Oxford Now (PON)
PO Box 11
Oxford, NY 13830
Promote Oxford Now, or PON, is an organization, mostly made up of local business people, that seeks to promote the Oxford business community, to recognize and maintain Oxford's historic nature and to respect its hometown character and culture. It was a movement that evolved, from a need, over several years. The first organized group that preceded PON was called the Oxford Revitalization Project, Inc..
The Oxford community originally formed a small, not-for-profit, incorporated committee of concerned members under the name of the Oxford Revitalization Project, Inc.. Oxford's "hey day" of the Canal transportation, bluestone mining, Oxford Academy boarding house, and the hotels, was long over. Changes over the century caused a decline in Oxford's appearance. By the late 1970's, the town needed a financial "shot in the arm" and perhaps a bit of a "facelift" too. The first project the Revitalization group decided to tackle was to get the original, 1876, "pagoda" back into Washington Park. It had been cut, boarded up, and moved to a distant location. The group raised funds to have this once handsome, gazebo moved back to its original location, and then had it restored. Architectural renderings had to be made from photographs, since so much of its original appearance was lost to the ages. Paint scrapings were analyzed in Albany, NY, to get the paint color restored accurately. The final results were spectacular. This proved the Revitalization Project could accomplish what they set out to do. The original historic beauty of Oxford was veiled under layers of neglect, and it was time to remove them. Many benefactors to Oxford are responsible for much of the way Oxford's restored architecture looks today.
Residents and established business owners knew the town's long history and country charm, but to give Oxford a future, she also needed some good publicity to revitalize her. A craft fair seemed just the thing to get the town's name in the paper, bring some business into the area, and serve as a fund-raiser. After a great deal of organization and many hours of work, the group successfully produced the "Chenango Canal Arts & Crafts Festival". It was a high quality, juried craft fair, which became known as "Canal Days", held in LaFayette Park at the end of August. At first the show was very small, but it grew over the years. Guest artists were judges, and these jurors would give cash awards. Radio and print advertising touted the names of the Oxford business sponsors. As anticipated, people came in droves, from miles around, to see and buy some unique handmade wares. The show was a success for about a dozen years.
First annual Gingerbread House ContestSponsored by Promote Oxford Now (PON), the contest specifies that the gingerbread houses (buildings) or structures be on a sturdy base (such as wood or cardboard) no larger than 18" x 18". This is the only part that can be non-edible. The structure has to be 100% edible; gingerbread or graham crackers, and decorated with anything (edible) like gum drops, kisses, candies, cookies, etc).
Who can enter? There are four categories: Kids ages 12 and under; Teens ages 13-17 years; Families (with at least one adult and one child 12 and under); and Adults: 18 and over (no pre-made kits allowed in this category). The application form can be downloaded here (PDF)
All gingerbread entries must be delivered to Hoppie's (2 LaFayette Park) between 10 – 11 a.m. for judging on Sunday morning, December 1. Houses will be on display during the Festival of Lights for viewing and the People's Choice voting. The winning contestants will also have the proud distinction of having their names announced by the Honorable Mayor at the Holiday Festival of Lights. Place ribbons will be awarded.
Another fund-raiser, was a painting by Grant Dolge (from Tully, NY), which the group commissioned. It was of the Oxford "Pagoda" in Washington Park, and prints were sold. Tee-shirts with designs by local artists, were also sold to raise funds. The committee decided to create a permanent exhibit of fine works too. Over the years, a number of pieces were purchased from artists that participated in "Canal Days". They were donated for display, in public spaces, to demonstrate the talent that was here. (Later on, they were donated, with plaques, to the Oxford Library and the Historical Society.) The Revitalization Project was managed by a Board of Directors, which, over the years, consisted of many members of the community. It was eventually disbanded in 1996.
Some of the same people, and a few new business people, that were
interested in promoting Oxford knew that a new group needed forming.
It would have to be voluntary, and generate its own income. It
was then that Promote Oxford Now was created. PON, as it came to
be known, also attempted to bring in people to Oxford, to improve
local business, and beautify the town that they were already proud
of. They developed a (non-juried) craft and antiques fair, held
in LaFayette Park, which was called "Spring Fling". In
the early years, a hot air balloon kicked off the event at 6:00am!
Later, hundreds of people came to buy baskets, pillows, homemade
jams, antiques, and more. The Oxford Community Band played; there
was face painting; scarecrow building; bike rodeos; buggy rides;
and a great show and bird display by "The Raptor Project".
As desired, the town was bustling with people. Unfortunately, however,
the burden of organization fell on just a few individuals, and
it made the event difficult to continue.
A PON brochure was developed with advertising for all its business members. The brochure was distributed in shops and restaurants all over Chenango County. It was and is a big hit. Each year membership grew, as did the brochure. A list of the members was located on a website to help promote Oxford. The brochure grew into a quarter-fold, glossy edition. PON became established, and its name, and Oxford, has gained recognition. The business climate in Oxford has improved.
PON also develped a beautification plan. They assigned some of the funds for decorative annual plants. Profusely flowering hanging baskets, with dazzling blooms, make the center of town look something like a resort. Maintenance for the plants has been shared over the years by a variety of community members. In December, holiday decorations are put up in LaFayette Park. In the past, decorations would go on the evergreens, and wooden figures depicting a cheerful scene of Santa's workshop were displayed on LaFayette Park. Most recently, it's been a "Festival of Lights!" A tree lighting ceremony kicks off the season (the first Sunday following Thanksgiving), with everyone invited to sing carols, and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies afterwards. If anyone would like to place our poster for this event in their place of business, please use this linked PDF version.
On a grander scale, in 2001, PON members discussed and drew up
an overall, long-term proposal for the Village. Ideally, if funds
would permit, hiking trails, that loop around both East and West
sides of Route 12, would be created. Four trails have been proposed:
the "Healthy-Heart Trail"; the "Challenge Trail";
the "East Side Historic Loop" and the "West Side
The purposes of this effort were to provide for safe pedestrian movement for children using the schools and the outdoor athletic facilities in the Village; provide safe corridors for joggers, walkers and strollers, thus encouraging healthy habits and lifestyles among villagers; and to connect natural and historic features that reflect Oxford's sense of place.
One consideration was to redefine Route 12 into a "Village Main Street". A grand vista of sidewalks basically from South of the Village, nearly all the way to the North end of Route 12 by the Soccer Farm. This welcoming walkway could be planted with street trees, and set with pedestrian-scale street lamps lighting the way. It would make a greater area for shops and restaurants, encourage long holiday parades, and an area (safe) for strolling, shopping and lingering.
Another idea that came out of PON was to create a landmark: a Burr Truss Pedestrian Bridge to cross the Chenango River. Burr was an historic bridge truss designer/builder who lived in Oxford, NY. If it were possible to build, the proposed bridge would be a tribute to Theodore Burr, and it would attract fans of covered bridges, from all over.
Since the 2001 proposal, headway has been made on the "River Walk" trail by the Oxford Garden Club and the Headwaters Youth Conservation Corp. (directed by "The Place" in Norwich, NY). Slowly and steadily members of the community are making progress. It all started with a PON plan!
All of these ideas and improvements have come out of the members of PON. Anyone who is inspired to help and be a part of the promoting of Oxford may join. They will be included in the widely distributed brochure, receive the PON newsletter, be invited to PON meetings (where they will meet other concerned/involved members sharing enthusiastic ideas), as well as inclusion on this website. You can also be a "Friend" of PON - no business connection necessary - just support in any way possible (time/energy/suggestions). All contributions are gratefully accepted. This website was also conceived by a member of PON, Roy Petersen (of Woollybear Web).