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B'ville's big election BBQ '24

Mercer Park on the Seneca River in the Village of Baldwinsville is a lovely little spot this time of year. One of these crisp, fall mornings, grab a cup of coffee and stroll down there. You can watch the ducks cavorting in the water or gaze at the colors of the leaves across the water in Riverview Cemetery. It's a rare chunk of peace and quiet tucked away from a world way too busy to sit still for ducks or leaves. Of course, as a municipal park, it's not always so calm. Come July, when the good people of the Rotary Club host the annual Seneca River Days, the park emerges as the local hot spot with food, games and fun for folks of all ages. But, even at its busiest, the Mercer Park of today can't rival the time when 2,500 people descended on this two and one-half acre plot at the corner of Charlotte and North streets for the Big Election Barbecue of 1924.

Like this year, 1924 was an election year. Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding's incumbent Republican vice-president was running for president against the Democratic candidate, John Davis, and the Progressive candidate, Robert LaFollette. There was also a New York State gubernatorial race that year, and incumbent Democrat Alfred E. Smith, who would become the 1928 Democratic candidate for president, was running against the son of an American icon. His name was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and he was the eldest son of the legendary two-term president, who died in 1919. Teddy, Jr., was clearly following in the footsteps of his famous father. Like his father before him, he was an Assistant Navy Secretary and war hero (for which he was forever known as the "Colonel"), who was pursuing the highest office in the Empire State.

Following the national Republican convention in June, the 1924 gubernatorial race in New York State had been hotly contested all summer. So, Colonel Roosevelt decided to make one last swing through his Republican stronghold of upstate New York to solidify his base. The Colonel's strong support for the barge canal system here, "one of the greatest works of engineering in the world," was warmly received in mid-October by the people to whom he spoke in canal towns like Brockport and Lockport. Likewise, the people of Oswego County were heartened by his pledge to deepen the Oswego Harbor, so that the Oswego Canal could capture the commercial value of Great Lakes grain shipments, instead of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River. And farmers throughout upstate New York rallied to the Colonel's call to leverage the barge canal's potential to create new channels of distribution and marketing for their produce and livestock.

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