WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Lack of Snow Can't Stop North Seneca Rail Jam

Mar 5, 2016

On the edge of downtown Geneva, next door to Beef & Brew, a winter tradition is taking shape. A team of volunteers is putting the finishing touches on the 5th Annual North Seneca Rail Jam. It’s a snowboarding competition organized each year by Joe Marone, the owner of the restaurant Joe’s Hots. A year after he opened his business, one of his customers suggested the event.

Todd Taylor and Joe Marone prepare for the 5th Annual North Seneca Rail Jam
Credit Joe Marone

“It’s for the community. It’s for the kids that ride at Bristol every Saturday, every Sunday or whenever they get lucky enough to get to the mountain. They don’t ever really get to show their parents what they do. It’s not like playing a conventional sport like baseball or football, there’s nothing wrong with them you build character and all that jazz. You don’t get to show your parents what you do unless they’re on the mountain with you. Sometimes you’re not with your parents, you’re with your buddies, and they’re off maybe on another trail or this or that. Or show your girlfriend’s parents what you can do, show her Dad that this is a sport, you are an athlete, this is an art.”

For weeks, Joe has changed his walk to work to pass by the hill on Main Street and envision what is to come. He also enjoys the reactions of people passing by the empty lot as it’s transformed.

“The looks of people, especially the looks of people who have no idea what’s going on. Their look of just complete, I guess, confusion. Right now there’s a giant rail in the middle of a pile of snow. A melting pile of salt-infested snow right now, you know?”

And the snow, or rather the lack of snow, has been an issue this year. But, it’s not the only issue. Originally, this season, Joe was discouraged about doing it at all.

“With the birth of my beautiful daughter and my store going into its sixth year. You know, it’s tough. I almost canceled it out of stress and it’s a lot of work for a small handful of people. But, it’s a must for Geneva. I feel that it just had to happen. We haven’t had winter this year a lot of people just haven’t had winter. The ski resorts are hurting. We haven’t had winter in Geneva and I figured, shoot, we might as well have one day at least, right?”

Joe also had help from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, which provided interns who are working to organize the event’s after party.

"They reached out to me because they knew the event and they have a couple of kids who work here, Tyler and Chris. They’ve been important. They’ve been huge. They’ve been really awesome. They’ve made this after party now a complete other event added to it. That is where my mind is going with the expansion of the event. Adding more events to it, so that the individual snowboarding aspect of it doesn’t grow, but I guess the outer layers of the onion will. That’s the idea, to have it grow without any more real work for me, but will benefit Geneva."

The 5th Annual North Seneca Rail Jam kicks off on South Main Street in downtown Geneva Saturday at 1 o’clock with the competition starting at 4:30. The after party featuring Amani White is in the Odd Fellows Lodge on Castle Street at 9. Tickets to the after party are available at Joe’s Hots and Kashong Creek Craft Cider.