BY: HOLLY C. BONAME
It’s an autumn day and the tables are set, the party tent is adorn with birch tree branches welcoming the guests to begin in celebration. But there is one guest who wasn’t invited; Mother Nature.
The landscape and scenery in northern New York is the perfect stage for spring, summer and fall weddings but there is always one element that cannot be controlled and that is the weather.
On October 22, family and friends gathered together at Lucky Star Ranch in Chaumont to celebrate the love and marriage of Elizabeth Wiley and Michael Netto. Guests arrived to the unique country venue, a 2,000-acre wildlife management facility with whitetail deer, red deer and pere david deer which includes a 100-acre private lake on the property. Staff at Lucky Star prepared the tent next to a pool area, where there is an outdoor bar, two fireplaces and several sitting areas with a lake view. The stage was set, but Mother Nature was ensuring the day would never be forgotten.
“The Farmer’s Almanac said dry, warm fall. So, I said let’s do it!” said Elizabeth Netto, bride and Cape Vincent native who knew exactly what could happen planning a wedding late in the fall. “People thought we were crazy planning a wedding in only six months, but I didn’t want to wait any longer and I’m happy we did it so quickly.”
The couple first met at Ives Hill Country Club, very briefly, in 2014. Mrs. Netto was talking with Michael’s parents and soon realized that the two had mutual friends.
“I thought it was weird we had never met before,” Mrs. Netto recalled. “He found me on Facebook, and we went to Goodfello’s on our first date, and the rest is history.”
After beginning their relationship in June 2014, Michael proposed in April of 2016 and soon after the couple was married in October- a quick engagement but a wedding they will never forget.
Both Elizabeth and Michael come from large families, Elizabeth’s from Cape Vincent and Michael’s from Watertown. The couple knew they wanted to have an outdoor wedding, specifically at Lucky Star Ranch which was the only venue they visited.
“The Wiley’s and Netto’s were wonderful to work with right from the very start, not just Mike and Elizabeth, but both extended families,” said Jenna Kraeger, events and marketing coordinator at Lucky Star Ranch. “We knew from the very beginning that October 22 was late in the season for an outdoor wedding. Mike and Elizabeth were optimistic from the get-go that no matter what the weather, they were going to have a great day.”
Leading up to the wedding both families prepared DIY decorations, food stations and goodies for their guests. From the Thursday prior to the wedding to the day of the event, the families decorated in their rain boots not forgetting a single detail from the birch trees that dressed the tent poles to the hot chocolate bar and endless dessert table.
“It takes a very special bride to be able to dance in their rain boots with a tied up, mud-lined wedding dress in nearly freezing temperatures,” Ms. Kraeger said.
And that’s exactly what the bride and the guests did. The weather that day was a chilly 42 degrees with northwest winds at approximately 15 mph and it was raining. The wedding party, which stayed at Lucky Star Ranch the night prior, began to get ready at the on-site cabins and remained in high spirits, as northern New Yorkers tend to do knowing that Mother Nature is always unpredictable.
It poured Thursday and into Friday, but Lucky Star Ranch had prepared the tent ensuring the tables and arrangements would remain dry. Mrs. Netto began to get nervous about the conditions early in the day, but according to Mr. Netto kept a positive attitude the entire time, realizing that there was nothing that could be done about it and that they were going to enjoy their special day no matter what the conditions.
“We weren’t fazed,” he said. “And Elizabeth didn’t complain once. Weather didn’t play a factor in it for us, it was going to be a great day.”
The rain caused the entrance of the tent to be muddy but still nothing the wedding party couldn’t handle. “Luckily, the guys put their heads together and built a bridge type entrance to the dance floor and everything worked out,” Mrs. Netto said.
The couple placed calls to their guests prior to the ceremony encouraging them to not wear their best dress shoes, but instead to bring their rain boots and warm jackets.
The Netto-Wiley wedding was nothing short of a spectacularly planned country wedding, with attention to details from the custom laser cut wooden coasters featuring the date and families’ names, to the embroidered blankets and gloves that would ensure the comfort of their guests.
“It all came together better than I had expected. Things were last minute, as they would be planning a wedding in six months, and we turned to Pinterest. We called family members for tree branches and all the little signs throughout the grounds were done by a local friend,” Mrs. Netto said.
Another thoughtfully planned custom addition to the weddings décor was a hot chocolate bar, ensuring guests were warm and toasty throughout the day. The bride’s mother came up with the idea, gathering supplies and the grandmother’s old cabinet to use as the table for the hot chocolate bar.
“My mom was all about the hot chocolate bar,” Mrs. Netto said. “I wasn’t convinced, saying it was a wedding and that it wouldn’t fit, but with the weather being cold and rainy it was one of the biggest hits among guests.”
While much of the wedding was DIY, Mrs. Netto said it was the thoughtfulness of Lucky Star Ranch’s staff that eased their minds leading up to the event.
“We offer on-site accommodations for the weekend of the wedding,” said Ms. Kraeger. “We have two lodges overlooking our private lake that are great to accommodate the wedding party or guests of the bride and groom’s choice. The Boar’s Head Lodge is complete with three bedrooms and accompanying bathrooms. We also have a room in the main Lodge to host smaller gatherings including the rehearsal dinner.”
With the cold weather nipping outside the tent Lucky Star Ranch worked diligently to keep guests not only cozy during their stay at the lodge, but also provided outdoor heaters, maintained the fire place throughout the evening and kept the hot water filled for the hot chocolate bar.
“Unfortunately weather is one thing we cannot control,” Ms. Kraeger said. “all you can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst, which is exactly what we did.”
It’s no secret that while you’re planning a wedding the photography is a major component to long-lasting memories and moments shared by guests and family members, captured and kept by the bride and groom to treasure their big day.
Many people, when they first start planning their wedding, research pricing and packages, but for Mr. and Mrs. Netto they knew who they had in mind from the start, Mary Madison Studios from Cape Vincent.
The local photography pair knew the Wiley family which added a level of calm to the couple. David Bonnie and Kathleen Trottier are experienced photographers and knew that the weather may play a big factor in the photography that day.
“It was fun for this one. It wasn’t the nicest day, it was rainy so we did a lot of prep work for this one,” Ms. Trottier said. “We prefer a much more candid approach, we don’t do a lot of planning – we usually show up shoot and capture the event as it’s happening.”
So the photographers turned to Pintrest according to Ms. Trottier. They looked up their favorite photographers and made plans to brave the elements and how to use Mother Nature’s uncertainty to their advantage.
“The willingness of our clients to get outside and brave the elements was astonishing, really,” Mr. Bonnie said. “A lot of times people will shun away from adverse weather like that, but the foliage blowing at the same time as the rain was a contrast to what we usually do. You wish for great weather but this was a bit different.”
As the bridesmaids began to get ready Ms. Trottier focused on shooting the intimate moments shared by the women as they prepared Mrs. Netto for her walk down the aisle and Mr. Bonnie focused on the men.
As the ceremony reached its conclusion it was time for family photos, and with two large families there was one specific shot that Mrs. Netto wanted to make sure they got, her grandparents at the family farm house in Cape Vincent.
“We talked with the photographers and decided that no matter what the weather we wanted to be at the family farm and I am so happy we did. It was cold, it was rainy but we went up there and the photos came out perfect,” Mrs. Netto said. “Having my grandparents be able to be in the photos was very special to me.”
And it is those photos that distinctly showcased the couples day, embracing the unpredictable autumn weather and beaming with love through the entire event. The images captured Mrs. Netto’s mud covered dress, while the women were in rain boots and winter coats.
Mr. and Mrs. Netto’s day could have been ruined by the unforeseen weather conditions, they could have spent the day under the tent staying warm, but instead as any Northern New York native couple would, they seized the day and wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Keep an open mind,” Mrs. Netto said. “If rain is going to ruin your day don’t plan an outdoor wedding because chances are it will rain.”
This week, all in the same day even, a trip to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds will enable you to interact with an exotic bird, ride a Sky Flyer, see a miniature stallion take a bow, watch a “brawl” while listening to “head-banging rock” and pick apart a jumbo sticky bun.
The Jefferson County Fair — the oldest continually running fair in the nation — has descended on the city for its 197th running Tuesday through Sunday off Coffeen Street.
“Every year it’s a combination of new and the same,” said Robert D. Simpson, fair president. “We’re going to have a good fair,” he said as setup kicked into high gear over the weekend, noting he hopes as many as 55,000 people attend.
One new attraction this year is the “Horses, Horses, Horses” show by Sarasota, Fla.-based performer Lisa A. Dufresne, which features 12 miniature stallions, a Friesian from Holland and a black Arabian performing a variety of stunts. Ms. Dufresne’s horses have traversed the U.S. and have performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, her website says. The show, free with admission, runs at 3, 5 and 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve been trying to get it for several years,” Mr. Simpson said of the act. “We were finally able to book it this year.”
Ms. Dufresne said the 30- to 35-minute “variety show of horses” features five or six different acts. “It’s quite entertaining for everyone — adults and children alike,” she said Sunday.
Also new this year is “Westy’s Birds of Prey,” an interactive show of exotic birds with master falconer Rick West, of Adams.
A new non-animal-related attraction is “Brawlapalooza,” “a rock and rumble event” set for 6 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 to the show, which features seven mixed martial arts bouts and three bands — My Poor Brain, a tribute to the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Co-Pilots, a tribute to STP, and Wrapped in Noir.
Mr. Simpson said the popular demolition derbies will return at 7 p.m. Thursday and at 3 p.m. Sunday. A 2CW wrestling event returns at 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15.
As always, livestock and 4-H events will feature prominently. New this year is an open-carrier rabbit show on Sunday, which could draw as many as 300 well-groomed rabbits, many from out of the area, said Beth Shelmidine, first vice president of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society.
“We have a lot of competitions for everything from cattle to sheep and goats and chickens and rabbits,” she said.
This year’s rides also are a combination of traditional and novel. The Orbiter, a popular ride that Mr. Simpson said has been gone from the fair for some time, will return. The Wild Claw, the Sky Flyer and the Super Himalaya also will be featured, and a ride called Zero Gravity is new this year.
Other attractions include a roving balloon artist, daily contests and an array of traditional fair cuisine, including a new vendor, Mr. Sticky’s Sticky Buns.
On Sunday, as multicolored neon tents billowed under pristine blue skies, Lauren M. Clark, who will turn 14 on the first day of the fair, and her father were giving a fresh coat of white paint to their wooden animal pens, which will house two llamas and two meat goats. She said it will be her fifth year attending the fair with her animals, but only her second with goats, and this year she’s bringing a 4-month-old baby goat. “I will be breeding it,” she said. She added that she enjoys the livestock shows for children at night, and works at the dairy bar during the fair.
Under another yellow-and-white tent, Jason and Holly Schell, of Schell Farms, Philadelphia, were painstakingly hammering the letters of the sign for their booth, which will be staffed by their two daughters, Cassidy, 14, and Macie, 20.
“They do pretty much all of the work taking care of the animals the whole week,” Mrs. Schell said. In its fourth year attending, the farm is bringing 10 cows of various ages.
She said her daughters enjoy the numerous 4-H and FFA activities, such as a “milk-off” competition. “They have a blast,” she said.
Not to be outdone, food vendors on Sunday assembled in prime spots to attract hungry patrons. Smokey’s BBQ, Chaumont, was readying its trailer and smoker. “It’s a good fair,” owner George A. Day said. “It gets better and better every year.”
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.jeffcofair.org.
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