By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CAIRO — The holiday season was alive and well in Cairo for the first-ever Greene’s Candy Cane Festival held at Angelo Canna Town Park.
The inaugural festival Dec. 4 had about 25 vendors in two buildings at the park, including a raffle tent raising money to assist families in need during the holidays.
“This is our first year — I just kind of dreamt it up,” founder Nichole Cook, of Earlton, said of the festival. “I love Christmas and I can’t imagine not being able to give my kids Christmas. There are some families that can’t, and it’s important to me that if their families can’t do it, then someone else can.”
Cook collected a list of six families so far who could use a helping hand to give their children a joyful Christmas with gifts under the tree. Funds to purchase the gifts were generated through a raffle of various items and gift baskets, which in turn were donated by local residents and businesses.
“We asked people to nominate families who need a little help,” Cook said. “We’ve got six so far and they have given us lists of their kids and their ages. I have also reached out to local schools to see if they have anyone who needs help. A lot of them have their own programs, so some need help and some don’t. It depends on how many need help and how much we raise.”
Marrianne Baldwin was a volunteer who helped Cook put the festival on. She said it was a nice opportunity to help people during the holiday season and to bring some joy to the community.
“This is for a good cause — it is for families that need a little help at Christmas,” Baldwin said. “Nichole is doing amazing things and I am happy to be here.”
The amount raised through proceeds of the raffles was not available at press time.
Greene’s Candy Cane Festival brought more than two dozen vendors selling everything from food and cupcakes to artwork, clothing and holiday items, and the Cairo-Durham Class of 2025 held a fundraiser. Free crafts gave kids the opportunity to make tree ornaments they could take home with them, and write letters to Santa Claus, which were delivered to the North Pole for the Jolly Ol’ Elf to read.
“It’s just community togetherness,” Cook said of the festival.
Dozens of families turned out for the event to take part in activities, visit with The Big Guy and have a good time.
Erika Moak, of Greenville, brought her three daughters to the festival. The girls were hard at work writing letters to Santa.
“The kids are having a good time — it is something to get us out of the house and having fun,” Moak said. “They want to see Santa. So far, their favorite things to do here are the cupcakes and writing letters to Santa.”
Emily Binelli, 3, stared longingly through a Plexiglas shield at an array of colorful cupcakes. Melanie Binelli said they had just arrived but were having fun already.
“It is a very nice event,” Melanie Binelli said. “We just got here, but she has already made a very nice Christmas ornament, so that was fun. We will walk around and see what else they have.”
Debra Acompora, of South Cairo, brought six of her grandchildren to the festival.
“So far, they like the cupcakes the best, and the brownie pops,” Acompora said. “This is the first annual festival and I thought it was a great idea. I’m glad somebody finally did this close to us. They have them all over the place — I was in Florida recently and went to a bunch of different festivals, but never really went to any up here, so this is great.”
Cook said she hopes to do a second annual festival next year as well.