ITHACA, N.Y — The Ithaca Festival parade has been a momentous symbol for The Ithaca Voice over the past two years.
The festival happened in 2014 about two weeks before former Editor Jeff Stein launched this ambitious project we call The Voice.
His plan was to conduct an experiment he expected to last, possibly, six months: whether an independent, hyper-local news organization could serve a unique role in the Ithaca community despite going head-to-head with a large, corporate news organization.
He told me once that the festival parade was surreal to him – a reminder of the big venture he was undertaking and the community he was about to be responsible to through The Voice.
It’s beautiful to think that one year after Jeff watched the parade go by, I walked the length of the same parade with a camera in my hand.
I barely knew Ithaca back then. I’d been in the city 19 days when Jeff sent me out to take photos of the festivities. I even had to use my GPS to find Dewitt Park (It’s five blocks away from my house, for the record.).
I had no idea of all the things I didn’t know about Ithaca, yet.
That day I saw people covered in head to toe with mud. I saw sword fighters. I saw my favorite children’s book characters, like The Hungry Caterpillar, come to life right in front of me. I saw people with chainsaws doing….something. I took more photos of dogs and children playing than The Voice will ever publish. And there were, of course, the tutu wearing people dancing on top of cars.
It was indisputably the epitome of this city — creative, innovative and unabashedly weird. I was reminded that Ithaca is all of these things (again and again) throughout my first year as a reporter in this city.
Just more than 365 days later, the parade is again marking a major turning point for The Voice. (We’ll release the cool details next week.) I feel the same sense of anticipation and butterflies in my stomach about it. Things are about to change and I have no idea exactly what that means.
But I know watching the parade will be different for me this year. Instead of seeing it through the lens of an outsider, I’ll be enjoying it as a proud and active member of this community. And I know I’ll love it all the more for that.
I do expect that one thing to be exactly the same, though. Ithaca will keep being gorges.
These are my favorite six photos from last year with some commentary from me.