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Arts honorees committed to better community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council honored three people from Orleans County on Saturday. Kelly Kiebala, GO ART!’s executive director, is pictured with, from left: Michael Bonafede, Lance Anderson and Jim Hancock.

BATAVIA – Jim Hancock read about a small town in the Midwest that started a parade of lights to celebrate the holiday season. That was seven years ago. The parade attracted community organizations with floats decorated with lights and holiday themes.

Hancock, chairman of Medina’s Tourism Committee, thought a similar parade would be a draw to Medina, bringing the community together and attracting visitors to see the businesses in the downtown.

Hancock has been the lead organizer for the Parade of Lights in Medina the past six years. The event draws several thousand people to the downtown and keeps getting bigger. This year’s parade on Nov. 29 will conclude with fireworks for the first time.

“I really proud of where I live and I want to do what I can to enhance it,” Hancock said on Saturday after he was recognized by the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council for his efforts with the parade and other Medina events.

Hancock was one of three from Orleans County to be honored by GO ART! on Saturday during the organization’s 14th annual community arts awards gala.

In addition to serving as chairman of the Parade of Lights, Hancock is active with the Medina Sandstone Society and took the lead in establishing a Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame last December. The second class will soon be announced.

He also helps organize concerts in Medina, has been a long-time member of the Lions Club and assists in the food pantry. He recently retired from United Way board of directors after 37 years.

Lance Anderson, an Albion native, was honored for efforts as president of the Lake Plains Players, a community theater group with members primarily from Orleans and Niagara counties.

Anderson works as a private voice teacher. He said the Lake Plains Players is like a family that finds a spot for interested community members to be part of their shows.

The group has been raising the bar, doing more productions each year, including a children’s theater camp and show this summer.

Last year Anderson played one of the lead roles – Jean Valjean – in the organization’s production of the epic show, Les Miserables. The group’s next show, Follies, will be Oct. 17-19 at the Roy-Hart Auditorium.

“It’s an honor working with so many lovely people,” Anderson told a crowd at Terry Hills Golf and Banquet Facility. “I’m very proud to be a part of the Lake Plains Players.”

GO ART! also recognized Michael Bonafede of Albion as both a musical performer and for his efforts promoting cultural events in the community.

Bonafede is a skilled percussionist who played in the band Black Sheep. He continues to perform with friends and fellow musicians.

He also serves as chairman of the Strawberry Festival Committee, which puts on a two-day fest every June with a schedule packed with entertainment. That festival has been an annual tradition for nearly 30 years.

He praised a dedicated festival committee, with many long-time members that help plan concerts, a 5K and 8K race, the parade, crafts, a car show and other entertainment.

He quoted the late opera singer Beverly Sills, who said “Art is the signature of a civilization.” Bonafede said, “Art can be a signature of a community.”

Bonafede also served 16 years on the Albion Board of Education, including more than a decade as its president. He promoted the arts in the school district, which has won national recognition for its music program.

Bonafede, his wife Judith Koehler and their sons also have been working to restore the Pratt Opera House in downtown Albion with a goal to make it a musical and performing arts venue. He thanked his friends for their help with the project.

Bonafede noted that the Pratt Opera House was built in 1882 by John Pratt, a local farmer.

“He knew what culture and art was,” Bonafede said about the builder’s founder. “He knew the significance of it.”