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Albion

Make-A-Wish builds playground for Albion girl, 2, fighting cancer

Photos by Tom Rivers: This group includes, from left: Bears Playgrounds supervising foreman James Macwhorter, Tyler Angarano from Bears, Jon Langfitt from Make-A-Wish, Beth Webb, Elaina Webb, Kyle Webb, Lori Lund from Make-A-Wish, and James Dersam from Bears.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 January 2017 at 7:46 pm
Elaina Webb is thrilled to head down the slide with her father, Kyle.

Elaina Webb is thrilled to head down the slide with her father, Kyle.

ALBION – A 2-year-old girl fighting cancer in Albion was beaming with joy today as a new playground took shape in her backyard. The Make-A-Wish Foundation worked with Bears Playgrounds in Lima to give Elaina Webb her wish.

“It’s incredible,” said Beth Webb, Elaina’s mother. “It’s great to see her smile.”

Elaina is fighting cancer. On Sunday, her family was asked by the Make-A-Wish Foundation what the organization could do for Elaina.

She is too sick to travel. The family wants to cherish their time together. Beth Webb suggested a playground for Elaina to have fun with her four siblings – 11-month-old twins, Elias and Wyatt, and 10-year-old twins, Colin and Keara.

Make-A-Wish sent an email to Bears Playgrounds in Lima on Sunday. By Monday, the company switched from what it was working on to make a playground for Elaina.

It put together many of the pieces at its shop in Lima. Today a crew of three arrived at 11 a.m. and had the entire playground, made with northern cider white logs, together by 4 p.m.

“This is the fastest wish we’ve granted,” said Jon Langfitt, a wish granter for Make-A-Wish.

Elaina Webb, 2 ½, is shown with her father Kyle Webb and older brother Colin after a new playground was opened at about 4 p.m. today in the family’s backyard on Herrick Street in Albion.

Elaina Webb, 2 ½, is shown with her father Kyle Webb and older brother Colin after a new playground was opened at about 4 p.m. today in the family’s backyard on Herrick Street in Albion.

Langfitt praised Bears Playgrounds for making it a reality.

“Our goal is to give them hope and strength,” said Lori Lund, a wish granter for Make-A-Wish. “It helps the family get through an ugly time.”

Kyle and Beth Webb snuggle with their daughter Elaina at “Elaina’s Tree Fort.”

Kyle and Beth Webb snuggle with their daughter Elaina at “Elaina’s Tree Fort.”

Elaina was a happy-go-lucky kid until getting a head cold last April. She then developed a lump in her sinus cavity that was pushing her left eye shut and also giving her a crooked nose.

Elaina’s parents, Kyle and Beth Webb, took her to the doctor and an MRI on May 11 confirmed Elaina had cancer – acute myeloid leukemia. She would receive three rounds of chemo which shrunk the lump by her nose.

On June 11, she was declared to be in remission, but the cancer was back on Sept. 2. Elaina would have a bone marrow transplant on Nov. 16 and her immune system quickly improved. However, she would have a relapse on Dec. 21, when a biopsy showed cancer was spreading into most of her bones.

She is currently on trial medication that is allowing her to stay home while she continues to receive treatments at Golisano Children’s Hospital, but doctors aren’t optimistic Elaina will get better.

The news has been devastating for the Webb family, who are focused on easing Elaina’s pain and allowing her to have quality time with loved ones.

Mrs. Webb appreciates the playground.

“She will have something fun to do with her siblings,” she said.

Elaina has a bowl a cereal before heading out to try the new playground. Her parents are Kyle and Beth Webb.

Elaina has a bowl a cereal before heading out to try the new playground. Her parents are Kyle and Beth Webb.

Mrs. Webb, 31, is well known in Albion. She taught dance for 10 years at Gotta Dance by Miss Amy. She now works for Woodroe Realty in Medina. She is currently on a sabbatical.

Her husband Kyle, 30, works as a driver for Foodlink, making deliveries in Monroe County. The couple has known each other since they were kids.

The Webbs attended a news conference on Jan. 6 at Golisano Children’s Hospital, encouraging people to donate blood. Beth and Kyle said frequent transfusions have been critical for their daughter.

A benefit concert is being planned for 3 p.m. on Feb. 18 at First Baptist Church in Albion. Gary Simboli, Marcy Downey, the high school select choruses and other performers are scheduled to be part of that event to assist the Webb family.

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All-Star Circus returns to Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 January 2017 at 10:58 pm

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Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Billy Martin’s Cole All-Star Circus returned to Albion this evening and its cast performed many daring feats inside the high school gym. This photo shows Jingxia Xue with a glass balancing routine that awed the crowd.

The circus was in Holley on Tuesday and has two shows (5 and 7:15 p.m.) in Medina on Friday at the middle school, and will be at Kendall 7 p.m. on Jan. 27. Click here to see the full schedule.

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This dog is dressed as Elsa from Frozen while the song, “Let It Go,” was played during the circus. Joanne Wilson & Her Little Stars featured several dogs in costume. Wilson trains dogs that are all rescues. She also makes the costumes.

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Wilson and one of her dogs enjoy the applause from the crowd.

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Roger Vaila is a long-time performer for Cole All-Star Circus. His comedic act this year includes a game of musical chairs with some audience participation. Alana Irvine, left, of Albion won the game.

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Chinese contortionist Ting Li performs an impressive feat by balancing five candelabras.

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At intermission, people could hold this large python. This group, from left, includes: Zoey Lathrop, Aleaah Vallejo, Gavin Smith, Aydin Vallejo and Lluliana Lopez, all of Albion.

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Gina Sidari of Albion isn’t afraid of the snake.

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Jingxia Xue Chinese did a foot juggling routine and balanced a table on one foot.

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Roger Vaila rides a unicycle while his daughter Violet stands on his shoulders.

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Albion town approved for bridge, highway truck grants

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 January 2017 at 11:17 am

ALBION – The Town of Albion has been approved for two state grants that will replace a small bridge on Clarendon Road and also pay $50,000 towards a new highway truck.

Highway Superintendent Michael Neidert said he was notified the state approved a $174,000 grant for the small bridge on Clarendon Road, just north of Holley Road. The bridge is about 14 feet long, Neidert said.

That funding is available through a $200 million bridge rehabilitation program announced last July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Neidert said the town will work with engineer Paul Chatfield to prepare bid specifications for the project, which is 100 percent state funded. Neidert said it could go out to contractors for bid possibly as soon as February. He expects construction would start after the school year and be done in the summer.

“It’s one of the main roads leading to the backside of the school,” Neidert said.

The town also has been approved for a $50,000 grant from State Sen. Robert Ortt through the State & Municipal Facilities Capital Program (SAM). Those funds will go towards the $80,000 cost to replace a single-axle truck.

That truck won’t have plow equipment but will be useful for many projects, Neidert said.

“It upgrades our equipment by replacing a truck from 1993,” he said.

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Public meetings planned for ‘Heritage Wind’ project in Barre

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 January 2017 at 9:24 am

Company opens office in downtown Albion

Photo by Tom Rivers: Apex Clean Energy has opened an office in Albion at 49 North Main St.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Apex Clean Energy has opened an office in Albion at 49 North Main St.

BARRE – Apex Clean Energy is inviting community members to open houses to learn more about a proposed 200-megawatt wind energy project in the Town of Barre.

Apex last year announced its plan for “Heritage Wind” in Barre. The project would include much of Barre, except a buffer area near Pine Hill Airport on the west side of town.

Heritage Wind has scheduled an open house for Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Barre Town Hall, 14317 West Barre Rd.

A second open house is planned for Saturday, Feb. 11, from 2 to 4  p.m. at the Heritage Wind Office, 49 North Main St. in Albion.

“Heritage Wind is still in the very early stages of project design and the pre-application stage of permitting. We just submitted our Public Involvement Program plan this past fall,” says Heritage Project Developer Ben Yazman. “We have enjoyed the dialogue now under way with stakeholders and are excited to open our new office in Albion.”

To see the Public Involvement Plan check the link on the NYS Department of Public Service by clicking here. That site also includes a map of the proposed project area.

Heritage Wind says the 200-megawatt project would provide about $1.6 million in payments to taxing jurisdictions in Barre each year over 30 years, “with additional indirect economic benefits greatly exceeding that number.”

The 200 megawatts is enough electricity for 53,000 homes, Apex said.

Heritage Wind invites the community to stop by the Albion office if there are questions about the project. Heritage Wind team members can be reached at 585-563-5137 or info@heritagewindpower.com. Office hours will be posted at www.heritagewindpower.com.

Apex Clean Energy also is working on Lighthouse Wind, a wind energy project in the towns of Yates and Somerset.

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Grantwriter secured $650K for Village of Albion in 2016

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2017 at 11:36 am
Photo by Tom Rivers: Scott Baker, owner of Park & Play in Cazenovia, installs new playground equipment at Bullard Park last June. A state grant from Sen. Rob Ortt for $50,000 paid for about half the cost of that equipment.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Scott Baker, owner of Park & Play in Cazenovia, installs new playground equipment at Bullard Park last June. A state grant from Sen. Rob Ortt for $50,000 paid for about half the cost of that equipment.

ALBION – The Village of Albion was awarded $649,629 in grants in 2016, which village officials said was a big turn on its investment in a grantwriter.

“Those are pretty good results,” Mayor Dean London said during Wednesday’s Village Board meeting.

The village in 2015 hired J O’Connell & Associates from Clarence at $34,000 annually to put together grant applications for the village.

The firm had five successful grant applications in 2016, highlighted by $499,605 from the state for improvements at Bullard Park, including a new splash pad, amphitheater and other upgrades.

Other successful grants included:

• $75,000 from the state “Local Initiatives Support Corporation” to address “zombie” properties – a remediation plan for vacant houses.

• $50,000 for Bullard Park from the State. Sen. Robert Ortt through the State and Municipal Facilities Program. Those funds covered about half the costs of the new playground at Bullard.

• $23,344 in a drinking water fluoridation grant through the State Department of Health.

• $1,500 from the Landmark Society of Western New York for study of the chapel at Mount Albion Cemetery.

J O’Connell & Associates submitted a report detailing the grant activity for 2016. The firm also noted a $500,000 grant from the state for Main Street improvements was denied. The village wants to pursue that funding again in 2017.

O’Connell also applied for a grant for a historic marker from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, but was denied in that request.

Other grant applications are pending, including a $267,110 request through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for pagers, and $2,000 from the Rochester Area Community Foundation towards a playground.

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Albion Village Board passes resolutions seeking more AIM funding, money for ‘hosting’ prisons

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2017 at 10:09 am

ALBION – The Village Board approved two resolutions on Wednesday seeking more state AIM funding and also money for hosting two prisons in the community.

The board voted after seeing the resolutions and issues detailed in the Orleans Hub. Click here to “Editorial: Increasing AIM funding would be big boost to poverty-stricken villages” and click here to see “Editorial: NY should give ‘prison towns’ funds for being hosts to sprawling sites with a negative stigma.”

The AIM issue, where New York gives $277 in aid per capita to city residents and only $7 to village and town residents, has vexed the village for several years.

The Albion Village Board has gone on the record previously seeking an end in disparity for Aid and Incentives to Municipalities.

Trustee Peter Sidari said AIM funds for Albion on par with the City of Salamanca’s AIM dollars would have a dramatic impact in Albion.

Albion and its 6,056 residents receive $38,811 in AIM funding. Salamanca in Cattaraugus County is nearly the same size with 5,815 people. Salamanca gets $928,131 in AIM funding.

“First thing we could do is lower the taxes, that’s the biggest thing,” Sidari said if the AIM funding for Albion was at Salamanca’s level.

Albion’s village tax rate of $17.66 per $1,000 of assessed property is one of the highest in the region despite the village reducing staff in recent years.

“We could build up different areas,” Sidari said. “But first and foremost is too allay some of the taxes.”

While the AIM disparity has raised the ire of many villages for years, the idea of a host community benefits package for a “prison town” seems to be a new concept. Albion is believed to be the first municipality to pass a resolution asking the Governor and State Legislature to provide revenue for communities with prisons.

Orleans Hub, in an editorial on Wednesday, suggested the state provide $1 each day per inmate for the host community.

Albion has two prisons with about 2,000 inmates total. If the state provided $1 per day for each inmate, in Albion that would add up to $730,000. Orleans Hub suggested divvying up that money using a typical PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) plan used by the Economic Development Agency. The EDA takes the tax rates from each municipality and calculates a pro-rated share of the money based on the rates.

With that formula, in Albion the town would get 10 percent of prison money, the county 20 percent, and the village and school district would each receive 35 percent. That would be about $73,000 for town, $146,000 for county and $255,500 each for both village and school district. (That would lower the village taxes by about 11 percent.)

State-wide, $1 per inmate per day would add up to about $20 million annually to be shared among the “prison towns.”

Communities with landfills, industrial-sized wind turbines and video gaming centers all receive financial compensation for having those facilities. (The communities with video gaming centers received $29.3 million from the state in 2016.)

The Albion Village Board is sending the resolutions to Gov. Cuomo, local members of the State Legislature and also the New York Conference of Mayors, hoping that group would take up the issues in its legislative committee.

Village Trustee Eileen Banker, chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve Hawley, abstained from voting on the resolutions, although she said she supports both proposals.

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2 Albion students advance in Legion oratorical contest

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 January 2017 at 10:14 pm

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Provided photo

ALBION – Two Albion students competed at an American Legion Oratorical district level competition on Sunday in Buffalo. Melissa Barnosky, left, came in second and Emily Blanchard won first place. Emily also won the Albion and Orleans County competitions.

Blanchard is a senior at Albion and Barnosky is a sophomore. They will next compete at the zone level competition on Feb. 11 in Mount Morris.

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Rocco Sidari remembered as dynamic leader for community, family

Provided photos from Sidari family: Rocco Sidari is pictured on Sept. 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. A memorial was placed by the American Legion in Albion, where Sidari was a long-time leader.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 January 2017 at 2:47 pm
Rocco and his wife Angeline are shown in this photo from early in their marriage. They had four sons, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. They met when Rocco was on furlough in North Dakota during World War II.

Rocco and his wife Angeline are shown in this photo from early in their marriage. They had four sons, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. They met when Rocco was on furlough in North Dakota during World War II.

ALBION – Rocco Sidari, a well-respected leader for the American Legion, insisted on excellence and service for the greater good, many of his friends in the Legion said on Tuesday, when Sidari was laid to rest following his death on Dec. 27 at age 95.

“He knew everybody,” said Ron Ayrault of Holley, who served in the Honor Guard at Sidari’s funeral. “He was well regarded and well respected. He was a book of knowledge when it came to the Legion.”

Sidari is believed to be the longest serving member of the Legion in Albion at 73 years. He served five years in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 1945 with the rank of staff sergeant.

Sidari would serve as commander of the Albion post, and was active in the county, district and state Legion activities.

He was in the Honor Guard until his early 90s, attending military funerals for many of his friends and others who served in the military.

He did some of the thankless tasks of the Legion, filing annual paperwork and keeping reams and reams of paper organized.

“He did a lot of the nitty, gritty,” said Phil Warne, past commander. “He kept everything, everything.”

Joe Gehl, a member of the Legion and Honor Guard, was always impressed that Sidari was impeccable in his appearance. It was another way Sidari wanted to show respect for veterans by looking his best.

“He was very specific,” Gehl said. “He wanted things done right.”

Rocco Sidari is pictured with his grandson Dominick Sidari when a Vietnam War memorial was dedicated in the mid-1990s outside the Albion Middle School.

Rocco Sidari is pictured with his grandson Dominick Sidari when a Vietnam War memorial was dedicated in the mid-1990s outside the Albion Middle School.

Gehl also knew Sidari from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, where Sidari was a faithful usher for Saturday Mass for a half century.

Frank Berger, a long-time Legion member form Medina, attended many Legion conventions with Sidari. Berger said Sidari was the glue that kept the Legion running in Albion.

“He was a heckuva good man,” Berger said on Tuesday. “You could always depend on him.”

Berger visited Sidari in early December when he was at the NYS Veterans Home in Batavia. Sidari was in good spirits and his usual talkative self, Berger said.

Rocco Sidari, center, was active in the Legion locally and state-wide. He was a member of the Legion in Albion for 73 years.

Rocco Sidari, center, was active in the Legion locally and state-wide. He was a member of the Legion in Albion for 73 years.

Rocco Sidari kept this copy of a newspaper from July 30, 1964 about his four sons – Edward, Rocco Jr., and twins Frank and Jerome – all serving in the Marines at the same time during the Vietnam War.

Rocco Sidari kept this copy of a newspaper from July 30, 1964 about his four sons – Edward, Rocco Jr., and twins Frank and Jerome – all serving in the Marines at the same time during the Vietnam War.

Legion members said they believed Sidari’s devotion to veterans stemmed from his service in World War II. Sidari was statewide and one of his duties was receiving the bodies of American soldiers. Warne said Sidari was forever impacted by that role.

His four sons also served in the Marines in the Vietnam War, which made Sidari even more committed to the Legion.

Sidari’s friend and family say he was a natural leader. They talk about his “presence,” how he commanded a room.

At 95, he was a patriarch of the many Sidaris on East State Street. The family has long been committed to community service. Rocco’s passion was the Legion, the Knights of Columbus and St. Joseph’s Church. His brother Frank was a long-time leader in local Boy Scouts and another brother Leonard was the coach for many years of the Sandstone Park youth baseball team.

Rocco didn’t let his many community activities keep him from his family.

“He was an amazing giver,” his granddaughter Stephanie Dinwiddie said. “People loved to be around him.”

Two of his grandsons, Rocky and Dominick Sidari, have followed the Sidari example of community service by being active with the Albion Fire Department.

Rocky Sidari joked it was tough growing on East State Street with so many friends and family close by. “You couldn’t get away with anything.”

His grandfather’s example inspired the family towards service, and also for respect for veterans.

Rocco Sidari was marching in the local parades with the Honor Guard until his late 80s.

He also attended Memorial Day events in Albion up until May 2015.

Memorial Day and Veterans Day – “those were like holy days for him,” Dominick said.

Dominick and Rocky said there grandfather could give “tough love,” letting people fail to build character and learn life lessons.

He also didn’t shy from salty language in making a point, unless his granddaughters were around. Rocco never swore around his granddaughters.

Dinwiddie, his granddaughter, used these words to describe her grandfather: “character, love and generosity of spirit.”

Rocco Sidari, third from right, worked he worked as an apprentice carpenter and graduated with journeyman status. From 1953 to 1979, Sidari was a leader in the Carpenters Union. From 1979 to 1986, he was the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New York State Council of Carpenters, a group with approximately 55,000 members. Rocco also acted many times as chairman of the negotiating committees for the Local Union, District Council and State Council. Sidari also was active in the Democratic Party locally for 40 years.

Rocco Sidari, third from right, worked as an apprentice carpenter and graduated with journeyman status. From 1953 to 1979, Sidari was a leader in the Carpenters Union. From 1979 to 1986, he was the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New York State Council of Carpenters, a group with approximately 55,000 members. Rocco also acted many times as chairman of the negotiating committees for the Local Union, District Council and State Council. Sidari also was active in the Democratic Party locally for 40 years.

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In training Santas, Charles W. Howard stressed a focus on children, community

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 24 December 2016 at 7:41 am
In this photo, the Santa is believed to be George Cond, who was trained as a Santa by Charles Howard and often portrayed Santa for Howard at Christmas Park in Albion. (Cond was inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame in July.)

In this photo, the Santa is believed to be George Cond, who was trained as a Santa by Charles Howard and often portrayed Santa for Howard at Christmas Park in Albion. (Cond was inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame in July.)

‘Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 2, Issue 52

ALBION – There is no better way to reflect upon the holiday season than to recall the story behind the foundation of the world’s first Santa Claus school established in Albion. Thankfully, the history of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School was recorded in 1966 in Charlie Howard’s own words before his passing on May 1st of that year.

Charlie Howard was hands on in running Christmas Park in Albion.

Charlie Howard was hands on in running Christmas Park in Albion.

As a young child, Howard enjoyed crafting toy furniture and wagons from wood, which friends and neighbors adored so much that they often gifted them to loved ones. His mother sewed a suit for him as a boy to play the role of Santa Claus as he was “a short fat boy.” Wearing a “false face,” his blue eyes were filled with joy but he felt the mask was “more frightening to children than his own.”

He always admired the store Santa, but was never able to work up the courage to do it himself. One year he visited the Merrill & Son Furniture Store at Albion and suggested that they hire him to play the role of Santa while making toys in the front window; he was quickly hired and paid $15 per week. Eventually he wrote to a store in Rochester seeking a similar position and was asked to visit for an interview. After traveling 35 miles outside of Albion, Howard arrived at the store dressed in his suit. The store owner took one look at him and asked “when can you start work?”; no questions asked.

Charlie was so terrified on his first day that he refused to exit the dressing room. When the store staff eventually forced him out, the smiling faces of hundreds of children melted those fears away and the day passed quickly. The journey from Albion to Rochester was a lengthy one, but convenient by way of the Falls Branch of the New York Central Railroad. He would awake at 4:00 a.m., complete his morning farm chores with the aid of a hired man, and his wife would drive him to Albion in time to catch the train.

It was after one particular interaction with a child that he fully realized the significance of Santa Claus. On that occasion, a little girl asked, “Santa, will you promise me something?” “What is it you want me to promise?” Howard responded. The child creeped in closer and whispered, “Will you promise me you will never shave?” At that point he understood that Santa meant a great deal to children, an interaction that led to a heightened curiosity about Santa Claus. He began to study, reading about his origins, and about who he was – he quickly realized that there was more to Santa than he had ever imagined.

It was in 1937 that he started the school, an event that made headline news. His first class consisted of one student, Frederick Wise, a welder from New Jersey who paid $15.00 for his tuition. The lack of response was disheartening at first but he was encouraged to raise tuition in an effort to increase the perceived value of the program. Gradually increasing the rate to $25.00, then $40.00, and finally $50.00, he witnessed an increase in enrollment each time.

“Santa originated in the home. It was best to keep him there,” was Howard’s reflection upon the establishment of the school. With no official schoolhouse or classroom, classes were held inside the family home located at the intersection of Gaines Basin Road and Route 31. As interest in the program increased, he enlisted the help of experts in various areas. Charlie Hood of Medina was respected as a great showman and so his assistance was helpful in that aspect of portraying Santa. Ed Butters of Coldwater, Michigan was an expert in reindeer, so he was brought in to assist with one of the most important aspects of the Santa experience.

During World War Two the shortage of men led to women attempting the role, but as Howard recalled this only worked if the woman had a “deep voice.” One woman had such a voice and was a huge hit until store patrons complained about Santa visiting the ladies’ room! Howard went as far as to try a mail order course, which failed miserably; the spirit instilled by Charlie was the most important part of the school experience.

He told store owners, “to have what it takes to be a good Santa, one must have it in his head and in his heart rather than under his belt…they could take care of that without effort.” From a young age, he realized that teaching the role of Santa was a great task and always viewed that task as a privilege. So important was this role, that Howard remarked, “Show me a store’s Santa or a community Santa and I’ll tell you exactly the kind of store or community it is.”

It is no surprise that Orleans County had the best Santa of all; the original.

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’Tis the season for holiday concerts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 December 2016 at 8:55 pm

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Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – It’s been busy at local school districts with holiday chorus and instrumental concerts. This evening, the Albion High School Band performed several holiday favorites under the direction of Michael Thaine, who also debuted a festive Christmas suit.

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The concert started with three songs by the Jazz Ensemble, and then four by the Symphonic Concert Band. The concert continued a tradition form the 1970s by ending with “Sleigh Ride.”

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Some of the students wore Santa hats for the concert finale.

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