Celebrating 50 Years of Sharing

By on April 9, 2019
50th years anniversary greeting card lettering template with balloon and confetti. Design for invitation card, banner, web, header and flyer. vector illustrator

Two stalwart organizations in the Greece community are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. The Greece Historical Society and Greece Performing Arts Society both have been providing information, opportunities and entertainment to the community for 50 years.

The Greece Historical Society

In 1969 the Greece Town Historian, Virginia Tomkiewicz, who was maintaining the historian’s office and records in her home, posted a notice in the library indicating that she was looking for individuals that would be interested in forming a historical society in Greece. That was the birth of the Greece Historical Society.

Since those early days the Greece Historical Society has grown in membership and in their relationship in the Greece community. 

The Greece Historical Society is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit educational institution that received their charter from the New York State Board of Regents in 1975. Their mission is, “To discover, research and preserve the history of the Town of Greece and to share that history with its residents and the local community through public programs, publications, museum exhibits, and accessibility to its archives and artifacts.”

Greece Historical Society President William Sauers.

Greece Historical Society President William Sauers.

In the early years the society considered several different locations to call home. In 1985 the Town of Greece offered the Greece Historical Society a Town owned house on English Road which they occupied for several years. When then Town Supervisor Don Riley realized an old house previously owned by former Greece Town Supervisor Gordon Howe was going to be demolished to make way for a new Wegmans, he arranged with Wegmans to donate the house to the Society and have it moved to a new location on land recently purchased by the Town of Greece. In 1988 the house was relocated and after 6,000 hours of work the Greece Historical Society opened at their new location. 

Within a few years the Greece Historical Society received a grant from New York State and with a community fund raising campaign and private donations a new exhibit hall was opened, The Newcomb Hall.

In 1999 the former Greece Town Hall was demolished and arrangements were made to remove the cupola from the building and the Greece Historical Society incorporated it into their new Historical Society sign.

Services provided by the Greece Historical Society include Free Public Programs, A Museum Gift and Book Shop, Exhibits and Special Events, Programs for Libraries, Senior Residents and Organizations, Publications, Archival Resources, and a Monthly Newsletter.

Current Greece Historical Society President William Sauers says many things have changed over the past 50 years. An active member of the society since 1998, and president since 2007, Sauers says, “When the Greece Historical Society first started out we were mainly an organization that dressed in old costumes and marched in parades and held events. Over the years we have established an archive, have held many exhibits in our museum exhibit space Newcomb Hall, and established the Tuesday Evening Lecture Series.”

The Greece Historical Society faces all the same challenges that other all volunteer organizations are facing. “It is really a big effort to keep the place going. We have a great need for volunteers. We rely on our volunteers to visit classrooms for presentations, staff the gift shop and give tours of the museum on Sundays. Our volunteers also manage our website and work in marketing and property administration,” he says.

A big part of the Greece Historical Society outreach is their Tuesday Evening Lecture Series. “The Tuesday Night speakers really started to get attendance up at our programs. We typically hold them at the Greece Public Library. We have also increased our presence and information sharing with our Facebook page. Social media has been important. We have over 850 followers which is really good for a small museum like ours,” Sauers says.

For their funding and support The Greece Historical Society relies on income from memberships, contributions from individuals, organizations and businesses, museum shop sales, grants and fundraising events. Their largest fundraiser is coming up on June 17, 2019. The Strawberry and Dessert Tasting Festival draws an average of 500 people each year. This year will be their 46th Annual Strawberry and Dessert Tasting Festival. Held on the grounds of the museum the event is more of a community picnic. It features strawberry shortcake prepared by Wegmans as well as an array of dessert tastings from area restaurants. There is also grilled food available and entertainment.

The Historical Society has recently taken on a college intern who is helping them with a computer inventory of all of their artifacts, something that will be available for use by the entire community.

For more information on the Greece Historical Society visit their website at www.greecehistoricalsociety.org.

Greece Performing Arts Society

Greece Performing Arts Society President Eric Vaughn Johnson.

Greece Performing Arts Society President Eric Vaughn Johnson.

Greece Performing Arts Society, an all-volunteer organization, held their first organizational meeting on May 1, 1969. The meeting consisted of 16 people that met at Olympia High School with the idea of coming up with a way of organizing community residents and performing groups into one society and bringing a broad range of artistic activities to Greece. 

Throughout 1969 and 1970 board members were elected, bylaws were adopted and plans were made for concerts. Ideas were discussed on how to bring new members into the society and how the society would be funded, all incorporation details were discussed and reviewed in great length. 

During the 1971-1972 season member groups totaled 165 persons and 20 concerts were performed to an estimated audience of 5,400 people. 

Over the decades the organization continued to grow with the same dedication to the concept of a society that provides opportunities for hundreds of community residents to grow as musicians and artists. The Greece Performing Arts Society currently consists of 400 performing and non-performing members incorporating all of the performing arts.  

The Greece Performing Arts Society provides opportunities for community performers, in all aspects of the performing arts, to have a creative outlet to express their talents. The society consists of six groups including the Choral Society, Community Orchestra, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Symphony Orchestra and Theatre Company.

Greece Performing Arts current Executive Board President is Eric Vaughn Johnson. Johnson, a critically-acclaimed and award-winning director, was appointed President in 2016. Johnson brought with him an expansive resume of work and experience in the performing arts as a director and performer. 

Johnson’s approach to leading Greece Performing Arts Society is to bring the society into their next chapter with re-branding, uniting the six groups in performance and achievements, a focus on bringing in younger members and creating additional educational programs for the performers of all ages. Johnson says, “Each group within the organization has their own purpose. I want to bring in educational programs for the performers so they can just enjoy what they are doing, enjoy the music and performance for what it is. It is important to have a platform for those performers that are doing it for pure enjoyment and also have opportunities for those that want to take their performance careers to another level.”

Johnson’s goal is to have all of the six groups under the Greece Performing Arts Society work together and perform together since they are all under one umbrella as a society. He acknowledges that change is hard and it takes time. “Change is always hard. It is important to decide as an organization what is best for each of the groups in the membership, what are their needs, and how we can help them to better succeed in their goals. We also listen to our audiences and encourage feedback and we take their feedback seriously. That is an important role of any organization that serves the community,” Johnson says.

Over the years the audiences for the Greece Performance Arts Society concerts have grown. Upcoming Events include Saturday Night Fever: Hits of the 1970s. This is a GPAS 50th Anniversary Special on Saturday, April 27th at Greece Arcadia High School. This concert features the Greece Choral Society, Community Orchestra, Concert Band and Jazz Band. The Greece Choral Society will hold their Spring Concert on May 19th at St. Charles Church. “Tale As Old As Time” Annual Summer Soiree will be held  on June 1st at Davinci’s of Greece. This is a very popular event and is always well attended by the community. Greece Concert Band has performances at various venues on June 2nd, June 9th, and June 23rd. Annual Holiday events include The Hoppin’ Holiday Bash Cabaret on November 8th; and Greece Concert Band performances on December 15 and December 17th.

In 2017 the Greece Performing Arts Society brought back their Young Artists Competition. In 2017 there were 10-15 kids that participated. In 2019 over 30 kids participated in the program. The young artists compete in vocal categories for scholarships and cash prizes. The Young Artists Competition will hold their recital on April 26th at Bruce Legacy Studios. The one night event will celebrate the award recipients from the 2019 Young Artists Competition. There will be additional performances by the ROC City Singers (under the direction of Judith Ranaletta) and other special guest performers. 

Greece Performing Arts Society is also about giving back to the community that so generously supports them. They hold a canned food drive and a coat drive during their holiday concerts. “We try to keep in mind that the organization is less about us and keep the focus on the community and their needs,” Johnson says.

As to the future of Greece Performing Arts Society Johnson says, “ Our goal as an organization is to make sure that all six groups in our society are happy and to support them in the best way we can. We are also focused on sustainability, how we can grow our membership and keep our loyal members active and ultimately to keep Greece Performing Arts Society going for the next 50 years.”

For more information on Greece Performing Arts Society visit www.greeceperformingarts.org.

Photos by Karen Fien

reenactors

An Equal Right to Act: Remembering the Rochester Woman’s Rights Convention of 1848. An original play performed March 12, 2019 as part of the GHS Tuesday Evening Lecture Series.

2017 GPAS Concert Performance

2017 GPAS Concert Performance

GPAS Good Vibrations: Hits of the 1960s concert.

GPAS Good Vibrations: Hits of the 1960s concert.

Greece Historical Society Museum.

Greece Historical Society Museum.