OLCOTT – Gina Guido-Redden travels the world, but she always returns to Olcott. She is one of the area’s most enthusiastic backers.
As owner and managing partner of Coda Corp, an engineering consulting firm serving the pharmaceutical industry, Guido-Redden travels throughout North America and western Europe, but also has clients in the Middle East and China.
But Olcott will always have a special allure.
Lake Ontario, the Niagara River, the Erie Canal, the high quality of life and the willingness of local people to volunteer their time to make their communities better – these are a handful of the treasures she names.
“When you’re coming and going a lot, you recognize what your area has to offer,” she noted. “It really cements your love for home.”
Guido-Redden is chairing a new event created to shine a spotlight on Olcott and Newfane’s distinctive offerings slated for 6 to 9 p.m. March 10 in the Miller Hose Fire Hall, 6161 McKee St., Newfane. It will feature local wineries and restaurants, neighborhood businesses, area attractions and annual events, as well as community organizations.
The event is free to the public and to those wishing to set up a table or display and join the “Tourism and Staycation Expo,” Guido-Redden pointed out. You may secure a spot by calling her at 550-2579 by Tuesday, or Jane Voelpel at 628-4007 or Ann Schulze at 778-8090.
“We’re calling it ‘Newfane 365’ and we’re giving people four seasons of reasons to visit,” said Guido-Redden, who is heading up the event for the Tourism Board of Newfane.
“We want to appeal to people who might want to move here as well as residents who already live here and want to learn more,” she said. “Local restaurants will offer tastes from their menus for $2 to $5; wineries will offer free tastings but also sell their wine by the bottle; and some of the local merchants will be selling their goods.
“It’s also a chance for people to learn more about local organizations that they might want to join,” she added. “And, we’ll also have interactive tables for children organized by the Newfane Library and the Newfane High School senior senate. All of the signage for the event will be created by the high school art students.
“We don’t want people to just walk through and leave, we want them to stay and talk to their neighbors,” she said. “We want this to be three hours of mingling and we’re hoping to make it an annual event.”
Guido-Redden recently took some time from her very busy work and volunteer schedule to chat about one of her passions – the Newfane/Olcott area.
What’s your background?
I was born and raised in Olcott and graduated from Newfane High School. I went to Rochester Institute of Technology and got my bachelor’s, as well as my master’s degrees, in chemical engineering there. Then I lived in the Finger Lakes area but moved back to Olcott in 2004 when my dad became ill.
How did you get involved in the tourism movement here?
My parents, Bob and Sally Guido, have always been my role models. They were always very service oriented. Even as children – there were four of us – there wasn’t a weekend when we weren’t working on whatever our parents were working on – whether it was events for Boys Scouts, the Lions Club, or church. If there was a way to donate time, those two did it.
They also helped establish the Olcott Beach Carousel Park. My dad, who passed away this past October, painted all of those murals inside and my mom still does the gardening there.
My dad needed 24-hour care and they moved in with me and I remember my dad asking me, “Now that you’re home, what will you join? It’s time for you to do something for your community.”
What has traveling the world shown you about your hometown?
I think people take the lake, the river and canal, and the history here for granted. I remember visiting a little town in New Jersey and I waited something like four hours in line to buy a $25 ticket just to see a house where a president had had a wedding. And, this was the only historic site within about 40 miles.
We aren’t aware of how much history we have packed into this small area.
How do people capitalize on this?
I graduated from high school in 1985 and everyone left to go to college and work. I used to say New York’s leading export was its children.
But I have seen what has happened in Buffalo. I was living in the Finger Lakes and could see the change from a distance. I could see Buffalo rising.
I’m involved in things in Erie County as well as Niagara County. The real boom began in Erie County when small groups adopted local, historic treasures. It started with tiny efforts and people started to notice and neighborhoods started to connect with other neighborhoods and it turned whole neighborhoods around.
It takes that kind of grassroots effort. It can be very effective and I think that Niagara County is chock full of those kinds of people, too.
What are you involved with in Erie County?
I focus on industrial economic development. I mentor for the Women’s Business Center at Canisius College – I’ve been doing that about five years now. I also work with the Life Science Link. I was a founding member about 12 years ago and it’s a group of professionals trying to attract new life science businesses to the area.
What other groups are you involved with?
This is my third year chairing the Jazz Sea fundraiser (slated for Aug. 9) – it’s the single fundraiser for the Olcott Beach Carousel Park. Two years ago, the event raised 30 percent of the park’s operating expenses.
Last year, we raised 75 percent and the goal this year is 100 percent. Then we can look at expansion. Park President Rosemary Sansone has some great ideas for expansion, but we will keep the admission free and make sure the ride prices stay 25 cents.
I’ve also been recently appointed to the town’s Tourism Board and I’ve been very involved with #SaveENH (Eastern Niagara Hospital).
The Olcott Beach Carousel Park is run entirely by volunteers. What is it about the generosity of the Olcott/Newfane community and its volunteers?
Every time you go out and sell your idea, you grab more volunteers. I think there are people everywhere who want to get involved, but might not know how. I think one of the skill sets I bring to this is that by running my own business remotely, by telecommuting, you learn quickly to create meaningful-sized tasks that won’t stress anybody.
My husband, Eoin (Walsh) is from a town in Tipperary, Ireland, and it’s a community about the same size as Newfane.
Community is important to him. He’s involved in the Lions Club and on the Jazz Sea committee here – a ton of stuff. He loves it here.
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