SOUTH BRISTOL, NY – Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, the official tourism promotion agency for Ontario County, honored long-time winemaker, board member, mentor and friend – John H. Brahm III – on Thursday, September 12 at Carolobarb Park in South Bristol. At the celebration, Finger Lakes Visitors Connection President and CEO Valerie Knoblauch, in cooperation with Town of South Bristol, dedicated the installation of a high-powered viewfinder at the County Road 12 Overlook at Carolobarb Park.
Brahm, the "winemaster" and owner of Arbor Hill Grapery and Winery in South Bristol, passed away in March at the age of 76. His family, who remains active in the tourism industry, was also honored at the celebration.
“In 1999, John led the tourism agency in obtaining land for the scenic pull-off. Eventually, he would work with the Town of South Bristol and Odell Scott to blend this pull off as part of Carolobarb Park which opened in 2004,” said Dan Marshall, Ontario County Board supervisor for the Town of South Bristol. “The beautiful thing about it is that the property has a Finger Lakes Land Trust conservation easement so that it will never be developed. It’s going to stay this way forever.”
Finger Lakes Visitors Connection went on to win the Travel Industry of America’s Destiny Award for special projects in 1999 for its work preserving the overlook spot.
Berkeley Young, a tourism strategist for over 30 years, remembers meeting John years ago when he first came to the Finger Lakes to help find a path for increased visitation and more visitors.
“I have found in my 30 years of working around the country that there are different types of leaders. There are leaders who can tell you what’s wrong, and there are leaders who can tell what’s right. John was the leader that could always find a better way to move forward, so I think it’s significant to dedicate a viewfinder to John because he was always looking for a better view,” said Young.
Brahm served in leadership roles at Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, most notably as a member of the tourism office’s Board of Directors for 25 years. He was a founding board member of the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail and more recently, the Rochester/Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Trail. He was also a volunteer on the Ontario County Industrial Development Association for 10 years, serving as board chair of that organization.
“John was all about elevating the visitor experience, and today we are thrilled to unveil something we think fits John’s beliefs and passion. You can’t deny the beauty of the overlook – reds, oranges and yellows in the fall; the bright, crispness of the winter; the scenery coming alive in the spring, and the beauty of the activity in the summer, it’s no wonder folks come from miles and states around just to see our natural beauty,” said Knoblauch. “It truly is both a masterpiece of nature and art.”
John French, son-in-law of Brahm, spoke on behalf of the Brahm family, including Brahm’s wife, Katie, and their daughter, Sherry.
“One-hundred and ninety-four days ago, John unexpectedly passed, and I can safely say that while he was alive, I never fully appreciated the breadth of his vision and impact on the world in which we live. Katie, Sherry and I are immersed in constant reminders of John and rarely are there days when our emotions are not pushed to the point of us getting misty or possibly even shedding tears. His absence continues to be a challenge, but I’ve found ways to find those silver linings. I would ask you to look at his passing in a similar light. If at no other time that when you pass the overlook or stop by to take a longer look at the scenic view,” said French.
Russ Kenyon, Finger Lakes Visitors Connection board member, spoke of knowing the Brahm family for over 35 years. He reflected on the proper way to savor a sip of wine – taught to him by Brahm years ago – as he invited the crowd of over 100 to raise a glass to John.
“This is my number-one memory of John,” he said.
Knoblauch said she thought the technical aspects of the viewfinder – it has a 360° rotation viewing head, a 20-time power binocular, and waterproof optics – sounded like super powers, or the traits of a super hero.
“Many super hero characters display the following traits: extraordinary powers or abilities, exceptional skills, superhero strength, the ability to fly and a projection of energy bolts all are common,” she said. “Every time you come here and look through the viewfinder, you’ll remember one of our superheroes of tourism.”