AUBURN — Liam Cole’s eyes ballooned when he was asked if he wanted to get behind the wheel of a 1947 Dodge pickup truck at the Founders Day celebration in Auburn Saturday.
The moment the car’s owner, Bill Leonard, made the offer, Liam, 4, rushed to the car and promptly climbed into the front seat during the car show held during the event. A mile-wide smile appeared on Liam’s face — which had green, black and white paint on it to make him look like a Tyrannosaurus rex — as he handled the steering wheel of the stationary vehicle as Leonard and Liam’s father, Pete Cole, chuckled.
Liam and Pete were two of hundreds of people who checked the cars, vendors and attractions available at the blocked-off areas of downtown Auburn for Founders Day, a celebration of the city’s history. The event, now in its 10th year, featured an open house at the Auburn Schine Theater on South Street and the Fifth Annual Art Flair on Exchange Street, which featured over a dozen vendors and artisans selling their goods.
Members of the Fire & Iron Motorcycle Club took to their motorcycles to ride for the auBURN Bike Fest and Ride, a fundraiser for the Burn Foundation of Central New York.
Eddie Ash and Michelle Jones-Ash and their sons, Chase and Max, said they were glad to go to a community event in which they could escape the house for a little while and go do something outside.
“There’s lots to do down here. We can look at the cars, we don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Michelle said.
One of the newest aspects of the event was the Ethnic Festival, which featured various cultures through music, food and more under two tents on Genesee Street between William and State streets. Auburn’s Cultural Italian American Organization was selling fried dough while the traditional Jewish band The Wandering Klezmorim performed.
Band members Ken Frieden praised the idea of acknowledging various ethnicities at Founders Day this year. Frieden said he believes most Americans “are ethnic in one way or another” and that “it’s important to remind people that we are a nation of immigrants, except the Native Americans.” Freiden emphasized the importance of playing music from other cultures.
“By playing Turkish music and Greek music, (it shows) that we value all these cultures, we don’t think our country is better, we don’t think America is best; we think the value in America is in multiculturalism,” he said.
Meanwhile, the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church displayed many of its items at the festival, such as two crowns used in wedding ceremonies. The Rev. Michael Speck, priest and church director, said his grandparents and parents used the same items during their weddings, as did Speck and his wife. Speck said the church, which began in Auburn in 1909, wanted to relate its history to Auburn’s history. He said he believes it’s important for people to reflect on the past.
“We can’t realize who we are until we realize who we’ve been in the past,” he said.
Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.