Search Results for: hometown christmas

Many activities in Albion downtown for Hometown Holiday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 December 2018 at 10:37 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The Albion Merchants Association is hosting its seventh annual Hometown Holiday in the downtown today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Debbie Grimm, left, and Grace Kent are getting crafts ready for children in the Village Office at 35-37 East Bank St.

The Village Office also will have Mr. Scribbles, coffee with a cop and a coloring contest. There is free coffee and doughnuts this morning and free pizza at noon while supplies last at the Village Office.

Other businesses are also hosting activities, including cookie decorating, a sing-a-long, letter writing to Santa, crafts with Mrs. Claus, Christmas trivia and a reindeer raffle with 28 items up for raffle.

Anita Finley is ready for people to enter the coloring contests. There will be prizes for children 5 and under, ages 6 to 9, and ages 10 to 12. Finley’s husband Todd is owner of the Oak Orchard Canoe. They are members of the Albion Merchants Association.

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Albion has many fun activities today for annual Hometown Holidays

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 December 2017 at 11:36 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – There are many fun activities scheduled today in downtown Albion for the annual Hometown Holidays event organized by the Albion Merchants Association. New this year is “Coffee with a Cop” at the Village Office form 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Albion police officers Daryl Robb, left, and Karol Hughes are shown chatting with Stan Farone, a village trustee. The Albion Dunkin Donuts donated the doughnuts and coffee for the event.

There are many activities on schedule until 4 p.m., with Santa stopping by the former Swan Library from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Arianna McGurn, left, and her friend Logon Conlon are running the selfie photo station at the Village Office. They are both in ninth grade.

Lisa Stratton, owner of the Hazy Jade Gift Shop, is hosting a wine-tasting with Midgard Winery from Corfu. Michael Potoczak has several different wines available for tasting. Midgard will be back on March 3 for Albion’s annual wine tasting event.

Ariana Mateo, 12, and her sister Eva Mateo color in a Christmas-themed design at one of the stations at the Village Office.

Brushstrokes in Medina brought ornaments for children to paint. Kiri Keller, left, and Becca Lusk work on painting ornaments.

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Albion businesses have many activities today for Hometown Holiday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2016 at 10:32 am

Santa will make appearance at old Swan Library

File photo by Tom Rivers: Mrs. Claus is pictured here during Hometown Holiday in December 2013. She will be back at Knight’s Pride today from noon to 3 p.m.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Mrs. Claus is pictured here during Hometown Holiday in December 2013. She will be back at Knight’s Pride today from noon to 3 p.m.

ALBION – The Albion Merchants Association has many activities planned today for the fifth annual Hometown Holiday.

Children can make ornaments (at MMIM), make reindeer dust (at Lynne Marie Hair Boutique), play holiday games, write letters to Santa and eat cookies.

Mrs. Claus will be at Knight’s Pride from noon to 3 p.m. and Santa will be available to meet youngsters at the old Swan Library from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

The activities are all free go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (although not all locations will be participating the full six hours).

Here is a list of some participants: SnL Sweet Escapes, cookie decorating; Digital Ink Arts, holiday games; Tease, cookies and hot cocoa; Xpress Fitness & tanning, reindeer raffle; Hazy Jade Gift Shop, Santa hand print art; Uptown Browsery, snowman ornament; Olde Dogge Inn, pine cone ornament; Downtown Browsery, letter to Santa; and Save-A-Lot, coloring contest.

There will also be an elf hunt, where people can win a ticket for the reindeer raffle if they find an elf. The Merchants also have a 12 Days of Christmas Scavenger Hunt.

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Albion hosts Hometown Holiday on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Downtown Albion is decorated with banners and wreaths for the holiday season. Many of the merchants also have lighted displays in their storefront windows.

ALBION – Albion business owners will host their fourth annual “Hometown Holiday” on Saturday. The event has grown with new activities including a “Where’s Rudolph” challenge.

“This is our annual community program where we encourage people to shop local,” said Carolyn Ricker, president of Albion Merchants Association and owner of Bindings Bookstore. “There will be a lot of activities for kids and families to do together.”

There will be a Rudolph at 19 sites and children who can find at least five will receive a goody bag. Each participating merchant will have a passport for all of the reindeer locations.

Merchants will host other activities, including ornament making, letter writing to Santa, story time, coloring contest, and cookies with Mrs. Claus. The events run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with Santa at the Cobble-Ridge Co-op at 14462 Ridge Rd. from 1 to 3 p.m.

The event also includes a Christmas Gift Fair with several vendors at the Pullman Memorial Church from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information on the day, visit one of the businesses or check the Merchant’s Association Facebook page by clicking here.

A slender Santa who resembles Jim Knight helps promote the Christmas Gift Fair last Saturday. Vendors will be back tomorrow at the church.

Albion’s elementary school principal leaving for job in Chautauqua

Photos by Tom Rivers: Rachel Curtin, the elementary school principal the past seven years at Albion, attempts a shot during a basketball game on Oct. 26. She was on the Albion Hotshots, a team of teachers and staff who played the Harlem Wizards in a fundraiser for the Albion PTA.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 July 2020 at 1:59 pm

ALBION – Rachel Curtin, the principal at the Ronald L. Sodoma Elementary School the past seven years ,is leaving Albion to lead the Chautauqua Lake Elementary School in Mayville.

That is near her hometown of Ripley. Chautauqua Lake is a merged district of Ripley and Mayville.

Curtin’s resignation was accepted during a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. She starts her new job on Monday.

“I’m really grateful for the time I have had here,” Curtin said today. “I worked with so many wonderful and caring teachers. Our students also are an inspiration, they really are.”

Rachel Curtin performed at several community events, including the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. She is shown singing “Heaven Everywhere” during the show in December 2015.

Curtin joined Albion after working as a principal in Silver Creek, which is also in her home county of Chautauqua. She started her career as a music teacher.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic made her want to be closer to her family back home.

“I really thought I would retire at Albion,” Curtin said. “Chautauqua Lake is my hometown. The Covid crisis has taught us family is so important to have in your life.”

The Board of Education on Tuesday also accepted the resignations of Lisa Burlison, an AIS and reading teacher at the elementary and middle schools, and Anna Atwater, an elementary vocal music teacher.

Rachel Curtin stands on a new elementary school playground with a megaphone on May 22, 2014. She thanked the contractors, community and school employees for working to make the project a reality. After the opening ceremony, students joyfully played on new slides, swings, climbing apparatus and other playground equipment. The new playground replaced one made out of wood that tended to attract bees.

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Albion will busy this weekend with holiday events

Provided photos: These dancers will be performing Saturday at Gotta Dance by Miss Amy on East Bank Street in Albion, where many performers from the community will be doing three shows for the ninth annual Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. These dancers include, from left: Evee Heinsler, Sierra Kast, Gina Sidari and Miranda Gebo.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 December 2019 at 4:59 pm

ALBION – It will be a busy weekend in Albion with many events to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.

After a taking a break last year, Gotta Dance by Miss Amy has put together the ninth show for Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. It features many dancers, singers and some comedy in three shows – noon, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. The later show is already sold out. (Click here for ticket ionfromation.)

Amy Sidari is the organizer of the event at her dance studio and cabaret at 28 West Bank St. The Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas is a showcase of community talent, and also has raised about $20,000 for a scholarship in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski. The scholarships are given annually to graduating high school seniors who “Live with Purpose.”

Nicholas inspired the Albion community with his valiant fight against leukemia. He passed away at age 15 on June 29, 2011. He was a popular student at Albion, excelling at football, swimming and tennis.

These children, ages 5 to 16, practice the opening number for the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. Amy Sidari, owner of Gotta Dance by Miss Amy, said the opening number begins the show with “unbeatable energy and joy.”

The Albion Merchants Association also has many activities planned in the downtown on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a coloring contest, bake sale, brunch with the Grinch, caroling, donuts and pizza with the Police Department, letters to Santa, Christmas movies, cookie decorating, watercolor painting and an ugly sweater party.

Click here to see the full schedule from the Merchants Association.

Sunday the First Presbyterian Church is hosting the annual Home for the Holidays Christmas concert at 3 p.m. The concert is organized by the Albion Alumni Association and includes Albion students and adults from the community, including an 80-person community choir.

Tickets are $5 with the proceeds going towards scholarships for Albion High School seniors.

Performers at the concert include Gary Simboli, Gwen Martillotta Ferchen, Mike Thaine, Kailey Winans, Travis Klossner, Eric Deiboldt, Janet Miller, Mike Grammatico, Kyle Thaine, Karen Kenney Conn, Shannon Broda, Alec Sherman, the Albion High School Percussion Ensemble (led by Mike Thaine), Albion High School Select Choirs (led by Gary Simboli), Community Brass Ensemble, Community Christmas Choir and a trio that includes Aleka Schmidt, Sue Boring and Sue Thaine.

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2 holiday events this weekend will raise money for Albion scholarships

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 November 2016 at 2:02 pm

Hometown Christmas, Albion Family Christmas Concert highlight local talent

File photos by Tom Rivers: Marcy Downey sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” next to a cutout of Dean Martin during last year’s Hometown Christmas.

File photos by Tom Rivers: Marcy Downey sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” next to a cutout of Dean Martin during last year’s Hometown Christmas.

ALBION – Two events this weekend in Albion will celebrate the Christmas season and also raise funds for Albion scholarships.

On Saturday, there will be three performances of Hometown Christmas at Holy Family Parish’s Lyceum on Main Street.

There will be 19 acts featuring about 80 performers at shows starting at noon, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. There will be singing and dancing in the 90-minute shows that raise money for scholarships in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski.

“We’re blessed with a lot of people contributing time and talents to it,” said Amy Sidari, oner of Gotta Dance by Miss Amy and coordinator of Hometown Holiday.

This is the seventh annual event in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski. He inspired the Albion community with his valiant fight against leukemia. He died at age 15 on June 29, 2011.

The shows on Saturday feature many popular returning performers, including Marcy Downey and Josie Waverly. (Some Albion children will be on stage doing sign language while Waverly sings, “O Holy Night.”) Rachel Curtin, the elementary school principal, also will be back singing.

A new performer for the Hometown Christmas will be Albion senior, Angela Tarricone, singing with chorus teacher Gary Simboli.

Sidari said the 6:30 p.m. show is already sold out but some tickets remain for the 3:30 and noon shows. Call her at 354-2320 for more information.

“People come out and support it year after year,” Sidari said about the turnout.

Joe Sacco is shown during a Christmas Mass in 2013 with Harriette Greaser. They will both be performing on Sunday.

Joe Sacco is shown during a Christmas Mass in 2013 with Harriette Greaser. They will both be performing on Sunday.

On Sunday, there will be a 3 p.m. concert at the First Presbyterian Church, 29 East State St.

Many familiar faces and a warm welcome home are on the program for “An Albion Family Christmas Concert.” The holiday event, co-sponsored by the Albion High School Alumni Foundation and Albion Courthouse Square Concert Series, will feature a mix of professional and amateur musicians, all connected to Orleans County.

“We have so much talent right here in our hometown,” said concert organizer Maarit Vaga. “For previous Christmas concerts we have hosted musicians from neighboring communities, but this year we decided to pull together a program that we’ve been dreaming about and discussing for a long time: This truly will be an Albion Family Christmas celebration! And we really want families—even with small children—to feel comfortable bringing them. It will be lovely.”

Proceeds benefit scholarships awarded by the Foundation. In fact, many of the performers are alumni or students at Albion High, including: longtime Albionites and Holy Family Parish musicians Joe Sacco and Harriette Greaser; mother and daughter duo Karen Conn and Shannon Vanderlann; brother and sister act Greg Martillotta and Gwen Ferchen; husband and wife Gary and Claudia Deibolt; members of the Mike and Mary Jane Grammatico family; and legendary music and drama teacher Gary Simboli, along with some of his vocal and Mike Thaine’s instrumental student ensembles.

The program will be narrated by Janne Erakare and will include a visit from Cobble the Museum Mouse (representing the nearby Cobblestone Museum). The event will culminate in the annual audience singalong.

Tickets are available at Bloom’s in Albion, a lily and a sparrow in Medina, Roxy’s in Batavia, or online by clicking here.

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Local contractor will be roasted in benefit for children’s foundation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 October 2016 at 3:43 pm
Jim Babcock

Jim Babcock

ALBION – Jim Babcock said he has thick skin and can handle the jokes coming Saturday, at his expense.

“They definitely have a lot to talk about with me,” Babcock said. “I think it will be a good time for everyone else, I don’t know about me.”

Babcock will be “roasted” during a benefit at Tillman’s Village Inn. Proceeds for the roast go to the The Salmon Children’s Foundation, which has directed nearly $15,000 to a scholarship for Albion students in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski.

The Foundation also supports other causes, including The Open Door Mission in Rochester, Camp Good Days, Holy Childhood in Rochester and other children fighting illnesses.

Jim Salmon of Barre is host of the roast, as well as a home repair clinic on WHAM 1180. Salmon works as a home inspector.

He started the roast last year with Doug Bower, an Albion plumber and guest on the Home Repair Clinic, the first target of an evening of jokes.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Doug Bower lets out a big laugh last Oct. 24 when he was roasted by Jim Salmon during a benefit at Tillman’s Village Inn. Bower, a plumber in Albion, is co-host of the WHAM Home Repair Clinic with Salmon. Saturday the roast will feature local contractor, Jim Babcock.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Doug Bower lets out a big laugh last Oct. 24 when he was roasted by Jim Salmon during a benefit at Tillman’s Village Inn. Bower, a plumber in Albion, is co-host of the WHAM Home Repair Clinic with Salmon. Saturday the roast will feature local contractor, Jim Babcock.

Babcock has worked as a local contractor for nearly 40 years. He has owned his own business, Jim Babcock Construction, since 1996.

He has appeared in variety shows at the Cabaret at Studio B run by Amy Sidari, and helped with the annual Hometown Christmas show to benefit the scholarship fund in memory of Nicholas Kovaleski.

Salmon said roasting Bower last October drew a capacity crowd to the Village Inn and proved a fun evening of entertainment. He said several people eagerly offered to help roast Babcock.

The public has already purchased 90 tickets for the Babcock roast and more are spots are available by calling the Village Inn at (585) 589-9151.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Salmon said. “Everyone agreed there is enough good material on Jimmy.”

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Albion hosts holiday events on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Students at Gotta Dance by Miss Amy practice for Saturday’s 5th annual Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. Laiken Ricker, center in front, is among the dancers in an advanced jazz class taught by Claire Albertson.

They will be part of three performances on Saturday at Holy Family Parish Lyceum with shows at noon, 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Albion will be busy on Saturday with many holiday events as part of the third annual Hometown Holiday sponsored by the Albion Merchants Association. There are events planned at 16 sites in the downtown and on Main Street.

Some new activities include breakfast with Santa at the Masonic Lodge at 39 Platt St. (Seating is limited. Call 331-7103 for reservations.)

A children’s penny carnival has been moved from the fire hall to Hoag Library. There will be plenty of games and prizes and 25-cent popcorn and hot chocolate. Sheets for a coloring contest will also be at the library and the entries will be displayed at Save-A-Lot.

File photo – Santa will be at Salih Studio from 1 to 3 p.m. for photos for $10.

Mrs. Claus will be visiting Knight’s Pride from 1 to 3 p.m. to enjoy cookies, crafts and cards. Other stores will have face painting (El Gallo), letter writing to Santa (Downtown Browsery), decorating an ornament (Empire Trading), cookie decorating and hot chocolate (Hazy Jade), a scavenger hunt (Main Street Store), and gift wrapping (Uptown Browsery).

In addition, holiday-goers can decorate a pillow (Flying Needle and Thread), create holiday gift tags (Mmim), taste wine (Plaza Liquor) and enter in raffles for a television and other prizes (Xpress Fitness and Tanning).

Pullman Memorial Universalist Church will also be open for an art show and tour.

Bindings Bookstore will also be hosting two book-signings: “The Grocery Man” with Donna Rhodey at 11 a.m. and “Josie and the Singing Butterfly” with Josie Waverly from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“It’s a community event to bring the community together and bring people to the downtown,” said Carolyn Ricker, president of the Merchants Association.

The event coincides with the Hometown Holiday event at the lyceum. About 50 performers will be in the show, including newcomers Josie Waverly and Rachel Curtin, the Albion Elementary School principal. Waverly for the first time will also sing publicly with Marcy Downey, an Albion native and professional singer.

Proceeds from Hometown Christmas go to a memorial scholarship for Nicholas Kovaleski. He inspired the Albion community with his valiant fight against leukemia. He died at age 15 on June 29, 2011. He was a popular student at Albion, excelling at football, swimming and tennis. He would have graduated last June and likely would be a college freshman.

“The empathy and love the community has for him carries on,” said Amy Sidari, Gotta Dance owner and Hometown organizer. “We are living with purpose as he lived.”

For more information on Hometown Christmas, click here.

Quick Questions with Amy Sidari

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Dance Studio owner has embraced arts and music

Photos by Tom Rivers – Amy Sidari has given her dance studio a dual purpose as the cabaret with live entertainment and desserts.

ALBION – Life-long Albion resident Amy Sidari opened her own dance studio in 1997 at the corner of West Bank and Liberty streets. She and her dance instructors work with hundreds of children (and some adults) each year.

Sidari, 46, expanded the scope of Gotta Dance last July, opening the Cabaret at Studio B. More than 20 different acts have been in Studio B in the past 12 months and Sidari will debut a variety show this Saturday. (The site at 28 West Bank St. has professional sound and lighting.)

Sidari will be one of the performers, along with high school music teacher Gary Simboli and Gloria Lear, one of Sidari’s dance instructors. Marcy Downey will join the variety show in the beginning and other community members will perform with the group in later dates.

Marcy Downey, left, and Amy Sidari pose in front of the curtains at the Cabaret at Studio B in this photo from a year ago, when Downey was the debut act in the Cabaret. They will be part of a new variety show starting this Saturday at the Cabaret.

The Cabaret Variety Show will be a throwback to the variety shows of the Dean Martin and Lucille Ball era. Sidari wants to bring humor and showcase local performers in the new show.

She talked with Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers on Thursday about the latest venture and career with Gotta Dance.

Q: I remember when you started here. It was the former DA’s office.

A: We just had the one room. There wasn’t even a waiting room. Blessings to my dad (Ace Caldwell) for all of his craftsmanship. I tell him I’m the creator and you’re the builder so let’s do it, and we do it.

Q: Why is this fun for you, working with all of these kids and some adults?

A: I think it is what God wants me to do. I just think my gift is loving people. I love them through any way that I can and music seems to be the easiest way to love people.

Q: It seems like there are a lot of dance options with several studios. I wonder why it’s so popular because when I was a kid I don’t think we had any dance places.

A: It was a different time when we were kids. I think it’s because we have good teachers. No matter where you are dancing kids are being more inspired to take on the performing arts.

I think our school programs with the dynamic music and drama inspires the children as well. When they come to me they already understand music. There is sense that this is a passion for them. I think it’s a credit to all of the studios. Everybody is doing a good job.

Some of the Gotta Dance students perfomed on Main Street during the Strawberry Festival Parade on June 14.

Q: What is the benefit for a kid to do this?

A: There are a lot of benefits. When they’re in that awkward age, their puberty time, it doesn’t appear when you’re a dancer. There is a sense of grace, centering, elegance that comes through.

I would say that mathematically, the right side of the brain, it’s been proven it’s a little more engaged. There is memorization, patterns, muscle memory. There is a fluency and things become more natural to put yourself and your mind into the sequence.

These kids are sharp. When they’re coming in they’re not just doing dance. They have other clubs and other activities. They might come in and go through four different dances flawlessly. Their minds are working.

You know what if they’re here with me they’re safe. They’re not doing things that aren’t good for their body or good for them. The environment is only a positive, acceptable environment. They learn a lot of respect for each other and how to work through relationships here that maybe are uncomfortable because we all have to work together.

Q: I know you have the dance studio, but you also started the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas.

A: That’s been four years. That was really God.

Q: You’ve added more besides the dance studio. You added the Hometown Christmas and then the Cabaret last year. The Cabaret seems to be working, don’t you think so?

A: There is a need. When I see people walk through my door for the first time, and the puzzled look on their face, and then they walk through this door. You watch their face and there is a sense, ‘Wow, this is Albion?’ You watch them leave and they have tears in their eyes because they are so happy they came. It’s a good, good feeling.

Q: You took a leap trying the Cabaret?

A: I wanted something more in my life. It was very peaceful once I decided to do it.

Seamus Kenney, a 1993 Albion graduate, returned home for the Christmas holiday and also put on a concert in December at the Cabaret. Kenney, a professional musician, lives in Durham, North Carolina. For a decade he traveled and performed with the band SNMNMNM.

Q: Can you talk about the new variety show?

A: Gary (Simboli) will open with an original jingle that he did lyrics and orchestration for. Gloria (Lear) is kind of like the Ed McMahon on the Tonight Show to me. She is there to help my transitions run smoothly. Gloria is really funny. The three of us with Gary included have a really good chemistry. We’ll do a little comedy, the three of us, with what’s going on in real life.

We have skits involving the community. I’ve got a hilarious skit that Gary can hardly play the music through because he gets too hysterical. That’s with Jill Albertson, Mary Dunham, Sandra Monacelli McNall, Danny Monacelli, June Schuck and David Sidari.

Later on in the evening Jim Babcock comes out, but you won’t recognize him. He closes my show.

We have a special guest appearance with Marcy Downey, and it’s something that’s on her bucket list. She’s always wanted to do a dance with me, and I’ve always wanted to sing with her. We’re doing a little trade-off and it’s pretty funny.

We’ll have comedy skits with Kyle and Gina (Sidari’s children). I told Mr. Simboli don’t be shy this time and hide behind the piano when you sing your solo. It’s center stage, spotlight on Gary and I want to hear something deep from your soul.

The Reverend Mother kept a crowd in stitches last August at the Cabaret at Studio B. Phyl Contestable is the comedian. She passed out buttons that said, “JESUS LOVES YOU, but I’m his favorite.”

There will be audience participation. If you’re in the audience you don’t know what your job may be. You may be on that stage helping me do something pretty funny. It will be good and I’ll try to feel them out ahead of time so I don’t traumatize them.

We’re going to go back to old-fashioned live commercials and Brown’s Berry Patch is my first business. We’re going to interview each business that presents with us and to see what’s new in their business.

We have a ventriloquist act, a special visitor or a character from the Laugh-In Show. We’ll share some family secrets and take questions from the audience.

A: All in 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Q: It will be a brisk pace, but with enough time to laugh until you can’t control yourself. I want my audience, my community actively engaged in it. I want them to send me videos of their talents. I want to pull in people with different acts and varieties.

My future plan is I would like this to go all year. I feel more than anything it’s time to have a joy in laughter.

(Reservations are required and may be obtained by calling Ticket Team 585-354-2320.)

Albion group signs contract for new bronze statue of Santa

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2021 at 3:52 pm

Betterment Committee wants to recognize Charles W. Howard’s legacy as Santa School founder

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Members of the Albion Betterment Committee today signed a contract with Brian Porter of Pendleton to create a bronze statue of Santa Claus that will resemble Charles W. Howard, the founder of a Santa Claus School.

Pictured from left include ABC director Joe Gehl, Brian Porter, and ABC directors Gary Derwick and Gary Kent.

The statue is planned for the park on Main Street, a half block south of the Erie Canal where there is a mural showing Santa in flight with a sleigh and reindeer, high above the Courthouse Square and downtown Albion.

Porter expects to have a final depiction in a month of Charles Howard as Santa for the statue. The Albion Lions Club has agreed to let Porter borrow an original Charles Howard Santa suit to help finalize the model of the statue. Howard designed Santa suits that remain a distinctive style today. Howard also operated Christmas Park in Albion and served as the Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade for 18 years.

The Betterment Committee has been working five years to raise funds for the projects. It can still use some more money for the base for the statue and other park improvements. Donations can be sent to Albion Betterment Committee/Charles Howard Project, 14487 Baker Rd., Kent NY, 14477. That is the address for Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee.

It will take Porter about two years to create the new bronze statue honoring Howard, who started the school in Albion in 1937 and ran it until his death in 1966. (Click here for more on the school.)

Porter is no stranger to projects in Orleans County. He created the 7-foot-high bronze statue of a soldier outside the former Medina Armory, which is now the Orleans County YMCA.

Porter is shown during a Sept. 7, 2019 dedication ceremony for that statue, which weighs 1,400 pounds. That project honored the 550 soldiers who trained at the Armory from 1898 to 1947 and they fought in four major conflicts: the Spanish American War, Mexican Border Incursion, World War I and World War II.

Santa portrayers from around the country visited Albion for a convention in April 2015. They gathered for a group photo by the County Courthouse.

Howard remains a revered figure among Santas. The Santa School continues in his name in Midland, Mich. Albion has twice hosted gatherings for the Santa community, the last in 2015 when there were about 200 Santa impersonators in Albion.

That group was disappointed when it was in Albion and there wasn’t more in Howard’s hometown recognizing his role in helping to shape the modern Santa Claus.

There have since been two large-scale murals installed in Albion, celebrating the community’s role with the first Santa Claus school. The Betterment Committee has put up “Believe” signs and convinced the local and state governments to name the portion of Route 31 in Albion in memory of Charles W. Howard. The new signs went up along Route 31 in December, just before Christmas.

The Betterment Committee wants to honor the Howard legacy in Albion, and provide incentive for the Santas to come back for their conventions, and also add an attraction in downtown Albion.

Sign unveiled naming Route 31 in Albion for Santa School founder

Photos by Tom Rivers: State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, left, and State Sen. Rob Ortt this afternoon joined in a dedication event for the section of Route 31 in Albion. The state Department of Transportation installed the sign declaring the section of 31 as the “Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway.” Howard operated a Santa School and Christmas Park in Albion until his death in 1966.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 December 2020 at 8:22 pm

Courtesy of Jan Downey: Jan Downey of Albion shared this photo of herself and her brother, David Taylor, when they visited Howard as Santa at Christmas Park. Downey estimated the photo is from 1956 when she was 5. Many local residents still have strong memories of Howard and Christmas Park.

ALBION – A sign proclaiming Route 31 in Albion as the “Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway” was dedicated today by two state legislators and other community members.

Howard started the world’s first Santa School and ran it from 1937 until his death in 1966. He also was the Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for 18 years.

He remains a revered figure among people who portray Santa Claus. The school he started continues in his name in Midland, Mich. Howard, who is known in the Santa community as “The Dean of Santa Clauses,” in 2010 was a charter inductee in the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame. (Click here for more information on the Hall of Fame.

The State Department of Transportation erected the sign on Route 31 near the Transit Road intersection, which is the eastern end of the town. Another sign is expected to go up on the western end near Wood Road.

The Albion Betterment Committee worked about two years to secure the approval. They sent letters to local government leaders – The Village Board, the Town Board and Orleans County Legislature. They all endorsed naming the section in honor of Howard, who also was a farmer, toymaker, and operated Christmas Park on Route 31 near Phipps Road.

The Albion Betterment Committee has worked in recent years to raise Howard’s profile locally and to help celebrate his legacy. The ABC put a sign on Route 98, south of the village, declaring Albion as the hometown of the Santa School founder. The ABC also has “Believe” signs in the community and is raising funds for a statue of hometown in downtown Albion. They group has raised $60,000 so far for the statue and plans to seek proposals for the project soon, said Joe Gehl, one of the ABC’s directors. He expects the project will be near $100,000.

Other groups have joined the effort to celebrate Howard. The Albion Rotary Club organized an effort to have a mural in Waterman Park that shows Santa in a sleigh over Courthouse Square. A new mural about Albion as home to the Santa School was completed this fall on the northside of the Lake Country Pennysaver.

A group of students in Rich Gannon’s AP US History class also had an interpretive panel made in Mount Albion Cemetery near Howard’s grave that celebrates his life.

The Betterment Committee sees Howard as a local man who did a lot of good for the community, a selfless person focused on others. Howard was known for setting high standards for Santa in how to act with children and how to look. He also designed and sold Santa suits.

Howard’s granddaughter, Jane Holland, was unable to attend today’s dedication. She sent a letter of appreciation that was read by Gehl.

“Grandpa was a humble man of little means but a big heart and a giving, caring soul,” Holland wrote. “To see him honored on this trail to and from the town the family still today cherishes and welcomes its comfort when we visit is a great privilege.”

State Sen. Rob Ortt said Charles W. Howard was a farmer in Albion who made a local and national impact, serving as the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Santa for 18 years and shaping the look and actions of Santas all over the country and even the world. Ortt and Hawley both thanked the DOT for getting the sign up on short notice before Christmas. The State Legislature and Gov. Cuomo both approved naming the section of the road in honor of Howard.

Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee, is interviewed by Ed Reilly of WGRZ (Channel 7 in Buffalo) in front of the sign, which was erected on 31 near Transit Road. That is the eastern end of the Town of Albion. Another sign is expected to be installed near Wood Road, on the western end of the town.

Albion downtown hosted many holiday activities on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 December 2020 at 10:37 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Jennifer Mateo of Albion takes a photo of her daughters, Eva and Elise, with Santa and Mrs. Claus in front of a holiday backdrop in Beaver Alley. That spot hosted “Selfies with Santa and Mrs. Claus” as part of Saturday’s Hometown Holiday celebration.

The Albion Merchants Association organized the annual event, which included more outdoor activities due to Covid-19 concerns.

Elise Mateo, left, and sister Eva join Santa and Mrs. Claus for a photo.

Gavin O’Brocta, 7, of Albion writes a letter to Santa inside the Dwontown Browsery. His mother, Laura Lechner, took him to some of the holiday activities.

There was also ornament making, ribbon ornaments, free ice cream, hot cocoa and other fun during the event.

Valerie Rush portrayed Mrs. Claus and handed out ornament kits outside The Back Room and Little Sweet Bakery.

Lori Laine brought a selfie stick to get a photo with Mrs. Claus.

Community members and the Albion Merchants Association lighted the Christmas tree at Waterman Park which is in front of a big mural celebrating the late Charles W. Howard, who started the first Santa Claus School. He ran the school in Albion from 1937 to 1966.

Click here to see a video of the tree-lighting, which included confetti cannons.

State Assembly approves naming Rt. 31 in Albion for Santa School founder

Photo by Tom Rivers: This 24-foot-long mural of Charles Howard as Santa in a sleigh over downtown Albion was installed in June 2018. It was painted by Albion native Stacey Kirby Steward. The mural honors Albion’s history as home to the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School from 1937 to 1966. Howard also ran Christmas Park in Albion. Mr. Howard passed away in 1966. The Santa School continues in his name in Midland, Michigan.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2020 at 12:57 pm

ALBION – The State Assembly has approved naming a portion of Route 31 in Albion in honor of Charles Howard, who founded a Santa Claus School in 1937 and ran it until his death in 1966. The school still bears Howard’s name but is now operated in Midland, Mich.

The state road officially will still be known as Route 31, and East and West Avenue in the village. But there will be signs at each end of the Town of Albion on Route 31, noting the stretch of Route 31 is the “Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway.” The section in Albion goes from Transit Road to Wood Road.

The State Senate also has approved the “Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway.” The legislation needs the governor’s signature before it’s a done deal.

Mr. Howard, in addition to founding a Santa Claus School, established Christmas Park in Albion on Phipps Road near Route 31. He portrayed Santa in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City for 18 years.

This photo shows Charles W. Howard with a Santa at Christmas Park in Albion. Howard operated the Park and a Santa Claus School in Albion until his death on May 1, 1966.

He developed the Santa School after noticing many Santas didn’t have training, and didn’t always interact with children well or meet a standard for dress. He established decorum for Santas and his Santa Claus suits became popular.

Howard remains a revered figure among the Santa portrayers world-wide. They have an annual conference, which twice in the past decade has been in Albion.

“Mr. Howard brought national acclaim to himself and his home town by establishing the world’s first Santa Claus School,” according to a resolution from the Orleans County Legislature last August in support of naming a section of the state road for Howard.

Jane Holland, Charles Howard’s granddaughter, sent an email on July 31, 2019 to Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee. The Betterment Committee has stepped up efforts to recognize Howard’s role in the community. The Betterment Committee has put up a gateway sign on Route 98, declaring Albion as Howard’s hometown. The group also has “BELIEVE” signs in the community and is working on a memorial bronze statue of Howard in downtown Albion.

The Betterment Committee has sought support for the road naming from local, county and state officials.

Holland said the family endorses having Route 31 be dedicated for Howard, who was a farmer and active in the community as a volunteer, in addition to running Christmas Park and training Santas at the school.

“Grampa was a humble man of little means but a big heart and a giving, caring soul,” she said in her email. “To see him honored on his beloved trail to and from the town – the family still today cherishes and welcomes its comfort when we visit – would be a great privilege.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced the Assembly approved the road naming. The Assembly also approved designating Route 77 between Pembroke Town Park and the intersection of Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke in honor of a local soldier killed in the Vietnam War.

That section of 77 in Pembroke will be known as the “SP4 C. Jay Hall Memorial Highway.” Hall served as a rifleman in the United States Army in Binh Duong, Vietnam. On October 7, 1969, he was on a reconnaissance patrol in an area of known enemy activity. He and his group were suddenly subjected to an intense attack from enemy forces.

With complete disregard for his personal safety, Specialist Hall exposed himself to hostile fire while his comrades were able to obtain cover. During this action, he was mortally wounded.

“I’m proud that the Assembly passed these bills to help us recognize the men of our community so they will be remembered now and forevermore,” Hawley said about naming the portions of the state roads for Howard and Hall.

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Banners in Medina are a chance to ‘pause’ and reflect on those who served their country

Posted 23 May 2020 at 12:29 pm


This past Christmas I was honored and humbled to be given a gift of being placed on a Medina Hometown Heroes Banner by my beautiful family.

As I walked around town admiring all the banners, my sense of pride grew. The honorees  were the grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters of my friends, some of whom were also on the banners.

Across the street from my banner was that of a fallen friend, George Underdown, who was killed in action in Vietnam. After having a quiet moment under his banner, I walked away with a smile inside. I would get to “hang out” on Main Street with George, “one more time.” Thank you Mary Woodruff and your committee for bringing this project to fruition and the endless hours you devote to it. You and your committee are the very essence of what makes Medina such a great place to live.

As you were one of the class leaders (MHS Class of 65), so are you now one of our community leaders, thank you again. On this muted, masked and paused Memorial Day, please “pause” again to remember and honor those who have fallen.

Archie Washak