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Medina band brings home several 1sts in NJ Parks Festival

Posted 23 May 2017 at 3:02 pm

Press Release, Medina Mustang Band

Provided photo: The Medina Mustang Band traveled to New York City and New Jersey to perform in competition in the Music in the Parks Festival in Jackson, NJ.

This festival was started in 1981 and is a day-long event for students of choral, orchestral and band ensembles, held annually across the US. Music groups perform before adjudicators who rate the ensemble and then awards are issued at the end of the day.

There are many different categories in the Parks Festival, such as band, orchestra and choir. Each of these has a high school and junior high category. In parade, Medina won 1st place with a Superior rating and a score of 97.  In Concert, they won 1st place with a Superior rating and a score of 95.5, competing against six other bands which came from larger schools.  The jazz  band took 1st place with a Superior rating and a score of 94.  They competed against five other bands which also came from bigger schools.

Jim Steele, Medina band director, said the students did a great job in their performances. In addition to the competitions, the students and chaperones went sight-seeing around Midtown, took a boat tour around Manhattan and attended performances of “Wicked” and “Miss Saigon”.  The chaperones are also to be commended for all of their diligence in keeping everyone on track with their busy schedule.

The next opportunity for the community to see the band perform their street show will be the Memorial Day parade on May 29th in Medina.

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Citizens seek to restore historic memorial in Medina

Provided photos: A "cannon" at State Street Park is actually British Heavy Field Gun. It is in need of rehabilitation.

Posted 21 May 2017 at 9:49 pm

Rare British artillery piece in need of rehabilitation

Press Release, Village of Medina Waterfront Development Committee

MEDINA – The day was October 3, 1935. About 300 persons gathered in what was then known as City Park to remember friends and family who served in the Great War. A cold rain fell on the crowd that day as an airplane dropped roses on the ceremony from above.

A monument had been erected through the efforts of local veterans and businessmen – a British artillery piece with a distinguished history of service on the Western Front had been procured and was prominently placed at the corner of the park.

A bronze tablet at the site bears the inscription: Erected by the James P. Clark Post of the American Legion in memory of those who lost their lives in the World War.

Every Memorial Day for over 80 years, citizens and veterans gather by the dozens at the World War I Memorial in State Street Park to remember in solemn ceremony.

Today, 80 years later, the centerpiece of this memorial is in dire need of rehabilitation and a local committee is spearheading that project.

Recently, the Village Board authorized the Village of Medina Waterfront Development Committee. The group has been meeting regularly to assess community assets along Medina’s considerable waterfront, and establish a comprehensive plan for development along the entire length within the village. The committee is chaired by Kathy Blackburn and draws its members from the village Planning Board, local businesses and organizations.

State Street Park, along with the World War I memorial, is included in that waterfront area.

“This site is one of the most hallowed, historic and important sites in our community,” said Chris Busch, member of the committee.

According to local archives, the “cannon” is a British Heavy Field Gun known as a B.L. 60 Pounder, manufactured in 1916 by Elswick Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It weighs 6 tons, is a 5 inch/127mm caliber, 21 feet in length and 6 feet in width.

The gun was originally issued to battery in France, April 1917 and fired 2,871 rounds during its first tour. It was returned to England in 1917 for repairs and reissued to battery in France, September 1918, firing an additional 1,471 rounds.

The cannon is deteriorating at State Street Park.

“The United States procured a number of these batteries from Great Britain for use with American troops when the we entered the war,” said Busch. “This gun is likely part of those ceded to the U.S. and came back with the troops as war materiel.”

There are ten known possible surviving examples: five in museums, two in the U.S., and five parks or cemeteries in the U.S., including the memorial in Medina.

“There may be others, but we’re not aware of them. This piece is reasonably rare,” said Busch.

Through the years it has come to be know by all as “the cannon in State Street Park.” It has been the backdrop of thousands of photographs and memories. More importantly, it is a place of solemn remembrance.

During a review of waterfront assets by the committee, the question of the “cannon” came up. There had been reports that is was deteriorating despite having had some repairs made nearly two decades ago.

The committee decided that expert assessment was needed. After some research, the committee reached out to Dave Seedenberg of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration in Altoona, PA.

Seedenberg is an expert in the field of restoring and reproducing functioning historic artillery pieces and has been practicing his craft for over eighteen years. His work is used in reenactments as well as at historic sites such as Fort Pulaski, GA. Seed Artillery has gained a national reputation as the “go to place for those who expect perfection.”

“In this day and age, people don’t realize how significant these war memorials are,” said Seedenberg. “The BL-60 was a very important piece to the Allies and we owe it to future generations to preserve it. We cannot afford to forget our history.”

Seedenberg traveled to Medina in February with two military historians. They were keenly interested in what they found.

“It was a great pleasure to have visited this monument- this cannon is rare in our country.” Seedenberg said. “Once I saw it, I was very concerned with the corrosion and structural damage we found. This is a very heavy artillery piece and corrosion has taken its toll. There are holes in some of the structural members.”

The rehabilitation process will require the gun to be transported to Altoona and stripped down. Parts will be repaired and actually re-manufactured if necessary. The gun will be primed and painted with epoxy primer and finished to match the original WWI paint scheme. The goal is to restore the piece to withstand exposure for another one hundred years or more. The entire process will take five to six months.

The gun will then be transported back to Medina and returned to the site where improvements will be made to the concrete base and landscape. New flagpoles and an interpretive sign will be added with the possible addition of benches.

Total cost for restoration and site improvements: $40,000.

Is it worth the cost? The committee, the Mayor and the Village Board think so.

This rendering shows how the memorial site could look with about $40,000 in improvements.

“This historic and rare cannon that has been used to memorialize those who served our community and nation over the last 80 years. Its preservation will safeguard the solemn ceremony at future Memorial Day observances for generations,” said Mayor Sidari. “I urge everyone to support the Medina Waterfront Development Committee in their effort to restore the cannon at State Street Park.”

Waterfront Development Committee Chairwoman Kathy Blackburn echoed those sentiments.

“This cannon has been in the park for as long as I can remember. It’s part of Medina’s past and future,” said Blackburn.

“We owe it to future generations to keep history alive; to be able to take our children and their children to see this piece of history and learn its lessons. If we don’t care for the artifacts of our history, they will turn to dust and our heritage along with it.”

“The piece is worthy of preservation for many reasons,” said Chris Busch, Planning Board Chair and Waterfront Committee member. “It is a rare and significant piece of military history. It is of interest to tourists, history enthusiasts, military buffs and is a well-known local landmark.”

According to Busch, every Memorial Day observance has been held at this site since the memorial was erected over 80 years ago. He calls it,”a hallowed part of the fabric of our community.” As part of the elaborate annual observance, the names of those who served and passed away that year are read aloud to a silent gathering of citizens.

“We neglect our history at our own peril,” said Busch “Life becomes easy. We forget the price that has been paid by generations before us on our behalf. Memorials like this one were erected to allow generations past to speak to us of the sacrifices that have secured our future.”

Blackburn said the project will not commence until enough funds have been raised to complete it . The committee has been quietly reaching out to community members to gauge support and have found enthusiasm for the project.

“We have several incredibly generous commitments for donations from community members and organizations at this point,” Blackburn said. “Now we’re appealing to the public at large. As soon as sufficient funds have been raised, the committee will begin the restoration.”

A little over one year away will mark a significant date for the memorial: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the guns fell silent.

“The one-hundredth anniversary of the World War I is coming up on November 11, 2018,” said Blackburn. “We are hoping that we can have the restoration completely finished in time for Memorial Day 2018 and for Veteran’s Day 2018.”

The Orleans Renaissance Group, Inc. is facilitating collection of donations for the committee’s efforts. Donations can be mailed to: Orleans Renaissance Group, PO Box 543, Medina, NY 14103 with the notation “Memorial Restoration Project”.

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Tattoo business celebrates move to bigger site on Main Street in Medina

Photos by Tom Rivers: Shawn Ramsey, owner of the Canalside Tattoo Company, is pictured inside the new location for his business. He had a grand opening today at the site of the former Curvin’s News, 540 Main St.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 May 2017 at 7:04 pm

MEDINA – Shawn Ramsey, 41, took a chance on his hometown in 2015.

After two decades in Pittsburgh, he came home to open Canalside Tattoo Company on East Center Street. It proved popular. In March, he moved to a bigger location on Main Street at the former Curvin’s News.

Ramsey has a degree from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He started his career with a sign company and then worked in web design and software development. For the past 12 years, he has also been a tattoo artist.

“The quality has gone up exponentially,” Ramsey said about tattoos in general. “It has become more artwork. The colors and quality last better. There are better tattoo machines, and needles and pigments.”

Ramsey has seen a surge in the general public’s acceptance, even embrace of tattoos.

“The culture has made them more popular,” he said. “The 20-somethings are looking for more ways to individualize themselves and set themselves apart.”

Ramsey, center, has added two tattoo artists to Canalside Tattoo Company: Tyler Vercruysse, left, and Joshua Schutrum

Ramsey moved the business from a 750-square-foot spot to 2,500 square feet. He also added two tattoo artists – Tyler Vercruysse and Joshua Schutrum.

Ramsey was the lone tattoo artist in the business but added the two because of demand. The business starting next week will also be open seven days a week.

“The visibility of Main Street is second to none,” Ramsey said.

Canalside Tattoo also sells body jewelry, apparel (shirts and socks), and stickers.

Today’s grand opening celebration included Medina’s “Worst Tattoo Contest.” Ramsey had judges consider the worst tattoos, and prizes went towards helping to remove the unwanted tattoos, which typically included the name of a former significant other.

A panel of judges deemed the worst tattoos in a special grand opening contest at Canalside Tattoo’s new location. The judges pictured include, from left: Jeremy Hogan, owner of O’Briens; Mike LaVoice, co-owner of Into the Enigma; Nick D’Angelo, owner of Ink & Style Tattoo & Salon in Lockport; and J.J. Heideman, owner of BAD-AsH-BBQ.

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Thomas proves popular, bringing several thousand visitors to Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 May 2017 at 5:23 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Thomas the Tank Engine has brought thousands of people to Medina this weekend to see the popular train that is much loved by young children.

This photo shows the crowd of people in front of the train by the Medina Railroad Museum on West Avenue. Thomas will be back next weekend as well.

About 10,000 to 12,000 riders are expected to take 25-minute train ride on Thomas.

The train engine is making his 13th stop in Medina. Thomas has 42 events this year in the United and Canada. Medina is the lone stop in New York.

Jameson Cooper, 2, of Buffalo plays with a toy train on the railroad tracks. His parents said they had a lot of fun riding the big train.

Brody George, 18, of Clarence, left, and Cody Catlin, 18, of Carlton are both serving as safety conductors for the train rides.

A section of West Avenue is blocked off near the museum grounds.

Claire Zgaljardic of Orchard Park holds her son Ryan, 2, while he waves to Thomas as the train leaves for a short trip down the railroad tracks.

Gary Lamar of Shelby worked his way through a maze with his grandson Benjamin Strife, 3, of Sanborn.

Rick Hughes, a member of the Medina Lions Club, cooks hot dogs and hamburgers at the food booth run by the Lions Club. His daughter Gracie (left), 14, also is helping.

Many of the families stopped inside the railroad museum.

The museum has a 204-foot-long model train layout, which includes this scene of the Erie Canal in its early days. The HO scale layout is one of the largest in the nation.

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Thomas the Tank Engine expected to draw 10,000-plus to Medina

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2017 at 2:56 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Thomas the Tank Engine is covered up today behind the Olde Pickle Factory in Medina.

He will be busy the next two weekends in Medina, with 10,000 to 12,000 riders expected to take 25-minute train rides on Thomas.

The train engine is making his 13th stop in Medina. Thomas has 42 events this year in the United and Canada. Medina is the lone stop in New York. Thomas is hosted by the Medina Railroad Museum, and many activities are planned on May 20-21, and May 27-28.

In addition to riding the train, there is an imagination station at the Railroad Museum with crafts, photo opportunities, giveaways, storytelling and other live entertainment.

Thomas the Tank Engine is pictured in May 2015, when the train drew big crowds of children and families to Medina.

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Albion, Medina school budgets easily pass

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 May 2017 at 8:40 pm

Wadhams and Harling elected in Albion, while Keppler, Pawlaczyk and Sevenski elected in Medina

The school budgets in Albion and Medina received wide support in budget votes today.

ALBION – The district’s $34,796,676 budget passed 526 to 123. The budget includes a 1.4 percent tax increase, only the second time school taxes are going up in last 11 years.

Voters elected retired teacher Wayne Wadhams, 513 votes, and Kathy Harling, 491 votes, to five-year terms. Marlene Seielstad wasn’t re-elected. She received 211 votes.

A proposition for $460,000 for bus purchases passed, 559 to 91, and a proposition to collect $687,211 for Hoag Library was approved, 469 to 177.

MEDINA – The proposed $36,620,793 budget received 91.2 percent support, 423 to 41. The budget reduces taxes by 0.22 percent, down from $8,660,915 to $8,641,861, or $19,054 less in taxes.

The district has steadily been reducing taxes in recent years. The 2013-14 budget had a $9,135,636 tax levy. Medina has now reduced school taxes by $493,775 in four years, a 5.4 percent decrease.

A proposal to reduce the size of the Board of Education from 9 to 7 seats passed, 259 to 198. The board will remain at nine seats in the 2017-18 school year, with the reduction taking effect beginning July 1, 2018.

Four ran for three open seats. The following were elected: Bill Keppler, 329; Arlene Pawlaczyk, 299; and Dave Sevenski, 292 votes. Mary Hare received 267 votes.

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Kendall, Medina make U.S. News list of top high schools

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2017 at 5:17 pm

Kendall and Medina both earned “Silver Medals” and made the list of high-performing high schools in the latest ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

The news publication posted its annual ranking of the 22,000 high schools in the country, and Kendall placed 2,295th and Medina 2,468th, which puts them near the top 10 percent.

In New York, Kendall was ranked 181st and Medina, 195th. The U.S. News’ Best High Schools List is compiled by first analyzing how well students performed on qualifying high school state assessments such as Regents Exams in Algebra 1 and ELA.

The high schools identified as over performing were then ranked nationally in terms of college readiness, using participation and success in the Advanced Placement program. U.S. News then awarded more than 6,040 gold, silver, and bronze medals to the top-performing schools.

“This is great validation at how well our staff does in preparing our students for post-secondary education and careers,” said Mark Kruzynski, the Medina school district superintendent. “We are very proud to once again receive this honor and be able to recognize the dedication of our students, staff and the community to make Medina High School one of the best high schools in the country.  This award is truly an achievement that the entire district can celebrate, as the success we have in the high school builds upon the foundations our students have received at Oak Orchard and Clifford Wise Intermediate Middle School. Congratulations to the entire Medina Central School District.”

Kendall is also a repeat winner.

“This honor respects the hard work and commitment by the entire staff and community of Kendall,” Julie Christensen, Kendall Central School superintendent, said when Kendall was recognized last year.

To see the breakdowns, visit

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After Gary Withey had a heart attack, his family gave his home an extreme makeover

Photos by Tom Rivers: Gary Withey is back home in Medina after having a heart attack on April 1. After recuperating at his brother and sister-in-law's in Albion for more than a month, Withey came home to a house that was repainted inside, with new carpet and many new furnishings. Withey is pictured with a family portrait that shows him with his late wife Denise, and their daughters, Allyson and Kelsie.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 May 2017 at 11:22 pm

MEDINA – After a difficult six weeks, following a triple-bypass for a heart attack on April 1, Gary Withey came home on Friday. His house on East Center Street had an extreme makeover, courtesy of Withey’s family. They repainted rooms, put down new carpet, cleared out some extra belongings and added some new furnishings.Withey was caught off guard. Today there was a welcome home celebration, and many of his friends, including bandmates, were there for the party.

When Withey’s sister, Barb Withey Williams, heard her brother had been taken by Mercy Flight on April 1, she drove up from Florida. She hasn’t left, spending about six weeks working on his house.

His sister-in-law, Debbie Withey, devoting about 80 hours a week on the house. She said her brother-in-law has spent a lifetime giving to others.

“He’s a wonderful guy,” said Debbie Withey. “Do you know how many in this community love him? He would give you the shirt off of his back.”

Gary Withey, back row center, is pictured with his family outside his Medina home this evening. The group includes, front row, from left: Debbie Withey (married to Kurt), Kathy Sharp, Barb Withey Williams and Mary Beth Withey (married to Carl). Back row: Georgia Withey (married to Eric), and the Withey brothers, Eric, Gary, Kurt and Carl.

Withey is a well-known local musician who owned Fischer’s Newsstand in Albion for more than 20 years until the business closed on April 30, 2015.  His wife was also well-liked. She was often at Fischer’s and worked in community relations for the Arc of Orleans. Denise battled a kidney disease and died on Feb. 27, 2015.

She and Gary married on Aug. 1, 1987 and have two grown daughters, Allyson and Kelsie.

After his wife’s death, Withey had a new roof put on the house, replaced the furnace and fixed up a bathroom. But he didn’t have enough money for more renovations. He admitted he felt overwhelmed with the house.

His family, led by sister Barb and sister-in-law Debbie, decided to take charge and give the house a makeover.

“We did it because we love him,” Debbie said. “The road has been bumpy for him. He needs it.”

Photo courtesy of Wayne Litchfield: Gary Withey plays the keyboards during a jam session this evening with some of his fellow musicians. Withey plays in three bands, as well as the worship band at the Albion Free Methodist Church.

Withey was home on April 1 after working that day as an aide at he Orleans-Niagara BOCES. It was late afternoon when he knew something was wrong. He was sweating profusely, and passed out twice in the upstairs of his home.

Withey tried to stay calm, and made it downstairs to his phone. A friend called, and Withey said he wasn’t feeling right. Then he slumped to the floor, and called 911.

He was having a heart attack. Medina Memorial Hospital gave him a clot buster so he was in good enough shape to fly by helicopter to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Withey praised the local hospital.

“I will credit Medina Memorial for saving my life,” Withey said.

He spent a week in the Rochester hospital and then about five weeks staying with his brother Kurt and sister-in-law Debbie in Albion. He praised the care from his family.

Gary Withey was happy to have some many friends and family over at his home today.

While in the hospital he was also diagnosed with stage 3 of a kidney disease. Withey changed to a strict low-potassium diet the past six weeks, and has been out walking and exercising.

Today, doctors told him there are no signs of the kidney disease.

“They are calling it a miracle,” he said.

He also returned to driving two weeks ago and is scheduled to return to work on June 5.

His sister, Barbara Withey Williams, is thankful her brother survived the heart attack. The family grew closer the past six weeks, even when they were painting or putting down carpet in his house.

Williams lives near Tampa. She is amazed how everyone seems to know her brother in Medina.

“Gary is like a little kid who is always smiling,” his sister said. “He always seems to bounce back no matter what happens to him. We just wanted to show him that we love him. We want him to live in a nice, cheerful environment.”

Withey is a big Boston Bruins fan, and his family made him a hockey room.

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Medina Scholarship Fund gives out $6,000 annually; welcomes donations

Posted 10 May 2017 at 9:18 am

Provided photo: Anna Blount (center) receives her check from committee members Kathie Valley and Pat Bellucci. Anna is a student at Kent State University who plans to graduate in 2019 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Merchandising and a minor in Media Studies. Anna won a partial scholarship for the fall of 2017 to study abroad at Kent State’s Florence, Italy Fashion School for Tech and Design. In the spring she will attend Kent’s New York City Fashion Studio.

Press Release, Medina Scholarship Fund

MEDINA – The 2017 school year is soon coming to an end and the Medina High School Honor’s Convocation is just a few weeks away.

It is a time to honor Medina students for their hard work and dedication. The Medina Scholarship Fund would like to thank our generous donors for their support. Without them the Medina Scholarship Fund would not be able to help so many college-bound seniors.

The Medina Scholarship Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 1991 by a group of business, school, and community representatives. Its purpose is to increase opportunities for MHS students to receive a post-high school education.

A local committee determines the scholarship recipients. Applications are evaluated anonymously. The focus is on financial need, class placement, extracurricular and volunteer activities. The Fund awards approximately $6,000 in scholarships annually and contributes $500 to the school’s Presidential Scholarship.

At present, this fund is supplemented by an annual mailing, soliciting donations. Local donors receive a tax deduction and memorials are encouraged.

To make a donation please mail your tax deductible check to: Medina Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 185, Medina , NY 14103.

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200 from Medina school spend afternoon doing service projects

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 May 2017 at 5:26 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Kathy Allen, a Medina math and English teacher, and eighth-grader Bobbie Evers paint over graffiti under the Glenwood Avenue canal bridge in the village this afternoon.

There were 145 students and 55 teachers/staff members doing service projects in the community and at the school campus this afternoon. The district had an early release day, and the students tackled the projects as volunteers in “Mustangs Make An Impact Day.” This is the third year the school has run the community service projects. The supplies were donated by local businesses and community members.

Students and teachers also worked at village parks, Boxwood Cemetery, the Medina Historical Society and at the school grounds.

The group from the school covers up some of the graffiti under the canal bridge.

Sebastian Jackson didn’t mind spending the afternoon making the bridge look more appealing.

Jody Sargent, a high school business teacher, uses a roller to paint underneath the Glenwood Avenue bridge.

Anya Bloom picks up some of the many sticks and branches at Boxwood Cemetery.

These students are giving the Civil War Cannon a fresh coat of black paint. The cannon has been at Boxwood since 1903. It came from the Brooklyn Navy Yards, Village Historian Todd Bensley said. He is also a Medina teacher who helped with some of the service projects today. These students include, from left: Avery VanDerWerf, Laura Washak, Allysen Snook and Dillon Snook.

Allysen Snook works on painting the cannon at Boxwood.

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