family reunions look different now than they did a few years ago.

For example, many respondents now look at out-group individuals more like family, saying that reunions will feature invites to friends (42%), significant others (39%), neighbors (34%) and pets (36%).

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