Weekly Feature



2015-12-09 / Lifestyles

Cookie party passes test of time

Reporter
EMILY FARACCA

If you drive down Bank Street in Clarence on a certain Friday in early December, you will inevitably see women of all ages leaving their homes with arms full of cookies.

Since 1955, residents of the street have gathered once a year to exchange homemade cookies, play holiday games and engage with their neighbors around Christmastime. Many attendees see it as a launch into the holiday season.

The gathering is hosted at the home of a different Bank Street resident each year, with attendance ranging between 10 and 15 women.

The exchange was proposed by Annette Raft, who borrowed the idea from a friend. Raft saw and appreciated the amiable nature of Bank Street, which then encompassed only 15 homes, and now includes over 40.

The street’s current residents still use the tradition as a way to reconnect with old neighbors and meet new ones.


Preparing for the 2015 Bank Street cookie party are, from left, Ardis Drake, Lynne Trigilio, Pauline Janish and Laurel Paine. This year is the 60th anniversary of the neighborhood tradition. 
Photos by Jim Smerecak. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Preparing for the 2015 Bank Street cookie party are, from left, Ardis Drake, Lynne Trigilio, Pauline Janish and Laurel Paine. This year is the 60th anniversary of the neighborhood tradition. Photos by Jim Smerecak. Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com “The whole idea was to encourage a community that has always been very friendly,” said Ardis Drake, a second generation Bank Street resident. Drake grew up on the street and has attended the party since it began. She recalled the friendliness of the street’s residents then, including many closely knit families with children, and now having grown into an even larger community. Drake reminisced about the tradition in its earliest stages as a simple cookie exchange. It has now evolved into recipe exchanges; Angel Bingo, a holiday twist on regular bingo, featuring Christmas keywords instead of numbers; and a gift exchange.

Participants bring four dozen cookies to share and an empty tin. They take four of each cookie variety to bring home and then pool the remaining cookies, brew coffee and enjoy the company of their fellow residents.


Ethnic and traditional cookies are always on the menu at the Bank Street cookie party. Ethnic and traditional cookies are always on the menu at the Bank Street cookie party. This year, on the 60th anniversary, Lynne Trigilio hosted the party. Trigilio has lived on the street and attended the party for 26 years. One of her favorite parts of the tradition is the beginning of the party, when the women gather in a circle and share their street address, and if it applies, who lived in the house before them.

“Cookie exchanges may be a common tradition, but I’ve never seen anything like ours,” said Trigilio.

Her speciality cookie is pizzelles, but she also enjoys sampling from the ethnic and traditional varieties brought each year, ranging from Polish to Italian. The cookie recipe is always exchanged along with the cookies, and Trigilio hopes to one day compile a comprehensive recipe book spanning the years, not only for Bank Street residents, but also possibly a larger audience. It would highlight ethnic favorites such as cuccidati and kolaczki, as well as classic gingerbread and cutouts.

“My kids always looked forward to the party because they knew I would come home with a tin full of cookies,” Drake laughed. “Now that my kids are out of the house, my husband and I get first dibs.”

The cookie tradition has not only withstood years, but also a spectrum of winter weather. Even blizzards and power outages cannot keep the women from making their way to the host home.

Pauline Janish, a Bank Street resident who has attended the party for 41 years, recalled a year the snow was particularly threatening. Most guests typically walk to the party, but one of the older residents, determined not to miss the gathering, rode over on a snowmobile to avoid walking through the deep snow.

“Come rain, sleet or snow, the party has never been postponed because of weather,” said Janish. There was an instance when the exchange fell on the night of a menacing storm, resulting in a power outage. Huddled around dimly lit candles, the women carried on with the exchange, creating a fond memory.

“A lot of people barely know their neighbors,” said Janish. “The cookie party is a way for all of us on Bank Street to catch up on what has changed over the course of a year and get ahead of the curve on baking holiday cookies at the same time.”

The warmth of the holiday season is apparent on Bank

Street. If you are lucky enough to run into a resident before the night of the party, you may even receive an invitation to the party yourself.

“If you look outside your window around 7 o’clock the night of the party, you will start to see the ladies walking out their doors, and you’ll know they are heading to the party,” said Janish. “It’s a unique tradition and something to look forward to.”

The cookies will undoubtedly disappear quickly from each home, but it is the lasting memories that have made the Bank Street cookie party an engrained and celebrated tradition, one sure to continue for years to come.

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