Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

“Winter in Canandaigua” Launches Initiative to Change Mindset of Summer Tourists

Editors’ Note: LOCATE Finger Lakes is proud to showcase the Winter in Canandaigua initiative and advise you about the exciting Finger Lakes Winter Carnival happening this weekend, March 18-20 throughout Canandaigua, NY. As an economic development initiative in the Finger Lakes, LOCATE is very pleased to see efforts like this directed at celebrating our region’s assets.

How do you turn a seasonal destination spot into a year-round draw for tourists? Just ask Christopher Pulito.

The new general manager of The Lake House on Canandaigua and former general manager of The Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid believes it’s all about changing mindsets. That’s what he did in Lake Placid. Now, he and a group of like-minded economic development and tourism leaders are using creativity, collaboration, and celebration to launch an ongoing multi-year initiative called Winter in Canandaigua.

“Our goal is to do for Canandaigua what Lake Placid was able to do, but in reverse. There we turned winter tourists into summer visitors. In Canandaigua, we are turning summer visitors into winter tourists,” says Pulito, the creative force behind the idea. “What makes our effort special is not only the wealth of existing opportunities for year-round tourism we already have here, but the wealth of organizations who are dedicated to collaborating for success.”

The fun starts March 18-20 with the inaugural three-day Finger Lakes Winter Carnival at The Lake House on Canandaigua Event Barn and throughout downtown Canandaigua. Day One is “Shop the Finger Lakes” featuring goods and services from local shops. “Sip the Finger Lakes,” on Day Two, promotes breweries, wineries, cider houses, and distilleries. Day Three is “Taste the Finger Lakes,” where restaurants and bars invite visitors to sample their fare.

The Finger Lakes Winter Carnival is the first event in a year-round celebration of winter and offers promotions and specials each day along with family-friendly activities. Special happenings include ice bars, themed ice sculptures, live music, lakefront fire pits, and Friday night fireworks over Canandaigua Lake. One hundred percent of proceeds from the $10 per day admission charge go to United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes.

The ”philanthropic hero” of the initiative is the Sands family, who was responsible for re-imagining Canandaigua’s former Inn on the Lake into The Lake House, as well as transforming Canandaigua Wine Company into Constellation Brands. The family, including Constellation Board Chairman Richard Sands has an unwavering commitment to the Finger Lakes. The Sands and The Lake House are the major underwriters of Winter in Canandaigua and the Finger Lakes Winter Carnival.

Small businesses in and around the Canandaigua region are also significantly contributing time, energy and assets to this initiative including Bristol Mountain Ski Resoirt and Young Lion Brewing Company. “Bristol Mountain is considered the premier winter resort in the Finger Lakes, and we’re very excited to be hosting the 2022 East Coast Junior Freestyle Championships the same weekend as the Finger Lakes Winter Carnival. The visitors coming to town for the event will have a great opportunity to celebrate winter in the Finger Lakes,” says Steven Fuller, Bristol Mountain Vice President. “Being part of this effort is great for our business and the community at large.”

His sentiments are echoed by Jennifer Newman, CEO and co-owner of Young Lion, an award winning, community-focused brewery on the north shore of Canandaigua Lake. “We never stop brewing, but we see a drop in visitors in winter months. The opportunity to change the mindset of tourists to see the Finger Lakes as a place to visit year-round is something our company will actively promote. There’s simply too much great food and spirits for visitors to miss out on if they only visit part of the year. We want them to return often.”

Several organizations who support business development efforts in the Finger Lakes are also actively involved in Winter in Canandaigua including the Ontario County Chamber of Commerce, Canandaigua BID, and Finger Lakes Visitors Connection.

“Committing to #WinterInCanandaigua was easy for us! Our focus is to magnify our members’ investment across the region, and engage local and traveling consumers, every day of the year,” says Ethan Fogg, president and CEO of the Ontario County Chamber of Commerce. “This thoughtful, multi-year plan, will bring more people, more resources and more opportunities to the Finger Lakes during a time of year when we need them most. It’s brilliant!”

“We are thrilled to partner in this opportunity to give visitors and locals another reason to come out to explore our Beautiful Community. Our Historic District has a delightful mix of more than 100 independent businesses offering everything from Shopping for one-of-a-kind gifts, Dining at our incredible selection of restaurants or Experiencing strolls thru Art & History trails, Art galleries and Brewery tastings. Winter in Canandaigua offers the opportunity for all to showcase what they have to offer year-round,” adds Denise Chaapel, downtown manager for Canandaigua BID.

Valerie Knoblauch, president of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, concludes with a final thought about tourism and economic development. “Tourism is the lifeblood of the Finger Lakes with multi-billions of tourist dollars brought in by the millions of people who visit our destinations yearly. Encouraging new visitors as well as returning visitors during ALL our remarkable seasons will make a big difference as we grow our year round appeal and profile. It’s all about connecting with people in ways that opens minds to new things to do in Canandaigua and the entire area; encouraging our residents and our visitors to get out and enjoy the seasons and the unique FLX experiences no matter what the weather brings.”

Learn more about the Finger Lakes Winter Carnival at

Maureen Ballatori is a LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal contributing writer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. She is the founder and CEO of 29 Design Studio, a creative agency for food, beverage, and agriculture brands. Ballatori also owns Metro Collective which helps Upstate NY shared space operators activate their workspaces.

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