Celebrating Teachers is Smart Business in Ithaca, $500K Impact

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What happens when a whole city thanks teachers? Ithaca's offbeat Winter Recess makes teachers happy while pumping $500,000 into the local economy.

It’s a case where a whole community can ‘do good’ and 'do well’ at the same time.

Ithaca’s one-of-a-kind Winter Recess festival is more than a feel-good event for the Finger Lakes college town. The weeklong celebration of public school educators, Feb. 17-26, is expected to pump a half-million dollars into the local economy.

An economic impact analysis by the Ithaca/Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau shows that the annual festival generated $487,000 in economic activity in 2011. The 2012 edition should cross the $500,000 mark, said Fred Bonn, director of the visitors bureau.

“We have more businesses involved, we expect greater attendance and the economy is finally on our side,” Bonn said. “We’re looking forward to our biggest year yet, which should put us over $500,000 in economic impact.”

First held in 2007, Winter Recess offers state teachers, public school employees and their families a week of special events, parties and discounts throughout the Ithaca area. More than 200 local businesses and organizations participate, offering discounts on dining, lodging, shopping, spas, wine tasting, entertainment and activities. In 2011, more than 4,100 people attended from 15 states. Organizers expect 5,000 attendees this year.

“It’s one of our best weeks of the year,” said Todd Parlotto, manager of Maxie’s Supper Club, where teachers get buy-one, get-one-free entrees during Winter Recess. “It’s great for us, both from a business sense and a community sense. We support it wholeheartedly.”

New for Winter Recess 2012 is a promotional giveaway awarding one lucky teacher an Apple iPad along with $1,000 worth of classroom supplies. The giveaway is sponsored by Verizon Wireless, the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education, and Staples. The online drawing begins Jan. 9.

Ithaca is the only city in the nation to celebrate teachers with a communitywide festival of this scale. The event is held annually during the Presidents Week school break when 1.2 million teachers are on recess in New York and adjacent states.

Winter Recess is open to preK-12 teachers, retired teachers and school district employees. Registration is free. Details and iPad giveaway entry forms are online at IthacaLovesTeachers.com.

“Our community is built on education, so an event that thanks teachers is a natural for us,” Bonn said. “It gives us a chance to acknowledge teachers for all they do and it allows us to show off our community. It’s a case where a whole community can ‘do good’ and 'do well’ at the same time.”

Located in New York’s Finger Lakes, Ithaca is a progressive community known for breathtaking gorge waterfalls, outstanding recreation and world-class thinking. Home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, the city’s rich culture, fine lodging and abundance of top-quality restaurants make it an ideal winter getaway. Travel information is available at VisitIthaca.com, or (800) 284-8422.

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Bruce Stoff

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