GROTON — Lisa Austin of Locke has been bringing her kids, Breann and Brayden, to Groton Olde Home Days for years.
From the balloon animals on Main Street, to the tinfoil-wrapped Physics Bus on Conger Boulevard, they were keeping themselves quite entertained, she said.
Breann was playing with solar-powered toy insects while Brayden was trying to pump up a gizmo that pressurized a plastic bottle and blasted it high into the air.
Olde Home Day has been a fixture in Groton for more than a century. It was expanded to a three-day event in 2017 to attract more people. From Thursday to Saturday, people could partake in a list of activities from rides, shows and petting zoos.
For many people, it was about spending the day with people they know.
David Wickell of Ithaca, the driver of the silver bus, watched and encouraged the educational anarchy unfolding around him.
“We have a broad range of physical principles on display,” he said. All of the gizmos on the bus and set on tables around it were built basically out of junk to demonstrate a certain scientific concept.
“For the most part, we try to let the kids figure things out for themselves, without us spending too much time trying to explain things,” he said. The purpose, he said, was for kids to learn through discovery, and having fun — like blasting that old soda bottle as high they could.
Back on Main Street, Gavin Stevens, 11, of McLean, was waving his arm to get picked as an assistant by Joshua J. “Superstar” Edelman of Syracuse, a unicycling, joke-cracking juggler.
“We saw the show last year, so that’s how he knew what was going to happen,” said his mom, Tara Butler.
Gavin did his best to get Edelman’s attention, and succeeded. Soon he was up in front of the crowd, hamming it up in a cape and helmet to the theme of “Superman” as if he had practiced for the role, then riding on Edelman’s shoulders as he climbed up on his unicycle to laughter and applause from the audience.
Over in the American Legion building, the annual Groton Art Show was in progress, and visitors dropped in to check out the art, vote on it and offer to buy items. Best in Show went to Arlen Withy for “Driving Sheep to Upper Meadow.” Seventy-six artists submitted 109 works.
Also on Saturday, a new walking trail opened with an official ceremony at Groton Memorial Park.
“We have been working very hard on this trail system,” said Jennifer Jones, director of recreation for the village of Groton. That work has been going on for the past year and half, since Jones decided that Groton needed to follow in the footsteps of all its neighboring municipalities, all of which have trail systems.
She got to work with Scott Weeks, the recreation committee chairman, and resident Jeff Cronk. They secured two grants in 2018 from Tompkins County, $5,000 to the village of Groton and $3,000 to the town, and use both for the trail system.
Kiosks along the trail were built by shop students at Groton High School.
The 4.5-mile loop ranges through an elevation change of 900 feet, Cronk said. The trail starts at the park, heads uphill to Spring Road, then doubles back to Sovocool Hill Road, where it then connects up with an old trail system behind Groton High School, which volunteers helped clean up and improve.