Let it snow!
As the snow swirls outside my home, I am thinking about how snow affects our sense of who we are. The combination of Nor'easters and Lake-Effect means that we are often one of the snowiest regions of the United States. While many people are simply resigned to the fact that snow will come and pine for spring, many have internalized the "problem." It is well known that Syracuse and Buffalo have an old rivalry over the title of "snowiest" but they are not alone.
Recently an Upstate snow tradition has been revived: The Golden Snowball Award. A product of rivarlies among the weather services in several Upstate cities, the Golden Snowball is a yearly award given to the snowiest city in the state. There are two "leagues" the Big Cities (Buffalo, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton) and the Little Cities (Oswego, Utica, Fulton, Rome and Watertown). The winner each year is presented with a trophy which is then passed to the next winner (though Syracuse has won the Big Cities ever since 2002) and a cash award. The Big City prize is $100 and the Little Cities, $50. Last year, the Big City prize was given to a Syracuse-area school for the purchase of hats and gloves... so that the kids could enjoy the snow in comfort. The official Golden Snowball Award website is an unmatched tribute to snow in all of its forms; I've never seen a site before that simply had videos and photo galleries of falling snow.
The award has become a matter of pride; to quote a 2003 USA Today article:
"Buffalo's reputation is just hype. Rochester's not even in our league. The others, forget about it. No challenge at all" -Pat Mercert (A Syracuse snow affecionado)
"I think it would be great if we won, especially with Syracuse and their lake-effect snow" -John Pennock of Albany
Awards aside, we all know that snow has a serious side. The incredible Blizzard of 1977 in Buffalo, for example, dumped eight feet on the city, burying entire buildings when the drifts accumulated. But, through it all, York Staters have survived. The Golden Snowball is a form of gallows humor; another manifestation was the Blizzard of 1977 Board Game, where players scrambled to collect supplies before the storm hit and they were waylaid by black ice and whiteouts.
When we begin to see ourselves as survivors, that becomes part of our regional identity. To many Upstaters, they are strong, more resilient than those who flee to places like Florida and the Carolinas. I believe that the economic suffering that our cities have been dealt has only added to this feeling (it is a strange coincidence that most of the new jobs opened in warm, sunny places).
However, this pride is certainly not new. In my searches online, I found this website discussing Upstate history. In one page, talking about the difficult winter of 1823-24 and the sturdy, stalwart people who survived it. I hope that, as you dig out tomorrow, you think of it and smile:
"York Staters eat snowstorms for breakfast, spit on their hands, then go out and do what needs doing."
Posted by Jesse