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      Businesses hoping Central New Yorkers do their holiday shopping close to home

      As shoppers sampled cheese, turkey, bread and wine at Benjamin's on Franklin in downtown Syracuse on Monday, they knew the food was fresh and locally produced. Syracuse First put on the "Buy Local" event to remind people of the products that are grown or produced right here in Central New York instead of shipped halfway around the world.

      "I like to help the community and I like knowing where it's coming from," said Therese Reagan as she toured the event with her daughter Gia. "I like to know where things are being grown, be able to talk to the people selling products."

      While many shoppers like the fresh tastes, they also appreciated that when shoppers buy from a local vendor - more of that money stays in the community.

      "We focus on direct to farm sales. people order from us and we deliver right to them. We invite people to the farm several times a year," said Jess Maggi from Grindstone Farm in Fulton.

      For organizers, the night was bittersweet. Syracuse First executive director Chris Fowler said no one would have enjoyed the event more than Linda "Sparky" Mortimer, the owner of Sparky Town restaurant. Mortimer helped organize the showcase but passed away Sunday night. Fowler said the evening was a tribute to her.

      "Everything she did with sincerity, and was her personality. Every bite of food, to every shake of her hand, nothing was false. She's an amazing woman," said Fowler.