The Finger Lakes are frozen right now --- and the movie, Frozen is up for an Oscar. 20 Feet from Stardom and Great Beauty are local critic, Jack Garner’s, picks for non-conventional best films. According to the reviews, there’s Gravity, a song called Let it Go – and a daring version of “Live and Let Die” performed by a newcomer – Lupita Nyong’o. So where are the parallels to tourism? Especially for those that know me – and know that I don’t watch many movies and generally have no idea what they are about? Well, it was an interesting newspaper read for me this morning in anticipation of the Oscars and I couldn’t help but think of my brief experiences with our international travel writers who were in to experience our Canandaigua and Finger Lakes winter this week.

Excuse the number of “puns intended” in the rest of this blog, but it’s the best way to show you the movies to Finger Lakes tourism parallels. I’ll even be bold about that and put them right there in caps so you can’t miss them!

On Friday, our special guests from Turkey, Naples, Italy, New York City and Argentina came to ski the Finger Lakes. They were prepared to let GRAVITY take them down Bristol Mountain, New York’s highest vertical outside of the Adirondacks. All sorts of skill levels were accommodated – lessons began, snowshoes or skis attached, and down they went – some on the easy slopes and some of those black diamonds! They loved it … GRAVITY had not only pulled them down the mountain – it had pulled them in to the merits of getting outside and playing in our Finger Lakes winter.

Our guest from Turkey could not ski – so David Lee in our office, took her to the highest point in Ontario County and let her click away at the camera. Her pictures of our “Jump Off” at the Ontario County Park were incredible. She, who had covered 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy had some serious credentials to judge both misery and beauty. Her sunrise pictures at the The Inn on the Lake further supported her claims that this area is eligible for an award for GREAT BEAUTY.

The GREAT BEAUTY comments continued as the group went into our purple laden village of Naples – from Brew and Brats to the doors at Bristol Valley Theatre to the trademark grape pie – and of course the wine. These were definitely a group of adventurers who had discovered the true meaning of LET IT GO! In the Finger Lakes that just means try everything (even if it is a purple gummy bear – or a new Black current based Port from Arbor Hill. Taste, savor and, yes, let it go!) Oh, and, many pictures (just like there will be tonight along the red carpet). The photo opp was the picture of the Welcome to Naples signs with the Red Cat Cellars cat for our divine guests from Italy. “Stop for the pictures!”, Gina and Angie, the residents of Naples, Italy asked. They could not LET (that opportunity) GO to show their friends back home, Naples, NY.

Our 2014 winter has been one of our coldest – most sustained cold, that is, in a while. As you drive along our lakes you can’t miss the analogy to FROZEN. Freezing of the lakes is obviously impacted by the depth and currents as well, so it’s a bit of a science for the daring souls you spot out there walking around and ice fishing on the frozen water. Well our brave spirits – having mastered both Bristol Mountain and purple pie were in a spirit of LIVE AND LET DIE. They wanted to go out on that lake and walk on water! I cautioned them that I felt very responsible for their well being and I did not want to fulfill the title of the other OSCAR nominated movie, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM. 20 feet out on (in) Canandaigua Lake is a whole lot different on July 4th than it is if they fell through that ice on March 1st. I could envision the headlines in tomorrow’s Democrat and Chronicle now. Instead of who won the Oscars (or had the worst use of puns in recent media history) it would be, “30 year Tourism Director Leads international Travel Writers to Icy Death.” Although we are always eager for media coverage of our area, I did not want to be 20 FEET FROM STARDOM with that story.

One of the things I have learned over the years, having been 12 Years a Slave to travel writers -- kidding, only kidding on that one (worst pun yet), is when travel writers get something in their heads, it is hard to let it go! Especially when it’s an experience like walking on water that one can’t just do “anytime, anywhere” My fear? That it was all going to come together in a disaster,. Rather like those “mixes of songs” that don’t quite work out. Would this walk on water combine all those Oscar nominated titles into one big mess or one big success?

My mind, needing to make a good judgement call raced.  When we“LET IT GO” to walk on the “FROZEN”, “GREAT BEAUTY” of Canandaigua Lake – because my guests were all about “LIVE AND LET DIE” experiences, would “GRAVITY” put me in the position that I would be just 20 FEET from STARDOM.?

I wanted to make them happy - they were our special guests, so the answer was that I should "LET IT GO." Even the most reluctant took their steps out onto the lake. One step – two steps – 20 feet out. They joked with each other about weight limits – especially after all the great wine and food they’d had in Naples and at the New York Wine and Culinary Center.

The good news – as this picture attests – we were all in the winner’s circle! Walking on water – check that off the list!

The Oscars will have new meaning for me tonight – those actors and actresses - how hard is their job, really? Me, I successfully got people to walk on water – and live to write about it later! Movies – schmoozies. Get out and enjoy our winter experiences in the Finger Lakes will be their headlines! That’s what I call really leading the red carpet life! Need more ideas. Check out our top ten winter ideas, as we lead you along the path of fun!

P.S. Disclaimer: I have nothing against movies – and as I usually tell people – I’ll save those for the days when I have to sit for three hours at a time`- and everything will be new to me. Think of the library I have ahead of me – playing alongside the great memories of things I got to do before I had to sit still! P.S.S. I will admit that I would love to meet Lupita Nyong’o after looking up her profile for this blog. Lupita – if you read this and want me to take you on a tour of the Finger Lakes in any season – please know that I’m here for you. In the meantime, good luck tonight!