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Driver flees after striking parked car on South Jackson, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
chevy suburban accident south jackson
The suspect vehicle.
Photo by Howard Owens.

The driver of a tan Chevy Suburban fled the scene, according to a witness, after the vehicle struck a parked car on South Jackson Street in Batavia.

Batavia PD is investigating the accident.

There were no injuries reported.

The witness described the driver as a woman, 28 to 30, with her hair in a bun, wearing black shorts and a tan tank top. She had a tattoo consisting of letters on her right shoulder.

The witness said the woman started walking west toward Jackson Street, and when he said, "You can't leave the scene," she said, "I'm not leaving. I'm making a phone call." When he called 9-1-1, she ran east on South Jackson, and he tried to follow.  She cut into some residential yards.

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chevy suburban accident south jackson
Photo shows the point of impact, where the SUV struck the parked sedan and pushing it forward about 8 to 10 feet.
Photo by Howard Owens

Photos: Readers spot skywriting promoting Wings over Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
Tom Maier skywriting airshow
Photo taken in Rochester by Tom Maier.

Readers are spotting the skywriting taking place on this clear-blue day in WNY and sending in photos.  The skywriting is in advance of this weekend's Wings Over Batavia air show.

We received a couple of photos we can't publish because they were too small.  You can email photos to Please ensure they are at least 800 pixels wide.  If you don't know the size, send the largest file size you can.

For previous Wings Over Batavia coverage, click here.

Allison Luckenbach airshow
Photo by Allison Luckenbach.
frank capuano airshow
andre miller skywriting
Photo by Andre Miller
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Nathan K. Hammond arrived in Batavia on Tuesday in his Chipmunk skywriting plane.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Sponsored Post: Learn About the Solar Eclipses Coming Our Way

By Lisa Ace
Gen. Co. Chamber, Dan, Eclipse

Genesee County will soon be graced with two fantastic celestial events and Dan Schneiderman of the Rochester Museum of Science Center is heading our way to tell us everything we need to know! Join Dan for a FREE public talk being held at the Holland Land Office Museum on September 12th at 6pm as he discusses the science & history of solar eclipses and how to prepare for this extraordinary astronomical opportunity.

On Saturday, October 14th, 2023, our region will experience a partial solar eclipse. This is just a warm-up for the big event on April 8th, 2024, when we’ll be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse for the first time in almost a century.

  • What: Free Public Talk - Partial Solar Eclipse and Total Solar Eclipse Coming Our Way!
  • When: Tuesday, September 12, 2023, 6:00-7:30pm
  • Where:  Holland Land Office Museum, 131 West Main Street, Batavia
  • Who:  Dan Schneiderman, Eclipse Partnership Coordinator at the Rochester Museum & Science Center
  • How:  Reserve your seat by September 7th by phone or email at 585-343-4727;

This is a free event (Donations are always accepted for Holland Land Office Programming.)

To learn more about how Genesee County is planning to celebrate these events please visit  “Genny the Cow” Genesee County’s eclipse mascot will also be on site for photo ops!

HP Hood in Batavia planning expansion

By Howard B. Owens
HP Hood Ag Park
The HP Hood facility in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in May 2023
Photo by Howard Owens.

Press release:

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that dairy product manufacturer HP Hood will grow its operations in Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. The project will include the addition of new processing systems, along with other upgrades, which will allow the company to increase capacity for the production of additional extended-shelf-life (ESL) beverages at the Batavia facility. As a result, the company has committed to creating up to 48 new jobs at the manufacturing facility. To date, the company has created more than 400 jobs at the site and currently employs close to 1200 statewide. Hood purchased the on-site, 363,000-square-foot plant in 2018 from the Dairy Farmers of America for $60 million and soon after expanded the facility by another 100,000 square feet. HP Hood is the agri-business park’s largest landowner.

“This continued commitment from one of the nation's most prominent dairy companies will create top-quality jobs and spur new investment in the Finger Lakes," said Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight. "Agriculture and food processing are key pillars of the region’s economic development efforts, and HP Hood’s latest investment shows that our multi-pronged growth strategy is working." 

ESD is assisting the forward-thinking project with up to $1 million through the performance-based Excelsior Jobs Tax Credit Program in exchange for job creation commitments. The total project cost has been placed at $120 million. Genesee County is also considering providing incentives for the project. Greater Rochester Enterprise also assisted with the expansion effort. Construction on the planned updates is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025.

Headquartered in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, HP Hood has five New York State production facilities in Batavia, Vernon, Oneida, Arkport and Lafargeville. Founded in 1846, today, Hood is one of the largest branded dairy operators in the United States. The company’s portfolio of national and super-regional brands and franchise products includes Hood, Crowley Foods, Planet Oat, Heluva Good!, LACTAID®, and Blue Diamond Almond Breeze®. The company’s annual sales are more than $3 billion. 

Gary Kaneb, President and CEO of HP Hood LLC, said, “Our investment in the Batavia facility is being driven by the continued growth of ESL dairy and non-dairy beverage categories. We are grateful for the support of Empire State Development as Batavia continues to be a strategic site for the expansion of our ESL manufacturing capabilities.”

The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is located at the heart of the Buffalo-Rochester Tech Corridor. For additional information about the park, visit:

New York State has a robust, thriving agricultural industry and is home to almost 3,500 dairy farms and 620,000 cows. New York’s dairy industry is also the State’s largest agricultural sector. The majority of farms are family-run operations, supporting the framework of the State’s agricultural economy.

NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “HP Hood’s expansion in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park is good news for New York’s agricultural industry. Not only will this effort create new jobs and support hundreds of existing jobs in the Finger Lakes region, but it will also ensure that consumers, far and wide, can continue to enjoy the delicious, local, award-winning products that HP Hood is known for. I thank our partners at Empire State Development and Finger Lakes Forward for helping to ensure that this project can come to fruition.” 

State Senator George Borrello said, “HP Hood’s investment in its Ag Park operations is a strategic recognition of the quality dairy and agricultural suppliers that surround them, the availability of a skilled workforce and the supportive partners in government committed to their success. This effort is another exciting addition to our region’s dairy industry projects pipeline, which just keeps growing. We are truly witnessing a transformation. Many thanks to Empire State Development, Genesee County officials and HP Hood’s leadership team for the vision and commitment that made this achievement possible.”

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said, "I'm happy to see Empire State Development's announcement that HP Hood is expanding its operations in our region. Businesses like HP Hood play an important role in our state's agriculture and specifically the dairy industry. Their commitment to add nearly 50 new full-time employees and retention of over 450 employees will provide more support for our local economy. This announcement is great news for our district and will have a positive impact on our community and Western New York as a whole."

Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Chair Rochelle M. Stein said, “We congratulate the family-owned dairy farms of this region for providing high quality and local milk for HP Hood's growing ESL dairy beverages. This investment by HP Hood adds to the agricultural business foundation of our county and strengthens our regional agribusiness economic synergies from farm to consumer.”

Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post said, “The Town of Batavia is proud to be home of one of the most recognizable dairy brands in the United States. HP Hood’s growth will result in continued economic benefits to our town and even more career opportunities for our residents.”

Steve Hyde, Genesee County Economic Development Center President & CEO, said, “HP Hood's growth has already exceeded expectations at the Ag Park, and this project adds to the success of the agricultural and food and beverage manufacturing sectors, which continues to be leading employment sectors of our economy. This expansion is another endorsement of Batavia and the Ag Park's role as the leading dairy hub of the Northeastern United States and our local workforce’s talent and readiness for food and beverage manufacturing.”

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Co-Chair Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, said, "This expansion not only strengthens our region’s position as a hub for food and beverage manufacturing but also bolsters job creation and investment. We're proud to see this growth in Genesee County, demonstrating that our efforts to revitalize communities and drive economic prosperity are yielding tangible results. We extend our sincere gratitude to Empire State Development for their commitment to our region's economic growth and look forward to actively supporting HP Hood as they continue to expand and thrive."

Law and Order: Multi-agency, months long investigation yields three suspects in mobile device fraud

By Howard B. Owens
jerome ware
Jerome E. Ware

Jerome E. Ware, 59, of New Rochelle, is charged with two counts of identity theft 1st and grand larceny third. Joel A. Rojas Perallon, 20, and Raul DeLeon DeLeon, 30, both of New York City, were charged with identity theft 1st, grand larceny 3rd, and scheme to defraud 1st. Ware's arrest came after a report on April 8, 2022, in Wyoming County, of a person misrepresenting himself as a Verizon Wireless employee. The person obtained account and credit card info and subsequently made purchases of four iPhone 13 Pro Max smartphones and had them delivered to an address in Mount Vernon. The total value of the phones was $5,599.96.  

rojas perallon
Joel A. Rojas Perallon

Ware was arrested on Sept. 26, 2022. Ware's release status was not provided. Following Ware's arrest, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office contacted Wyoming County concerning a similar case. Ware was identified as a suspect in the Genesee County case, and Perallon and DeLeon were also identified as suspects, following months of an ongoing joint investigation. DeLeon was also identified as a suspect, arrested in June, in an armed robbery of a delivery driver in Illinois. Warrants were issued for the arrests of Perallon and DeLeon. Perallon was arrested at his home in New York City on Aug. 10. DeLeon turned himself in to Wyoming County deputies on Aug. 23.  

Raul DeLeon DeLeon

Both were arraigned and released in accordance with New York bail laws. Assisting with the investigation were NYPD, Homeland Security, and FedEx security. 

Noemi Morales, 23, of Briant Avenue, Syracuse, is charged with grand larceny 3rd and conspiracy 5th. Morales is accused of stealing $8,000 in high-end fragrances from Ulta on Veterans Memorial Drive at 6:20 on April 4. She was arrested on Aug. 22 by Investigator Ryan DeLong.  

Jamie Aaron Dutton, 31, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with tampering with physical evidence, criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, and obstructing governmental administration 2nd. Dutton was arrested at 8:05 p.m. on Aug. 25 on Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, in a joint enforcement action by Batavia PD's Net Enforcement Team and the Sheriff's Office on a warrant issued by NYS Parole. It is alleged that Dutton fled from police on a bicycle and hid under the back deck of a residence. He allegedly attempted to discard narcotics in an attempt to conceal his possession of the drugs. Dutton was issued an appearance ticket and released.

heather holbrook
Heather N. Holbrook

Heather N. Holbrook, 38, of Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 3rd and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Holbrook was allegedly found in possession of a small amount of crack cocaine on July 18 at an undisclosed location in Batavia. When Officers located and arrested her on Aug. 16, she was allegedly found in possession of a large quantity of crack cocaine. She was arraigned in  City Court and remanded to the Genesee County Jail on $10,000 cash bail, $20,000 bond, and $50,000 partially secured bond.

Austin RJ O’Connell, 19, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny, criminal trespass 2nd, and criminal mischief 4th. O’Connell was arrested on Aug. 21 following an investigation into a burglary that occurred on Feb. 23. It’s alleged that O’Connell disabled a security camera, entered an apartment on Bank Street and stole property. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Adrienne S. Bechtold, 27, and Ronald J. Murray. 28, both of Batavia, are charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th and criminal use of drug paraphernalia 2nd. Bechtold and Murray were arrested after Genesee County Probation located drugs and drug paraphernalia during a home visit. Batavia Police Officers were then called to assist probation and process the arrests. Bechtold and Murray were each issued appearance tickets.

Terrance H. Riley, 35, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant issued by City Court. Riley was initially arrested on Oct. 19, 2014, on a charge of harassment 2nd and resisting arrest. Riley allegedly failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued. He was arraigned in  City Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Sean M. Conway, 46, of Pembroke, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon 3rd and uninspected motor vehicle. Conway was arrested on Aug. 9 following a traffic stop by a Batavia patrol officer on Washington Avenue. He was allegedly found in possession of an expandable baton. He was arraigned and released. 

Brian M. Raphael, 35, of Batavia, is charged with trespassing. Raphael was located inside Aldi on East Main Street on Aug. 16 after previously being barred from the store due to prior alleged shoplifting incidents. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Crystal M. Bouter, 34, of Batavia, was arrested on an arrest warrant issued by City Court. Bouter was initially arrested on July 6 and charged with criminal mischief 4th after allegedly damaging another person’s cellphone. She was issued an appearance ticket. A warrant was issued after she failed to appear in court. Bouter was located on Aug. 16 while officers were investigating a separate incident. Bouter was arraigned and released.

Kyle J. Stack, no age provided, no residence provided, is charged with criminal trespass 3rd and failure to keep right (bicycle). Stack was arrested on Aug. 16 after officers attempted to stop him for riding a bicycle southbound in the northbound lane on South Spruce Street in Batavia. Stack allegedly fled on foot but was located a short distance away in a backyard. He was issued appearance tickets.

Ashton L. Mohney, 33, of Batavia, is charged with assault 3rd and criminal obstruction of breathing. Officers were called to an address on Ross Street, Batavia, for the report of a physical disturbance. It's alleged that Mohney grabbed the victim by the neck and punched her in the head. He was arraigned in City Court and released. 

Ricky L. Miller, 41, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant issued by City Court. Miller was initially arrested on May 24 and charged with petit larceny for allegedly stealing merchandise from Tops. He was issued an appearance ticket. A warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court. Miller was arraigned on the warrant in City Court and released. 

Frank R. Cratsenberg, 63, no residence provided, was arrested on Aug. 16 on a warrant issued by City Court. Cratsenberg was arrested on June 6 for an alleged theft from Kwik Fill on Jackson Street, Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket. A warrant was issued on July 18 after he failed to appear in court. Cratsenberg was arraigned on the warrant in City Court and released.

Ryan M. Arner, 37, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Arner was charged after an investigation into a fight that occurred at an address on State Street on Aug. 15. It's alleged that Arner pushed and headbutted another person. Arner was issued an appearance ticket.

Aaron R. Hatfield, 38, of Lockport, is charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Hatfield is accused of stealing merchandise from Tops on Aug. 14. During his arrest, Hatfield was allegedly found in possession of a controlled substance. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Myron D. Dupler, 76, of Batavia, is charged with public lewdness. It’s alleged that Dupler exposed himself on Aug. 14 while in the area of Austin Park. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Kelli E. Wallace, 60, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. It's alleged that on Aug. 13 Wallace stole merchandise from Tops. She was issued an appearance ticket.

James L. Brown, 40, of Albion, is charged with petit larceny. Brown was charged after allegedly stealing merchandise on Aug. 11 from 7-Eleven in Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Paul Lee, 51, of Rochester, is charged with criminal trespass 3rd. Lee was arrested after he was allegedly found sleeping on Aug. 8 in a vacant house on Ellicott Street, Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Joanna F. Larnder, 30, of Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant issued by City Court. Larnder was initially charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle 3rd on March 23 after a traffic stop on Margaret Place, Batavia.  She allegedly failed to appear in court and a warrant was issued on May 18. Larnder was arraigned and ordered to reappear at a later date.

Joshua J. Brower, 39, of Medina, is charged with DWI. Brower was arrested after a traffic stop on West Main Street on Aug. 12. He was issued traffic tickets.

Fawn M. Mobley, 51, of Oakfield, is charged with DWI. Mobley was arrested on Aug. 12 after officers located a vehicle driving on West Main Street, Batavia, with a flat tire. She was issued traffic tickets.

Andrew T. Williams, 20, of Jamestown, was arrested on a warrant issued by City Court. Williams was initially charged on April 22 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle 3rd and operating with a suspended registration after a traffic stop on Cedar Street, Batavia. A warrant was issued after he allegedly failed to appear in court. Williams was arraigned in City Court and released. 

Ashton L. Mohney, 33, of Batavia, is charged with burglary 2nd, criminal Contempt 1st, and criminal mischief 3rd. Mohney was arrested after an investigation into a disturbance on Ross Street on Aug. 19 where he allegedly damaged property and violated an order of protection. Mohney was arraigned and remanded to the Genesee County Jail on $1,000 cash bail, $2,000 bond, and $4,000 partially secured bond. 

Brian E. Daggar, 37, of Elba, was arrested on a warrant on Aug. 22. Daggar was initially charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle 3rd. He was reportedly involved in a traffic accident in January 2023 in Batavia. The warrant was issued after he allegedly failed to appear in court. Daggar was arraigned and released and is due back in court at a later date.

Hunter M. Passage, 23, of Batavia, is charged with criminal trespass 2nd. It’s alleged that Passage entered a home on Washington Avenue on Aug. 22 without permission after offering to clean the house for the homeowner. Passage was issued an appearance ticket.

Lakeisha A. Gibson, 37, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant on Aug. 19. Gibson was initially arrested on May 15. She was accused of failing to appear to testify at Grand Jury after being served a subpoena. She was issued an appearance ticket. Gibson failed to appear in court, and a warrant was issued on July 19. She was arraigned and ordered to reappear at a later date.

Adam Troy Shipwash, 43, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with disobeying a mandate. The Sheriff's Office provided no explanation of the charge. Shipwarsh was arrested in connection with an incident reported noon on Aug. 10 in the Town of Byron. He was jailed pending arraignment.

Jeremy John Trzecienski, 46, of Hillside Drive, Pavilion, is charged with harassment 2nd and trespass. Trzecienski is accused of entering another person's property on South Lake Road, Pavilion, at about 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, and remaining there unlawfully while fighting with another person. He was arraigned and ordered to return to court at a later date.

Rachael Marie Brown, 45, of Bethany Center Road, Bethany, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs and following too close. Brown was reportedly involved in a traffic accident at 4:36 p.m. on June 21 on Telephone Road in Pavilion. Following an investigation by Deputy Zachary Hoy, Brown was arrested on Aug. 24 and issued traffic tickets.

Michael Ford Pfenninger, 21, of Genesee Street, Alden, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and moving from lane unsafely. Pfenninger was arrested on Aug. 23 by Deputy Ryan Mullen in connection with an incident reported at 3:57 a.m. on July 17 on Route 20 in Darien. No details on the incident were released by the Sheriff's Office. Information was not released on whether he was arraigned or issued appearance tickets. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 12.

Koree Rose Stephenson, no age provided, no street address provided, of Rochester, is charged with introducing prison contraband and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Stephenson was allegedly found in possession of a controlled substance while being booked into the jail at 1:50 a.m. on Aug. 27. She was held pending arraignment.

William James Flack, 50, of Sandpit Road, Alexander, is charged with harassment 2nd and criminal contempt 1st. Flack allegedly violated a "refrain from" order of protection by striking another person at 2:05 a.m. on Aug.27 at a location on Sandpit Road, Alexander. He was scheduled to appear in court of arraignment later on the day of his arrest.

Markeith Deandre Lenoir, 33, of Ruleville, Miss., is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and insufficient tailamps. Lenoir was stopped at 1:35 a.m. on Aug. 29, on West Main Street, Batavia, by Deputy Jeremiah Gechell. He was released on traffic tickets.

Matthew J. Zon, 42, of Warsaw, is charged with aggravated criminal contempt and aggravated family offense. Zon was arrested in the Town of Byron by State Police in connection an incident reported at 3:14 p.m. on Aug 29. He was ordered held in jail. No further information was released.

David C. Stephens, 58, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st. Stephens was arrested by State Police in connection with an incident reported in Stafford at 5:42 p.m. on Aug. 23. 

Amanda N. Holbrook, 36, of Bergen, is charged with DWI. Holbrook was stopped by State Police in the Town of Bergen at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 23 and released on an appearance ticket.

Batavia Bulldawgs claim 34-30 win over Blue Devils in annual scrimmage

By Steve Ognibene
Max Monroe scores 4.7 seconds left in second half to win the game for Bulldawgs.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Max Monroe scores 4.7 seconds left in second half to win the game for Bulldawgs.  Photo by Steve Ognibene

The 11th annual scrimmage between the Batavia Blue Devils vs. the Batavia Bulldawgs was another win for the mini-squad on Wednesday evening at VanDetta stadium.  

The Bulldawgs opened the first drive with a 60-yard TD run by Logan Brooks.  They led at the half 20-16.

Bluedevils took a brief lead after halftime, 24-20, then on its next possession, the Bulldawgs scored Parker Davis on a 60-yard TD run, regaining the lead 26-24.   

With 3:44 left in the game, the Blue Devils scored and led by four, 30-26.

Then with 4.7 seconds left, Max Monroe scored to secure the Bulldawg's win, 34-30,

The Blue Devils, who over the past 11 years have won sectional titles and vied for a state championship, has yet to manage a victory against the much younger team.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Byron-Bergen High School makes top school list

By Press Release

Press Release: 

Byron-Bergen Senior High School was named on the 2023 list of America’s Best High Schools as determined by U.S. News & World Report. To qualify for this title, Byron-Bergen Senior High School ranked in the top 40% of schools nationally. This is the fifth year in a row that Byron-Bergen Senior High School has earned this distinction.

“It is an honor for the Byron-Bergen Senior High School to be named an America’s Best High School again this year,” said Byron-Bergen Superintendent Pat McGee. “I remember when our High School first achieved this recognition in 2018. I’m so pleased to see that our learning community has sustained this level of distinction. It is a testament of proof that we didn’t just have an exceptional year or two, Byron-Bergen is an exceptional district.” 

According to the publication’s website, the list identifies top-performing high schools based on scoring comprised of six factors:

  1. College readiness (30 percent of the ranking): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took at least one AP or IB exam by the end of their senior year and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on at least one AP or IB exam in high school. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than simply taking the exam.
  2. College curriculum breadth (10 percent): This is the percentage of 12th graders from the class of 2020-2021 who took a wide variety of AP and IB courses across multiple disciplines and the percentage of 12th graders who earned a qualifying score on them. Earning a qualifying score is weighted three times more than taking. 
  3. State assessment proficiency (20 percent): This measures how well students scored on state assessments that measure proficiency in reading, science, and mathematics. Passing these assessments can be required for graduation. Examples of assessments include Smarter Balanced in California and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. This state assessment proficiency indicator is either based on 2020- 2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years.
  4. State assessment performance (20 percent): This is the difference between how students performed on state assessments and what U.S. News predicted based on a school's student body. U.S. News' modeling across all 50 states and the District of Columbia indicates that the performance percentage of students from historically underserved subgroups – defined as Black students, Hispanic students, and students who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch – are highly predictive of a school's reading, science and math scores. This state assessment performance indicator is either based on 2020-2021 or 2018-2019 state assessment data or an average of those years. 
  5. Underserved student performance (10 percent): This is how well the student population receiving subsidized school lunch and Black and Hispanic populations perform on state assessments relative to statewide performance among students not in those subgroups. This state assessment underserved student performance indicator is based on 2018-2019 state assessment data.
  6. Graduation rate (10 percent): For the 2023-2024 rankings, the graduation rate corresponds to the 2021 high school class graduation cohort who would have entered ninth grade in the 2017-2018 school year. High school graduation rates were collected directly from each state along with the math, reading and science assessment data.

For more information on Byron-Bergen’s ranking on the U.S. News & World Report list, visit

Health care providers and NYS smokers' quitline offer support

By Press Release

Press Release:

Beginning September 1, New York State’s cigarette tax will be the highest in the nation. The $1 hike is the first cigarette tax increase since 2010 and changes the tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack of 20 cigarettes. Research shows a 10 percent increase in tobacco prices would be expected to decrease tobacco consumption by 4% in high-income countries.

Increasing the cost of cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to promote smoking cessation and prevent youth initiation. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network projects the impact of the higher tax will save 15,300 New Yorkers’ lives and prevent 14,400 youth under age 18 from becoming adults who smoke.  

The latest data from the NYS Department of Health show that one in five high school-age youth uses tobacco products. New York State spends approximately $9.7 billion annually on preventable smoking-related health care costs.

“We know that the statewide adult smoking rate is at an all-time low of 12%, however, this percentage varies by county. For example, in Genesee County specifically, the adult smoking rate is at 20.3%,” says Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check Youth Coordinator at Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming (TF-GOW). “We are encouraged by the tax increase because higher cigarette costs lead to less youth smoking and, therefore, fewer youth who become adult smokers.”

Flavored tobacco products continue to attract and addict new smokers 
While higher cigarette costs are proven to reduce youth smoking and prevent initiation, flavored tobacco products like cigars, cigarillos, and chew continue to attract and addict new tobacco users. Tobacco companies use flavors like menthol in tobacco products to make them more appealing to new users, almost all of whom are under 18. 

Eighty-one percent of youth who have ever tried tobacco started with a flavored product; more than half (54 percent) of youth ages 12-17 who smoke use menthol cigarettes. 

Tax increase is the latest in strong, evidence-based tobacco control policies enacted by New York State to prevent smoking initiation, promote cessation 
In 2019, New York raised the minimum legal sale age to purchase tobacco and vapor products to 21, established a 20 percent tax on vaping products, and required registration for vapor product retailers to regulate the sale of these products to restrict access, especially among young people.

Those policies were followed in 2020 by several strategies that restrict youth access to tobacco and vaping products. Among other things, new state laws ended the sale of tobacco and vapor products in pharmacies, banned the sale of flavored vapor products, ended price discounts on tobacco products, and stopped the shipment and delivery of vapor products to private residences.

Support available for New Yorkers who want to quit smoking and vaping Health care providers and the New York State Smokers’ Quitline provides support to smokers who want to quit, and quitting leads to fewer smokers, the potential for better health outcomes, and reduced health care costs. When healthcare providers treat nicotine addiction with medication and counseling, it can double or even triple their patients’ chances of success. 

The New York State Smokers' Quitline is a free and confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome the use of commercial tobacco and/or vape products. Participants can receive individualized coaching and assistance with quit planning from highly trained tobacco treatment specialists, text and online chat support, and a free starter supply delivery of nicotine replacement therapy medications such as patches, gum, and/or lozenges for those 18 and older. 

Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. Visit anytime, text QUITNOW to 333888 for more information, or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.

Victorian mourning customs among topics covered at HLOM in September

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Guest Speaker Series on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. GCC professor, author, and historian Derek Maxfield will be sharing his presentation "Victorian Deathways" on the many customs surrounding mourning and death in Victorian era culture. "In light of the 200th anniversary of the great and historic Batavia Cemetery, it seems fitting to examine American attitudes towards death. This may seem morbid to some, but how a society observes death - like other milestones – tells us much about their culture and values. The Victorians, in particular, created a number of fascinating ways of observing death – from redesigning cemeteries to the language we use to talk about it. This talk will focus mainly on antebellum Victorian culture, roughly 1835 to the outbreak of the Civil War." Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. Please contact the museum at 585-343- 4727 or “This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by GO ART!”

Genesee County will soon be graced with two fantastic celestial events and Dan Schneiderman of the Rochester Museum of Science Center is heading our way to tell us everything we need to know! Join Dan for a FREE public talk being held at the Holland Land Office Museum on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. as he discusses the science & history of solar eclipses and how to prepare for this extraordinary astronomical opportunity. Reserve your seat by September 7 by phone or email at 585-343-4727; hollandlandoffice@gmail.comThis is a free event (Donations are always accepted for Holland Land Office Programming.) To learn more about how Genesee County is planning to celebrate these events please visit “Genny the Cow” Genesee County’s eclipse mascot will also be on site for photo ops! 

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Trivia Night @ the Museum on Thursday, Sept.14 at 7 p.m. This month's topic is the ship of the pilgrims, The Mayflower. Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. Please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or if you would like to attend.

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Guest Speaker Series on Thursday, September 21 at 7 p.m. We welcome local presenter and researcher Joseph Van Remmen, as he shares his well-researched theory of how the city of Buffalo got its name. There are a number of theories thrown around, but Mr. Van Remmen's is one you might not have heard of until now. Admission is $5/$3 for museum members. “This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by GO ART!”

Come to the Holland Land Office Museum on Saturday, September 23 from 1 - 4  p.m. as local author Rob Thompson will be signing copies of all of his works. Rob lives in Attica and is most known for his books on the Linden Murders, but he has also just written a new book on the Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War, "Behold & Blush: The Sullivan Expedition", which was waged against the Seneca in the Genesee Valley. He will also have copies of other works including Candles in the Rain and Swinging in the Rain. Copies of each of his books will be available. Prices range from $10-$15. 

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of our Java with Joe E. morning presentation series on Thursday, September 28 at 9 a.m. The museum welcomes the Town of Batavia Historian, Bernida Scoins, as she shares the life and works of Batavia native author John Gardner. Bernida will also have artifacts and items related to Gardner for display. Admission is free with coffee and donuts. Please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or if you would like to attend.

Faith formation program now accepting registrations

By Press Release

Press Release:

Registration is now open for the 2023-24 Faith Formation Program at Resurrection and Ascension Roman Catholic Parishes in Batavia. The parish families are excited about this joint venture to share our Catholic faith with our families and children.  

All sacramental preparation classes (Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation) will be offered as well as enriching programs for the entire family.

Classes will begin on Sunday, September 10 at 10 a.m. Mass at Ascension Parish, followed by a pancake breakfast, meetings, and of course, bingo!  Come and join us!

Please contact Jason Smith from Resurrection Parish at or Ann Pratt from Ascension Parish at for information.

Overdose Awareness Day shines light on effort to spread 'hope and healing'

By Mike Pettinella
Overdose Awareness Day
Overdose Awareness Day at Austin Park on Wednesday featured messages of hope from community members on the dangers of opioids.  Photos by Steve Ognibene.
Cheryl Netter

Cheryl Netter and Scott Davis are two of the fortunate ones. They are people who have survived the grip of addiction and have emerged on the other side, now devoting their lives to helping others who are struggling with substance use disorder.

So many others didn’t make it. More than 100,000 in the United States over the past year alone – and nearly 80 Genesee and Orleans County residents who died of a drug overdose over the past four years.

Netter (photo at left) and Davis briefly shared their stories of anguish successful recovery on Wednesday afternoon at the annual Overdose Awareness Day at Austin Park.

The event, organized to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids and to remember those who have succumbed to an overdose, was coordinated by the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force, in conjunction with the National Institute of Health’s HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative.

Recognized as a community “hope coach,” Netter said she is “an overdose and suicide attempt survivor.”

“Leading up to my (suicide) attempt, much of my struggle and pain I chose not to allow people to see. I spent my younger years masking my way through life, not recognizing or even acknowledging my inner struggles,” she said. “This led me to dabbling with mental health issues, risky behavior, substance use and trying to (commit) suicide. I stand with you today only by the grace of God, and with many years of recovery and I'm able to tell my story in my own voice.”

She quickly shifted her focus off of herself to speak about those who are no longer with us because of drugs.

“We're here and I want to remember and acknowledge those individuals gathered here today, along with their families and friends. Those who aren’t able to tell their story with their own voice due to …losing the struggle of addiction and to talk about the crisis we’re all facing right now.”

Netter encouraged family members and friends to keep the stories of those departed alive.

“We’re sowing seeds of hope and healing, not only in the hearts and lives of others, but also in our own hearts and our own life,” she said. “Strength and recovery can be found by giving a voice to the stories of those who may otherwise go unseen and unheard.”

Scott Davis

Davis (photo at right) has been a certified peer recovery advocate for the Rochester Regional Health system for the past two years – a far cry from where he was for most of his adult life while addicted to heroin and fentanyl.

He shared that when his mother died in 2008, his life spiraled out of control, and the result was incarceration, institutions and near death. Eventually, and with the help of medication for opioid use disorder and support from family and friends, Davis pulled himself up, and continues in his recovery.

Two years ago, his brother died from an overdose, a searing pain that he said he is “working through.”

“Every day, there is something that reminds me of him,” he said. “He’s always there with me.”

Other speakers included John Bennett, chief executive officer at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, and Dawn Stone, peer advocate at Spectrum Health in Wyoming County.

John Bennett: We’re Working to Save Lives

John Bennett

“You would think that in the year 2023, with all of the people who have come out publicly – all the movie stars and athletes that have come out and talked about their addiction – that the stigma would reduce? But it hasn’t. It’s still there,” Bennett said. “So, I just want to thank all the people here today who are recovery warriors. It’s the work that you guys do every day. The support agencies like GCASA, to support the people in the community, that really make a big difference.”

He mentioned how the agency has grown in recent years from 65 to almost 200 employees and adding needed services such as housing for various groups, childcare, transportation and The Recovery Station social meeting place on Clinton Street Road.

“We also provide services for the homeless, particularly through a homeless housing grant that we recently got,” he said. “We’re going to be working on coming up with transitional housing crisis beds for these folks, where they will have a place to stay for seven to 15 days. Those are hard to find, but we’re working to make those come true.”

Bennett said recovery workers are making a difference by trying to save lives.

“My heart goes out to all of you who have lost a loved one. I can’t imagine the grief and loss. But know that we’re trying to make a difference behind the scenes to help future loss of life,” he said.

Paul Pettit: An ‘Urgent Public Health Threat’

Paul Pettit

Pettit said that data shows that the opioid epidemic continues to be a “very urgent public health and public safety threat in our communities.”

“Drug overdose deaths continue to be the number one leading cause of injury mortality in the United States,” he said. “It’s been that way for many years now. And unfortunately, it's probably going to continue to be the number one cause of death. It's more than vehicle accidents and other types of injuries.”

More than 100,000 people died by overdose last year in the U.S., he said, adding that since 2019, there have been 56 overdose deaths in Genesee County and 23 overdose deaths in Orleans County.

“That’s 79 individuals that have lost their lives to overdoses that we could have prevented; that we are working to prevent it. And that's why we're here today -- to bring awareness to that and to honor them,” he said.

Pettit credited the GOW Opioid Task Force, a three-county coalition founded in 2017, and the more recent HEALing Genesee initiative for examples of community human services agencies coming together to fight this epidemic. 

“Three areas that we continue to focus on in the community is opioid overdose prevention and education and naloxone (Narcan) distribution … medication for opioid use disorder and linking individuals to treatment, and safer opioid prescribing and dispensing.

Dawn Stone: ‘It Takes a Community’

Dawn Stone

Noting that she provides support and encouragement for people from the age of 5 to 90, Stone said “it takes a community” to combat the increasing mental health and substance use epidemic.

In recovery for 19 years, she said that 21 people have died due to an overdose in Wyoming County in recent years, with 41 being the average age of those individuals.

“It’s not just young people,” she said. “Substance use affects all ages. We need to ask our elders, ‘Are you OK?’ and offer them the help they need.”

To conclude the program, Brandi Smith of Batavia, who has been in recovery from heroin, fentanyl and cocaine for six years, read a poem, No Hero in Heroin, in memory of her brother, Jason, who died of an overdose.

In part, the poem states, “So alone, so filled with fear, but I kept on swimming, well, drowning in tears; I never gave up, finally said my goodbyes, found beauty in life, without you by my side; You’re part of my past now, no longer a friend, despite you name, there’s no HERO in heroin.”

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Photos by Steven Ognibene.

agency booth
Information sharing was a big part of the event as representatives of more than 20 human service agencies participated.
Children joined in on the experience by taking part in educational exercises.
Amy Kabel, left, and Sue Gagne served as co-chairs for the observance. Here they stand in front of flags representing those who have died due to an overdose.
face painting
Seven-year-old Elizabeth Dorchak getting her face painted at a GCASA booth.

Sponsored Post: Did you know Reliant works with some of the areas top Investors/Entrepreneurs

By Lisa Ace
Reliant Real Estate

194 Washington Avenue Batavia-City
Looking for a professional business setting? Look no further-this is a great space and offers so much exposure in an area that is revamping and expanding! This space offers a large reception/office, waiting area, 4 private offices and 2 baths. There is also an enclosed foyer and one office has its own entrance door for possibility of sublet. Great opportunity and landlord open to discussion

Hawley tours Upstate Niagara, supports local farmers

By Press Release
Hawley upstate niagara
Submitted photo of Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) outside Upstate Niagara’s Facilities

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) toured the Upstate Niagara Cooperative’s O-AT-KA Milk Product facilities in Genesee County on August 17. 

Upstate Niagara is a farmer-owned dairy cooperative that owns eight manufacturing facilities making products such as milk, cream, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, evaporated milk, and specialty beverages, along with employing more than 1,500 people in New York. Hawley is proud to see local businesses helping to support the region and state’s number one industry, agriculture. 

Hawley took the time to meet with management and staff at Upstate Niagara’s facilities including Director of O-AT-KA Operations, Joe Steinocher.

“We were honored to host Assemblyman Hawley at our plant here in Batavia. O-AT-KA Milk, a subsidiary of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, employs about 450 people and receives milk from many of its 260 local farmer-owners,” said Steinocher about Hawley’s visit. 

“On our tour, we had the pleasure of showcasing the many great things our team continues to accomplish each day. We also highlighted the areas in the plant where we have grown through investment and discussed many of the challenges facing us in the future. We hope Assemblyman Hawley found the tour enlightening and will think of the economic impact O-AT-KA and Upstate Niagara have on Batavia and surrounding communities when he returns to Albany for the next legislative session.”

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy and cooperatives like Upstate Niagara are leading the charge,” said Hawley. “It is always great to see local businesses making an impact in our community and throughout our state. I will always support our local businesses, farmers, and agricultural industry in Albany.”

This year's Labor Daze includes new music, food, boxcar derby

By Joanne Beck
labor daze promo 2023
Members of the Oakfield Betterment Committee preparing for Labor Daze, from left, Darla Allen, Kerry Ohlson, Jaden Ohlson, Jamie Lindsley, Christopher Dickens, and Jeff Allen.
Photo by Howard Owens.

When you’re heading into an event that’s nearly four decades old, it might seem tempting to press repeat and do the same things over, but that’s certainly not the case with this year’s 39th ever-growing Oakfield Labor Daze Music & Food Festival, committee Chair Jamie Lindsley says.

Several new musical groups and food offerings, plus more arts and craft vendors, a new boxcar derby and sharing this year’s 5K proceeds through scholarships to local students is an indicator that board members and hands-on volunteers are continuing to shake things up.

Bigger and better might just summarize it. Plus, it’s free, Lindsley said. Most of the action happens in Triangle Park in the heart of the town, Saturday through Monday. 

“We try to make sure we include local organizations, whether it's the fire department, the school, and also, our community is very dependent upon and really helped by agriculture. And we really like to make sure that they're included in anything that we do. So we'll have tractors in the parade. We're also going to have the Shriners in the parade this year. So that's not new, but it's just something we haven't had in several years,” Lindsley said during an interview with The Batavian. “And new this year is the boxcar derby. And we're really thrilled to have that because it's got that nostalgia; it's a family-friendly event.

“Seeing children work together with their parents or their mentors to decorate the cars and to race the cars and troubleshoot and figure everything out; it’s really amazing,” she said. “I’m a big fan of science and math, and all of that is interrelated with what it takes to do the boxcar derby and to operate the boxcars.”

Where to begin? How about with the Hornet Hustle 5K at 9 a.m. Saturday. This year’s proceeds will be used for two $1,000 scholarships beginning with 2024 Oakfield-Alabama grads, and then to be awarded annually. This is a change from past years, when the race usually targeted one nonprofit, such as Warrior House or Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Lindsley said. 

“We've had multiple different causes over the years,” she said. “We would like to just have one and stick with it. And hopefully that will help it grow.”

Feel like lacing up and joining in? You can still register by Wednesday or the day of the race. Runners and walkers are welcome, organizers said.

Then get over to Drake Street to watch the 22 drivers steer their boxcars off the ramp and down the street for the first-ever derby at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We’re very excited about this. The shells were prepared and put over the chassis,” Lindsley said. “The kids decorated the cars with stickers. We hope to have a ton of spectators.”

Committee member Scott D’Alba came up with the idea, and everyone was on board with it, and fellow member Chris Marcott was going to be gleaning some tips and experience from helping out at Batavia’s boxcar derby this past Saturday, she said. Some of those derby cars were also going to be used in the Oakfield event.  

Kiddie Fun Day goes from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. That used to happen at Schoolhouse Manor, but due to construction, fun day has been moved over to the town park on Drake Street. 

“So kids can just walk down the street and get there. But we're going to have bounce houses and horse and pony rides. We're going to have games. We're gonna have like little arts and crafts and coloring stations. That should be fun,” she said.

There will also be vehicles, including a school bus and a tractor, parked for kids to see and perhaps climb onto,  and a visit from a K-9 officer, she said.

By this point in the day, Dance Images will be taking to the stage, from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by Batavia Players at noon. 

The Saturday entertainment line-up also includes:

  • 1 to 2 p.m. Skycats 
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Hazzard County
  • 7 to 10 p.m. Dave Viterna Group 

And that's just Day One. 

Some 50 vendors will be selling their creative wares from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. You may notice more than usual, as “there’s a little more this year,” Lindsley said.

“I’m glad. We have a lot of repeat vendors because they enjoy doing our show,” she said.

There will be lots of entertainment on Sunday:

  • 9 to 10 a.m. Christian Music Hour and church service to follow
  • 11 a.m. Russ Peters Group
  • 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.Songbirds
  • 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dark Horse Run 
  • 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Nerds Gone Wild

So far, that brings two new musical groups onto the Labor Daze scene. Hazzard County, according to its website, has been nominated as “one of the top country cover bands of the year for WNY,” made possible by its five-member band’s passion for delivering “authentic country sound combined with the dedication of our talented members” with a combined century of experience.  

As for Nerd Gone Wild, it is just what you might expect — musicians with pocket protectors, taped glasses, bowties and suspenders in a lively, energetic and interactive performance of 1980s tunes, choreographed dance moves, trivia questions, contests, and a tribute band showcase “like nothing you’ve seen before,” its website states.

What better way to top that off than to check out the fireworks to follow at 9:30 p.m. at the town park on Sunday? 

If you’re going to the parade at 10 a.m. Monday, it is suggested that you get there early, since roads are closed by 9:45 a.m. to prepare for the groups that march down the Main Street, Lindsley said. If you’re interested in being a participant, there’s still time to register.

Of course, one of the biggest attractions to any festival is the food — whether it be grilled, crunchy, soft, sweet, savory, spicy or something in between, Labor Daze seems to have it, with several food trucks and local organizational food booths, she said. 

New items include fried ravioli, empanadas, fresh-cut fries and a poutine truck. The O-A Music Boosters will have pizza, Alex’s Lemonade Stand will be there, and the O-A Lions Club will be selling its “world famous Italian sausage with peppers and onions, as well as a loganberry drink.”

“And then we're going to have lots of other amazing things like ice cream and shakes and milkshakes. Kettle Corn. Novelty desserts, like a high-end dessert truck, so things like French macarons, cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate covered strawberries, lemon bars, cupcakes, cookies, all kinds of deliciousness,” she said.

Other food trucks include Sweet Lisa’s, Ice Cream and Chill, Lori’s Delectable Edibles, which offers bubble tea and iced coffees, Islands Hawaiian BBQ (on Monday), plus the parent-teacher group will be selling cotton candy. It’s a safe bet that no one will go hungry in Oakfield this weekend. 

Monday’s musical line-up includes:

  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Batavia Swing Band
  • 1 to 4 p.m. Exit 13
  • 4 to 7 p.m. Public Water Supply
  • 7 to 10 p.m. The Floyd Concept

Public Water Supply, out of Rochester, bills itself as an alternative rock/indie Americana act of five university-trained musicians in a blend of "distinctive songwriting, spectacular vocals and incredible instrumentalists," and The Floyd Concept, a Pink Floyd tribute band, are two more new bands to the festival this year. 

The committee lines these groups and vendors up months in advance, beginning its planning the day after — or days before in some cases — the current Labor Daze festival, Lindsley said.

“We’re making notes right now,” she said of next year’s event. “We are a nonprofit, and we're 100 percent volunteer-driven, and a lot of our vendors at the event are also nonprofit organizations. This is an event that's beneficial to them for their fundraising and for raising awareness about their organization, and it’s hopefully driving new membership for everyone.”

What were the biggest challenges for this year’s festival?
“The two main challenges, or opportunities I'd like to call them, is finding out that the air show is the same weekend. It doesn't overlap the entire weekend, so I don't think that'll be as big of a problem as my worst fears were,” Lindsley said. “But the other thing is the construction of Schoolhouse Manor. It's really just such a stately old lady of a building, and we really are happy she's being restored, but not being able to use that space was a bit of a challenge for sure.

“I think the reception has been pretty good. People are excited about both (the air show and Labor Daze). We anticipate people going to the air show, and we encourage them to do that; what an amazing opportunity,” she said. “Personally, I'm sad that I won't have a chance to. But the community is still planning on coming out. And, you know, we have a lot of volunteers from within Oakfield-Alabama and surrounding communities that actually volunteer in our food booths. And I think the reception has been pretty good. I have a really good feeling about this year.”

Lindsley is president of the Oakfield Betterment Committee, which also includes board members Ritchie Kirkum, Scott D’Alba, Diane Klos, Emily Kolpack, Chris Marcott, Jeff Allen and Jaden Ohlson.

Pink Floyd tribute band new to Labor Daze festival

By Joanne Beck
the floyd concept
Photo courtesy The Floyd Concept

Just as it sounds, The Floyd Concept is a Pink Floyd tribute band, founded in 2016, that’s been playing with its current lineup for the past year, plus its newest member, female vocalist Samantha Hoy.

Michael Diggs, keyboardist and one of the founding members, thought it was important to add a female singer since the actual Pink Floyd group employed a few of them, and the Floyd Concept formerly only had five guys.

“But on some of the music that we do, our harmonies are important, and this is where there's certain signature voices that we need to try to get as close as possible. So we decided to add the female singer,” Diggs said during an interview Sunday. “This year we are doing the 50th anniversary of ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ and there's a song, you know, there's a great one that they call ‘The Great Gig in the Sky,’ one of the songs on the album, which has a female singer.”

They will be performing the album during their show as one of the new groups at this year’s Oakfield Labor Daze Music & Food Festival from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday. 

“If you like Pink Floyd, then you want to come and see this group because we get it as close as possible. And you will love the light show that we give you because you're in for a complete show,” he said. “You'll want to come see this group. We have people who have left the show just blown away from our live show and the music. So you'll definitely be in for a treat when you see our show.”

Diggs first joined a group called Hey You in 2000, and that was a regional Pink Floyd tribute band. He was drawn to Pink Floyd as a kid and then got to see them live in 1989 while stationed with the Army in Germany. 

“And that just made it even better for me,” Diggs said. “And it just kind of, you know, solidified my love for the group and when the opportunity came for me to join a Pink Floyd tribute, I did. So, that group dissolved in 2012. And the founder of that group, George Root, and we started the Floyd Concept together.

“I always loved the music, but after seeing them live, the production just blew me away. And I mean they use like a 25-foot circular screen with movers, you know. The production is unreal. That really did it for me. We wanted to kind of almost try to replicate that type of production on our own for our show. So we … we built a nine-foot screen, a circular truss, with the movers, and we started buying our own light show. So we try to replicate the production side of it as much as we can.”

Band members include: 
Tony Aversa on lead guitar and vocals, an “international recording artist whose music has been used in radio and television across the globe,” according to the group’s website. He began playing guitar in 1980, infatuated with Van Halen, settling into a love for the blues, and becoming hugely influenced by Pink Floyd’s 1982 release of “The Wall,” moving on to his own music label, recordings, bands, songs and now The Floyd Concept.

Tim Toole, on guitar and vocals, described on the site as delivering “the fun, melodic and emotional dynamic experience so common to all great music shows.” A lifelong fan of Pink Floyd and David Gilmour melodies,  Toole has played in various bands throughout his life, amassing more than 100 shows with his guitar rig of several Fender Stratocasters, Taylor 6 string 314 CE, Fender 12 string, various classic tube amps and modulation effects. 

Bryan Owczarzak, bassist, began his piano studies at age 10 and has early professional experience recording music for local TV and radio commercials while in high school and college. He’s played keyboards and bass in several local jazz and progressive rock bands since the mid-1990s.

Chris Collesano is on percussion, drawn to music at an early age, he started banging on “anything that sounded cool to me,” he says on the website. He bought his first electric guitar at 15 and his first drum set at 12, teaching himself how to play both. Collesano has done several side projects and sessions and studio work, plus solo work, playing tame star classic drums and a variety of snares and cymbals. 

As for Diggs, a Hamburg resident, he won first place in a star search while stationed in Germany, and was nominated for best rock keyboardist for the Buffalo Music Awards in 2011 and 2012 and again in 2017, 2018 and 2019. 

He’s had some time to practice, taking up keyboards at age 8 and never putting them back down, the 55-year-old said. However, he does seem to like talking technology every bit as much as the music — maybe even more. The video production, choreography, lighting, movers on stage in rhythm with the melodies, they all lend that legitimacy and spirit of Pink Floyd to the experience, he said. 

Take the song, “Welcome to the Machine.” 

“You know, the screen is all red. There’s a video of a robot doing office work. You'll see the video footage of that. When you see ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ I mean, we'll have actual clips from Pink Floyd stuff, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ there. We like to use stuff of space, earth and stuff like that,” he said. “So ‘Money,’ of course, we'll use the actual footage of the video for money. And the same thing with ‘Time.’ Also, with the ticking clocks and stuff like that. It's very, very video-driven. And our movers are mounted to our screen. And it kind of flows with the music, which is where our lighting director comes in. And then, plus, we have other types of lighting.”

The band is a side gig for the members, and they perform at least a dozen times a year at festivals and theaters, he said. For Diggs, he’s an electrician for Erie County, and his bandmates are insurance agents, school teachers and the like. It’s not uncommon to go from working a job to performing, and “Western New York has some amazing talent,” he said. 

“It's unbelievable, all the groups that we have around here, and we're very, very fortunate to be playing for the Labor Daze, bringing our show to the Batavia area,” he said. “I’ve been doing bands probably since 1988. Even while I was stationed in Germany, I played in some bands over there, and it was pretty cool. We got a chance to play in places like Frankfort and different venues while I was there, you know, but as far as doing the Pink Floyd stuff, that's always been a dream of mine to do.  I've done like Blues Brothers, progressive rock, stuff like that, but yeah, Pink Floyd just happens to be a passion that I love to do.”

Flying in entertainment and commerce as part of air show's return this weekend

By Joanne Beck
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
One of two MX aerobatic planes that landed at Genesee County Airport this afternoon taxis into a hangar.
Photo by Howard Owens.

There’s a rule in the air show business that you’ll know how good the event will be by how well you’re treated and taken care of in the first 15 minutes of arrival, Doreen Hillard-Zeliff says.

As one of the lead organizers of the resurrected Wings Over Batavia Air Show, she intends to provide nothing but an A-plus experience for those performers and pilots coming into town for the weekend’s event. 

They’ll get a hearty welcome, no doubt, a rental car, their hotel packet with a map, a bottle of water, local information, a swag bag, necessary credentials, and — an especially important local commerce element — a community event and some wining and dining.

“So Thursday night, we’re having a community event at Eli Fish, in back at Jackson Square. It should be a lot of fun, and everybody can come. And there's music. Matty Gray hired a band that is going to play. So there'll be appetizers and drinks, and we're going to introduce the performers,” she said during an interview with The Batavian. “They all like to give back. The only thing we wish is that the kids were in school right now because they make school visits. And it's real special for them to do that; they love giving back to the communities that they get to fly and perform for.”

There might even be a few pilots flying over Jackson Square during this Thursday’s event. It’s all part of a bigger picture that draws revenue beyond the airport into the community at large, she said. 

Gates open at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for Wings Over Batavia at Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive, and events run from 5 p.m. into the evening, finishing with fireworks. 

That revenue is being spread throughout Genesee County, as organizers have been taking air show participants out for meals while they’re also staying at local hotels. Harrington’s has been booked to provide breakfast throughout the weekend. 

Formerly Hillard, Doreen, one of the two air show co-chairs, just got married to Pete Zeliff, a fellow airplane and air show enthusiast who owns a hangar at the Genesee County Airport. They’ve been working on the show with a committee and a handful of hired professional, seasoned veteran air show staff to ensure a smooth first-time event, including an air show director, a parking specialist, and a ticket agent.

Committee member, county Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, has also brought his expertise into the mix with responsibility for the county’s safety. 

“I’ve been focused on creating safe access for parking, safe pedestrian access to the site, safe movement of planes, limiting impact on our airport tenants, managing traffic around the airport, coordinating lighting during and after the show.  I feel like everything is in a very good place. The Air Show has an excellent parking plan, and it’s great that they are including the price of parking in the admission tickets to get people off the roads and into the airport to avoid traffic,” Hens said. “We have a good plan in place for pedestrian safety, and the county has made several on-site improvements to move folks through the venue. We will be doing final inspections all (this) week to make sure things are safe. We will be putting out some PR this week … highlighting parking and access to the airport as well as some community notification on the fireworks, pyrotechnics and explosions that will occur on 9/2 and 9/3 as part of the show.”

While talking, Hillard-Zeliff had to pause momentarily to move off a ramp while a man cleared off some “foreign debris” in preparation for more planes to arrive. There was plenty of commotion, as could be heard in the air all afternoon and into the evening.

While preparing for the show was exciting, it was certainly old hat to Hillard-Zeliff, who grew up in air shows, she said, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, home to the AirVenture Museum, which is dedicated to the preservation and display of historic and experimental aircraft and antiques, classics and warbirds. She’s also involved in the Air National Council of Air Shows and wants to bring back air shows as a more common staple to communities. 

“It celebrates what we’re all about: the human spirit,” she said. “I call it aerial ballet because some of the acts are just so beautiful, with the smoke and the music. And it just does something of your soul I think. You can tell I love it.”

So even though she rattled off names of performers and pilots and planes that may not be familiar to everyone, they’re the real deal, she said. Trainer fighters, beautiful Mustangs from World War II in a beach team doing a day and night show, the F-22 Raptor, Rob Holland Aerosports, Kevin Coleman Extra 300 SHP, a choreographed pyromusical fireworks show and many other acts that are mostly described as to leave the audience in awe.

Some of these aircraft have such precision aerobatic skills, with super light maneuverability, yet there are also regular Cessna family planes that can also manage similar feats despite their much more sensitive carriages, she said. There’s a pilot that “pours a glass of water in the cockpit and doesn’t spill it,” she said. The audience can see this because there’s a live video for those below to watch.

And there are many other plane acts that take place at twilight and at night, and all are choreographed to “beautiful music,” she said. Or with the 1,000-foot wall of fire. The U.S. Air Force A-10 is one of her favorite demonstrations.

“It’s just different,” she said. “If I was in the desert, I’d be scared. It’s got big gatling guns.”

Don’t let her gender fool you; air shows and the industry are drawing more women, she said.

“It’s slowly become half and half,” she said. “Our premiere team is A-10 demo; it’s female. My niece is an F-16 pilot. A lot of my family fly and they are all girls. A lot of women are coming around.”

Hens credits her and Zeliff for bringing the air show back and thinks the community has been very supportive of its return. Hens alternates between excitement and nervousness every day as he approaches the actual event, he said. But he’s definitely looking forward to it.

“The acts I am most excited to see are the P-51s. I’ve been in love with those planes ever since I was a kid, and they are one of the reasons I went to the Air Force Academy. It will also be great to see the P-51 fly with the A-10 and the F-22 in a Heritage Flight,” he said. “Everyone always enjoyed the air shows in the 90s, and there is excitement for it to be back. There’s also a desire by many to see community events return. We’ve lost so many over the years. I think the hardest part is getting volunteers to run these things. They don’t happen by themselves, and much to everyone’s surprise, there is usually little to no government involvement outside of Police and EMS.”

Perhaps that’s why organizers have been calling the air show so family-friendly. It’s a grassroots type of deal, and more volunteers are always needed, organizers said. Nonprofits can make 10 percent of the proceeds if they work in concession stands.

Ticket sales have been going well, and The Mustang Club category was sold out as of Tuesday. For Hillard-Zeliff, she also sees the show as very affordable and patriotic to offer something for the community and the soul. The Ghostwriter will be leaving messages in the sky throughout this week, so you may want to be glancing upward until the show begins, she said.

Or, as Hens said, “it will be life-changing.”

“Aviation has so much to offer, and most kids just aren’t exposed to it. The air show provides a great opportunity for kids in Genesee County,” he said.

batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Doreen Hillard-Zeliff and Pete Zeiliff.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
A pair of MX aerobatic planes do a flyover at the Genesee County Airport as they arrive in Batavia for this week's Wings Over Batavia airshow.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Any skywriting you see promoting the air show over the next few days will be the work of Nathan K. Hammond in his Chipmunk.
Photo by Howard Owens.
batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Pilot Bill Stein, who flew in on one of the MX planes, receives his swag bags, rental car keys, and directions to his hotel from Janet Rohan.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Parent company announces remodel of Flying J, $10K donation to Pembroke Central Schools

By Press Release

Press release:

The Flying J travel center in Pembroke, New York, is ready to welcome travelers with a fully refreshed look and new amenities. The renovations are part of Pilot Company’s nationwide initiative, called New Horizons, to invest $1 billion in remodeling its stores to upgrade the experience for team members and guests and prepare for the future of travel. Additionally, Pilot Company is donating $10,000 to Pembroke Central School District as part of its commitment to giving back.

As part of the store’s complete overhaul from curb to counter, the Flying J travel center located at 8484 Allegheny Road features: 

  • Refreshed and expanded restrooms and showers to improve the guest experience
  • Enhanced food offerings
  • Expanded beverage coolers 
  • New team member breakroom
  • Updated public laundry facilities

“We are excited to showcase our newly updated travel center with the Pembroke community and the travelers we serve every day,” said Allison Cornish, vice president of store modernization at Pilot Company. “We continue to listen to our guests’ feedback and strive to make their travel experiences easier and more enjoyable.”

The New Horizons initiative is a three-year project to fully remodel more than 400 Pilot, Flying J and One9 travel center locations and marks the company’s most significant investment in store modernization to date. For more information about New Horizons, visit

County announces attendance safety measures for Wings Over Batavia

By Press Release
wings over batavia parking
The Wings Over Batavia parking plan.

Press release:

Genesee County officials are committed to ensuring a safe environment for the Wings Over Batavia Air Show at the Genesee County Airport, scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, and Sunday, Sept. 3. Wings Over Batavia, the independently owned and operated agency responsible for this event, is working closely with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and Genesee County Emergency Management to ensure public safety remains at the forefront of preparations.

Comprehensive Safety Measures
Genesee County is committed to overseeing comprehensive safety measures. The Genesee County Sheriff's Office, New York State Troopers, and City of Batavia Police are coordinating efforts to help ensure public safety. Various emergency services providers will be present at the event to uphold public safety standards.

Emergency Services and Special Effects
Planned explosions, pyrotechnic displays, and fireworks will be handled exclusively by the event organizers. Attendees and residents are informed not to dial 911 for these planned activities, as emergency services will be on site.

Traffic Control
Leading up to and during the event on Sept. 2 and Sept. 3, State Street Road will be closed from West Saile Drive north to Batavia Elba Townline Road, and West Saile Drive will be closed from the Milton Cat building to the storage barns on the east side of the airport. Motorists are asked to pay attention to signs and flaggers, exercise extreme caution and be alert to changing conditions. Pedestrians must follow marked paths and signage.

Information and Guidelines
For further details about the show and other pertinent information, please visit:

Pavilion, like a lot of schools, grappling with 'terrible' problem of students with mobile phones

By Howard B. Owens
pavilion schools mobile phone policy
Charles Martelle, high school principal, and Carin Wade, foreign language teacher, during the discussion of mobile device policy at Monday's Board of Education meeting for the Pavilion Central School District.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Like every other school district in the nation, Pavilion Central School District teachers and administrators are frustrated by the distractions and problems created by students with mobile communication devices, particularly mobile phones.

"When you ask teachers, what's the one thing we could do to get kids more focused in school and in the classroom, it would probably be the removal of cell phones," said Charles Martelle, Pavilion's high school principal. "That doesn't mean we can come up with a way to do it that doesn't cause more distractions."

It's a problem even in elementary school, said principal Tom Wilson, and Carin Wade, a ninth-grade language teacher, chimed in with, "It's awful."

She added, "They can put it in their pockets and you don't even see it. They can text without looking at their phones.  I mean, you've got 25 kids in a classroom and you can't -- it's terrible."

During the discussion of outright bans, Wade said it's been tried at Pavilion, and parents complained.

Parents, one administrator said, are part of the problem.

"I understand the safety side of it, but at the end of the day, parents shouldn't be texting their kids during class," he said.

"And they know they are," Wade said. "They know their kids are in class, and the kids will be like, 'But it's my mom,' and I'm like, 'OK, but you're in class. I don't understand.'"

The policy for 2023-24 will be the same as last academic year, which uses a color-coded system to let students know where and when they can touch their phones.

In the green zones -- hallways and the cafeteria, they get close to unlimited access to their phones (they're not supposed to take pictures or make audio or video clips).  In gold zones, such as most classrooms, they can only access a phone with teacher permission. And in red zones, phones cannot be touched or displayed at all. This includes bathrooms, locker rooms, and the auditorium.

If a student is caught in violation of the policy, a staff member can collect the phone and leave it in the main office, where a parent or guardian must pick it up.

The discussion at Monday's meeting indicated even this policy leaves much to be desired when it comes to limiting distractions caused by electronic devices.

Schools have tried outright bans, but Martelle said there's no evidence these bans achieve favorable outcomes. Some schools have tried lockable pouches that students must store the device during the school day, getting the pouch unlocked by a staff member at the end of the day, but some school districts, Martelle said, found that students use "burner phones," phones they don't really use, to dump in the pouches.

"If there's a plan that actually worked and serves our interests that was more strict, we would use it," Martelle said. "I think a lot of schools are (implementing more strict policies), so we'll be able to look at articles and literature and studies. Right now, it's really up in the air. The studies as to whether or not schools that have done this versus those that haven't, the studies are really kind of inconclusive. We're looking at different things as to whether it actually improves anything in schools or not or whether it's effective."

He said administrators are open-minded about finding a better way of dealing with the problem.

"It's a very difficult problem right now," he said.

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