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Week One Football: OAE beats Geneseo 55-14

By Howard B. Owens
oae aggies week 1 win football

The Oakfield-Alabama/Elba Aggies started its new season with another convincing win, beating Geneseo 55-14.

The Aggies shut out Geneseo in the first half, going into the locker room with a 42-0 lead.

Key stats:

  • Senior QB/LB Bodie Hyde - 10 Rushes, 181 Yards, 4 TDs,  12 Tackles, (all in 1st half)
  • Junior RB/LB Avery Watterson - 11 Rushes, 90 Yards, one interception
  • Senior RB/DB Shaun Alexander - 9 Rushes, 50 Yards, one touchdown

Ronald Szpylman, Austin Pangrazio, and Gavin Armbrewster all also had rushing TDs (Gavin Armbrewster also had an interception).

  • Senior LB Ashton Bezon - 12 Tackles,  1 Sack
  • Senior DL Angelo Penna - 8 Tackles, 1 Sack
  • Senior DL Austin Pangrazio - 8 Tackles

"It was great to see this team come out of the gate and play a style of football that we felt they were capable of playing," said Head Coach Tyler Winter. "They were physical, played well at the point of attack, and they executed at a level much greater than a typical group in a week zero game.  We are very pleased with the victory, but this group is more excited that they can now dive into film and begin preparations for the next challenge that awaits them."

Also on Friday and Saturday:

  • Le Roy beat Bath-Haverling, 43-6
  • Attica-Alexander beat Letchworth/Warsaw/Perry 16-14
  • York/Pavilion beat Notre Dame, 20-12
  • Batavia won 46-30
  • Pembroke beat Red Jacket, 55-28

Coaches: Send your team's results and stats to howard@thebatavian.com

Photos by Debra Reilly.

oae aggies week 1 win football
oae aggies week 1 win football
oae aggies week 1 win football
oae aggies week 1 win football
oae aggies week 1 win football

Photos from the ground at Wings Over Batavia

By Mike Pettinella
A10 team
Members of the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team in formation at Saturday's Wings Over Batavia air show are, from left, Sr. Airman Anwar Allen, Sr. Airman Toriano Decuir, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Ross, Staff Sgt. Cody Polzin, Tech. Sgt. Allen Brewer, Master Sgt. Bryen Sandoval, Capt. Jose Shuco Paiz and Capt. Lindsay "MAD" Johnson, the pilot. Photo by Phil Casper.
air force recruits
The air show served as the backdrop for a U.S. Air Force recruitment ceremony. Pledging their allegiance to serve in the military are, from left, Antonio Perez of Holley, Adele Feeley of Le Roy, Cole Swain of Pike, Andrew Waters of Middleport and Trevor Nicholson of Orchard Park. Photo by Phil Casper.
Rescue tank
Air show attendees were attracted to the police Rescue vehicle.
air store
The air show offered plenty of merchandise and souvenir items for sale.
food vendors
Jon Rolfe of Chili cooks the chicken kabobs at one of the several food vendor booths at the Wings OVer Batavia air show. Photos by Mike Pettinella.
Palermo family
Pete and Doreen Zeliff, left, air show organizers, with the Ricky Palermo family and friends. Submitted photo.

'I'm gobsmocked!' Wings Over Batavia delights spectators, showcases operational efficiency

By Mike Pettinella
Tom and Nancy Lamb
Tom and Nancy Lamb at Wings Over Batavia air show on Saturday. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Wings Over Batavia made a triumphant return on a cool and breezy Saturday night as more than a dozen highly skilled aerobatic and military pilots thrilled an estimated crowd of 7,000 at the Genesee County Airport.

Spectators were treated to what air show organizers repeatedly said was “the best of the best” on the air show circuit -- looking up in amazement as the performers maneuvered their planes through a series of rolls, loops, spins, twists and turns.

“This is my first show, and I’m gobsmacked!,” said Nancy Lamb, using a word defined as utterly astonished. “I can’t believe how they can do these things. It’s wild.”

Lamb and her husband, Tom, traveled from their Reading, Pa., home for the air show and also for a family wedding in Oakfield. Both retired, they said they’re having a blast and enjoying their 18-month-old twin grandchildren.

From the traffic control getting to the airport on Saile Drive to the hundreds of friendly volunteers at their posts to the layout of the various viewing areas, the four-hour show went off without a hitch (with just a few sprinkles of rain around the 5 p.m. starting time).

Skydiver Luke Aikins made a grand entrance to kick things off, floating safely to earth, American flag in hand, as the national anthem was sung. And it was Nathan Hammond – the Skywriter – who closed out the event by releasing fireworks from his Super Chipmunk as he buzzed through and around a dazzling show-ending pyrotechnics' display.

“We’re looking forward to the fireworks,” said James Turchiarelli of Depew, who was at the show with his fiancée Alexis Jefferds and 6-year-old Willa. “I haven’t been to one of these shows in years, and it’s pretty great.”

Midway through the show, American pride took center stage as the U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”) piloted by Capt. Lindsay “MAD” Johnson and P-51 Mustang steered by Lee Lauderback linked up for a Heritage tribute with the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor that flew into Genesee County airspace.

The powerful sound of the supersonic stealth fighter Raptor and the precise formation of the trio of planes had the audience spellbound.

Wings Over Batavia, the first such event in Genesee County in 25 years, concludes tonight with the show starting at 5 p.m. For more information, go to www.wingsoverbatavia.com.

Some news and notes from the ground:

SHOW HAS SPECIAL MEANING TO COUPLE

Mona and Steve Doyon
Mona and Steve Doyon met at the air show in 1996. In the background, is where Steve jumped to as a Navy SEAL.

Wings Over Batavia has a special place in the lives of Batavian Steve and Mona Doyon. It was 27 years ago when Steve, as a member of the Navy SEAL parachute team, performed at the Genesee County Airport and, later that Saturday evening, met Doyon, his future wife.

“Five of us came up and did a static line jump, and another five did a high altitude jump, freefall jump. After that, we packed up and stayed for the day, and then I met Mona over at The Sheraton, where they had a big gathering,” Steve said during yesterday’s show. “We met at the gathering, stayed in touch and did a long-distance relationship thing for a while. Then, she moved down with me to Virginia Beach, we got married, and she stayed with me through my military career.”

In 2004, Steve left the Navy and took a job with the New York State Police. They moved back to Batavia, Mona’s hometown, and have lived here ever since.

Mona, who works for All Babies Cherished in Batavia, recalled that she was at the show in 1996 with her mother and father and her three small children, watching the Navy SEAL skydivers.

“He (Steve) fell from the sky. God knew what I needed, and he fell from the sky,” she said.

Steve has been with the State Police Special Operations team for the past 16 years and also is a chaplain with the Air National Guard.

AIR SHOW MOM ‘LEARNING EVERY DAY'

Williams family
Catherine Williams and Rob Williams, right, with their son, Cole, who's affectionally known as Mr. Chill.

Growing up in California, Catherine “Cat” Williams never imagined being part of the air show circuit. But today, she’s relishing her role as “air show mom.”

“This was definitely strange to me, but I am learning every day,” she said, noting that she and her husband, Rob, have helped out at Batavian Pete Zeliff’s WNY Aviation Adventure Camp for children for the past 10 years. “I’m amazed at what these pilots do. They are just phenomenal.”

She and Rob, who is from Rochester and lived in Barre Center for a while, own four vintage airplanes.

“Rob is teaching me how to fly,” she said. “He is so patient in teaching me the importance of how to get the plane down if needed, so we do a lot of touch-and-go."

Cat said she came to New York about seven years ago after her daughter enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

Rob supports the pilots on the ground.

“I’m the ramp rat,” he said. “Whatever needs to be done. Like last night, I was bringing all the heavy planes in. If we need to run and fix the smoke oil, whatever they need.”

BILL FORAKER: JACK OF ALL TRADES

Bill Foraker
Bill Foraker is the "go-to guy" when it comes to air operations.

When it comes to cross-training, Bill Foraker of Green Valley, Ariz., is an expert.

“I work air shows around the country. I've worked on air ops and ground ops. I think I've done every job involved in air shows over the years. I used to fly in air shows, I’ve air bossed, I’ve announced, I’ve done all kinds of stuff,” said Foraker, 72, dressed in bright orange with his Air Operations badge.

Foraker’s job for the Batavia show started several weeks ago as he made hotel and rental car arrangements for the performers. His varied duties continued yesterday.

“During the show, I'll be on the radio with the air boss, doing pretty much anything the air boss needs,” he said. “And when the American flag comes down, I'm going to take a group of kids out there that are volunteers, and we’re going to go out and gather up the flag after hits the ground.”

The threat of rain had Foraker monitoring the weather pattern on his phone.

“Right now, I'm watching the weather because we've got rain about 45 minutes west of here headed this way. But it looks like it's coming apart as it hits the ground. But I'm watching that, and I'll keep the air boss and everybody informed if there's any convective activity on rain,” he said.

Foraker said he helps out at five or six shows a year. In two weeks, he’ll be at a show in Sacramento, Calif.

“I'm actually directing ground operations because we have a bunch of static displays --100 airplanes on static for people to walk around and look at. So I get there early. We park all of them and then work with the air boss for the air show. And then after the air show, we get them all out.”

Photos: Saturday evening Labor Daze live music

By Howard B. Owens
hazard county oakfield labor daze

Music fans were clearly having a good time on Saturday night at Labor Daze during performances by a hardcore country band, Hazzard County, and the rockin' trio, Dave Viterna Group.

There is more music planned for the rest of the long weekend.

Sunday:

  • 9  to 10 a.m., Christian Music Hour
  • 10 a.m., Church Service
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.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

On Monday:

  • 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

The Labor Daze parade is at 10 a.m. on Monday.

Photos by Howard Owens. 

hazard county oakfield labor daze
hazard county oakfield labor daze
hazard county oakfield labor daze
hazard county oakfield labor daze
hazard county oakfield labor daze
hazard county oakfield labor daze
dave vintera group oakfield labor daze
Dave Viterna Group oakfield labor daze
Dave Viterna Group oakfield labor daze
Dave Viterna Group oakfield labor daze
Dave Viterna Group oakfield labor daze
Dave Viterna Group oakfield labor daze

Photos: The view of Wings Over Batavia from Oakfield

By Howard B. Owens
air show viewed from oakfield

While driving back to Batavia from Labor Daze in Oakfield on Saturday evening, the Wings Over Batavia air show was clearly visible from Route 63.

The Batavian will have ongoing coverage of the air show on Sunday.

air show viewed from oakfield
air show viewed from oakfield

Batavia Players, SkyCats kick off Labor Daze entertainment in Oakfield

By Howard B. Owens
labor daze skycats
James Catino with the SkyCats rocks Labor Daze in Oakfield.
Photo by Howard Owens

Labor Daze is underway in Oakfield, and organizers have set up two stages so that the entertainment continues pretty much non-stop throughout the event.

Batavia Players kicked things off with a set of show tunes, and then the SkyCats started rocking on the other stage at 1 p.m.

Hazzard County took the stage at 4 p.m. and performs until 7 p.m., followed by the Dave Viterna Group from 7 to 10 p.m.

Tomorrow, Sunday:

  • 9  to 10 a.m., Christian Music Hour
  • 10 a.m., Church Service
  • 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.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

On Monday:

  • 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

The Labor Daze parade is at 10 a.m. on Monday.

labor daze skycats
The SkyCats
Photo by Howard Owens.
labor daze batavia players
Sophie Houseman, with Batavia Players, sings a show tune at Labor Daze on Saturday.
Photo by Howard Owens

Photos: Labor Daze in Oakfield hosts inaugural Box Car Derby

By Howard B. Owens
oakfield box car derby
Winner Elias Pamer with the flagman for his championship race, Alex Chaya.
Photo by Howard Owens.

At the end of nearly three hours of racing on Oak Street in Oakfield, Elias Pamer won the younger division and Cody Pangrazio won the older division in the Inaugural Oakfield Labor Daze Box Car Derby.

Photos by Howard Owens.

oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
oakfield box car derby
In the younger kids divisions, winner Elias Pamer and second place, Evians Piscitemili.
oakfield box car derby
The older division, winner Cody Pangrazio,second, Joe Baron, and third,Shae Finn.

Skywriting spurs pre-show sales and volunteers for Wings Over Batavia

By Mike Pettinella
airshow wings over batavia

A late surge in volunteer sign-ups has Batavian Pete Zeliff, catalyst of Genesee County’s return to the air show arena after a 25-year hiatus, feeling pretty good just hours before the start of the star-studded Wings Over Batavia event.

“After the last volunteer meeting we had, another 180 people signed up to be volunteers. So, we’re near 400 volunteers right now for this show, which is about right where we wanted to be,” Zeliff said on Friday at the rehearsal for the show that takes place today and Sunday nights at Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive.

Zeliff said he’s projecting attendance of 10,000 to 12,000 per day. The show runs from 5-9 p.m. both days.

“Yesterday, when Nate Hammond went up and did the sky writing, every time he went up and did that, the online ticket sales spiked. So, that was great to see that,” he noted.

The show is being sponsored by more than 30 businesses and individuals from the surrounding area.

“We did okay on sponsors, but I wish we could have done a little better,” he said. “But we’ll get there. It’s our first year.”

Zeliff said he is impressed by the caliber of performers who have flown into Batavia to participate.

“Well, I think a lot of people didn’t realize (the magnitude of the show) or didn’t think that it was really going to happen,” he said. “Now, with everything going on here, people are seeing that this is going to happen.”

When asked how Genesee County was able to attract such top-notch talent, a couple of the performers said it was due to their respect for Pete’s wife, Doreen Hillard-Zeliff.

“Dennis (Dunbar, show chairperson) helps, but Doreen is the reason why everybody’s here. Doreen is it,” said Kevin Coleman of the Red Bull team. 

His partner, Luke Aikins, agreed.

“I think Doreen and Dennis, that combination of those two. At every air show Dennis has ever organized, everything runs smooth. They take care of the performers. And that's what Doreen and Dennis are known for from us. They keep us safe, and they give us great support. And we're happy to be here for them,” he said.

Zeliff had no problem getting on that bandwagon.

“Doreen was the air show mom to all these guys when they were young and getting started,” he said. “You can see that they have a lot of respect for Doreen.

“And it’s amazing to have the lineup that we have. The A-10 sitting out here on the ramp. There hasn’t been – other than helicopters at practice here from the National Guard – a military plane on the ramp in 26 years. Plus, Mike Goulian, Rob Holland, Lee Lauderback. We’ve got the top performers in the industry.”

Photos from Friday's rehearsal flights by Jim Burns.

airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia
airshow wings over batavia

Red Bull duo jumping at the chance to wow the spectators at Wings Over Batavia this weekend

By Mike Pettinella
Red Bull
The Red Bull team, from left, skydiver Luke Aikins and pilot Kevin Coleman, at today's Wings Over Batavia preparation at the Genesee County Airport. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Kevin Coleman is living the dream.

“I’m 33 years old and I started flying air shows when I was 18. So, I grew up in an air show family and my dad flew air shows. Ever since I was 3 years old, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” the Coushatta, La. resident said this afternoon while getting ready for this weekend’s Wings Over Batavia Air Show.

Coleman and skydiver Luke Aikins comprise the Red Bull “Airforce” team that wows audiences all over the world. The event at the Genesee County Airport is their 16th show this year.

Their airplane is an Extra EA-300, a 1,200-pound, 400-horsepower machine that was built specially for aerobatics, Coleman said.

“Basically, it was built to do all the cool stunts or tricks, whatever you want to call it,” he added. “So, it's not comfortable; it's not a good traveling airplane. It's built for one purpose and that's to fly air shows and do all the cool stunts.”

Sponsored by Red Bull, Coleman said he’s been flying this plane since 2010.

“I own the airplane, while Red Bull is our partner that makes the deal go around,” he said.

Aikins, 49, of Seattle, said he’s been skydiving since 1989, amassing 22,000 dives over that time.

“I’ve done lots of jumping all over the place. I think the thing that is most known about me happened in 2017 when I jumped out of a plane without a parachute and landed in a giant net,” he said. “I did that on live TV and that was from 25,000 feet.”

Coleman quickly responded, “When he says it was a giant net, it was not a giant net. It was a small net.”

Aikens then said it was a 100- by 100-foot net “and I landed in that, without a parachute.”

He won’t be attempting that stunt this weekend, but he said he has something really special in store.

“Here in Batavia, I’m going to jump into a big American flag to start the show and Kevin’s going to circle around me with smoke while the national anthem goes on,” he said. “After that, Kevin’s going to put on an awesome display with the extra flip-and-twist-into-it turns and blow your mind.”

Later at night, Aikins said he’s going to come out wearing a wingsuit with pyrotechnics (sparklers) on his feet.

“I'm going to come out with a wingsuit with a sparklers on my feet and I’m going to jump out from about 7,000 feet and fly my wingsuit at night … and open a parachute and land in that.”

Batavia PD seeking public's help in locating wanted suspect

By Howard B. Owens
Nathan Royse
Nathan Royse

Press release:

The City of Batavia Police Department is currently looking for information leading to the arrest of Nathan L. Royse, 31, of Batavia, who is wanted on a violation of parole warrant as well a City of Batavia warrant for Criminal Possession of a Weapon 3rd degree.

Anyone with information is asked to contact our dispatch center at 585-345-6350 or submit a tip by clicking here.

East Pembroke Fire residents looking at higher costs down the road after rejecting retirement benefit for volunteers

By Howard B. Owens

Fram Oil Filters used to run a commercial with the tagline, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."

It may be the case that taxpayers in the East Pembroke Fire District decided earlier this week to the "pay me later" path for the future of keeping their homes and families safe in emergencies.

Voters turned down a proposal on Tuesday to fund a low-cost retirement program to help the fire department retain volunteers.

The measure was defeated 117 yes to 152 no.

Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger said he is disappointed in the outcome of the vote. He sees on a daily basis what is going on with volunteer fire companies in the county -- declining membership, fewer people turning out to calls, fewer people in training classes.

"The volunteer service is in bad shape, and it's getting worse," Yaeger told The Batavian.

In a social media post, members of the East Pembroke department shared their disappointment.

"The East Pembroke Fire Department has always put the community first, helping out whenever anyone is in need. On your worst day, the volunteers stop their lives to help you for hours on end with no compensation," reads a post on the department's social media page. Individual members shared their disappointment in comments on the post.

Yaeger said he understands the hurt and frustration members are feeling but believes they will regroup and come to realize the vote was not a rejection of their service to the community.

"Once the emotion subsides, they'll see that is not the case," Yaeger said.

Volunteer firefighters do the job for free, putting in hundreds of hours annually, some more than a thousand, not just responding to calls but also going to training, attending meetings, maintaining equipment, and supporting fundraisers.  It's an essential job with no pay, Yaeger noted. There is no pension. No health benefits. If you serve long enough, you might get a nice plaque at the end of your career.

"There are no benefits to being a volunteer firefighter other than it's a noble cause," Yaeger said. "And the calls are hard and getting harder. Most of them are EMS calls, and you're dealing with people who may not want you there. It might be drug overdose, and you're not welcome into the home, so it's disheartening (that this didn't pass)."

The program voters were asked to approve is known as LOSAP, or Length of Service Awards Program. It is run by an insurance company and would allow qualifying volunteers to earn $20 a month in retirement benefits for each year of service, with firefighters becoming fully vested after five years of qualifying service.

The cost to taxpayers in each of the first five years of the program -- when costs are at their highest because of a "buyback," allowing existing volunteers to qualify for five years of service -- would have been a maximum of 44 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on parcels in the district. After the first five years, the cost would have dropped by as much as two-thirds.

Issues that arose in the run-up to the vote were that residents had a hard time finding out what their actual individual cost to support the program would be. When The Batavian tried to find out, it took a couple of days to get a firm answer.  The first time  The Batavian asked the attorney for the district, Bradley Pinsky, what the rate would be, he said he was driving and didn't know. He suggested the reporter calculate the rate herself. Later he called back and said it was 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.  That didn't sound right because it was way out of line with guesstimate numbers previously provided to The Batavian. The Batavian contacted District President James Gayton, who contacted Pinsky immediately.  Pinsky admitted to an error in the calculation and said the correct figure was a maximum of 44 cents.

"East Pembroke is struggling for people to respond to calls," Yaeger said. "It’s a frustrating feeling not having enough people to do the job, and then you try to do something to attract and retain people, and it gets rejected by the people you’re trying to protect," Yaeger said.

Yaeger acknowledged that the rejection of the measure by voters may have come down to messaging.  There was a lack of clear information on a tax rate, but there was also misrepresentation and disinformation spread by two opponents of the measure. That left voters confused, so they just voted no.

East Pembroke volunteers think they know who those people who sent out mailers with incorrect information are and have pointed fingers at former colleagues.

Yeager said in looking at some of the recommendations from consultants on how to shore up emergency response times -- which, for Yaeger, response times is the bottom line issue at stake -- he and the area chiefs anticipated that some long-time volunteers would resist some of the initiatives, including LOSAP, because some people always hate any kind of change.

"We didn't have it before. It's not needed now," is that attitude that sometimes pops up, which in putting forward these proposals, consultants warned could happen.

It's not just a declining membership role that is making the volunteer firefighting service a challenge, Yaeger said. Equipment costs are skyrocketing. Turnout gear is more expensive. The equipment used in emergencies is more expensive.

A fire truck that cost $500,000 just a couple of years ago now costs $800,000, and the wait to get the order filled can take up to two years.

The countywide goal for response times is 10 minutes or  less, which can be difficult in a small rural county at any time, Yaeger said.

"My concern is mostly with getting a trained, qualified person to that home or business or accident when somebody calls 9-1-1," Yaeger said. "Our goal is to be able to respond to anybody's house within 10 minutes. That's a high target to shoot for in a rural county, but if you asked anybody how fast they want us there when their loved one is having a heart attack or other emergency, they say, 'minutes.'  I'm more concerned with service delivery that we're unable to provide right now adequately."

While maintaining an adequate volunteer force is important, Yaeger's office is also looking at other recommendations from a consultant that include stationing full-time, paid firefighters in fire halls throughout the county on day shifts and supplementing their responses with volunteers as well as strategically placing ambulances outside of Batavia.

For Yaeger, keeping response times low is a matter of saving lives, but for property owners, there is also a financial cost to increased response times, which can go up when there are too few volunteers to respond to calls.

Insurance rates are based on a rating of fire services available to a particular parcel of property.  The Insurance Service Organization scores response times based on 9-1-1 operations, water supply, hydrant capacity, drive time, fire apparatus and equipment, staffing and several other factors.

A shortage of volunteers can affect an ISO score, which means higher insurance costs for property owners.

A decline in volunteer membership will also hasten the day that the county must implement a plan that supplements volunteers with paid, career firefighters. 

Yaeger doesn't yet foresee replacing volunteer departments with full-time paid departments, such as currently provides fire protection to the City of Batavia, and the semi-paid response teams, if they come, will be shared across departmental jurisdictions; for example, East Pembroke Fire District won't be shouldering the entire cost alone for such a service.

But when it is harder for a department to retain volunteers, such as the potential case now with East Pembroke's failure to approve LOSAP, it becomes much more likely that property owners in that district are looking at much higher tax bills to cover the costs of paid firefighters.

LOSAP probably would not have brought in new firefighters, Yaeger said, but it would have rewarded those volunteers who have given so much to the community -- not just fire protection but donations through fundraisers to local charities -- and that could have been an important retention tool to forestall higher fire protection costs down the road.

"When you consider the cost of equipment and maintenance and upkeep on a fire station in order to maintain response times, it's going to cost money," Yaeger said. "What that total expense is, I don't know, but if we can't count on volunteers, we can only look to paid firefighters or a pay-per-call model because we're having trouble retaining volunteers, and it's getting worse every day."

'Skywriter' Hammond set to thrill Wings Over Batavia crowd with unique pyro-musical show

By Mike Pettinella
Nathan and Alex
Nathan K. Hammond, left, and Alex Jameison stand in front of their "Ghost Writer" airplane today at the Genesee County Airport. They are preparing for the Wings Over Batavia Air Show on Saturday and Sunday nights. 
Photo by Mike Pettinella.

If you’re one of the many Western New York residents who happened to catch the cool messages in the sky on Thursday afternoon, you may be wondering who flying the airplane and just how did he or she perform such tricks.

The pilot of the plane – a 1956 de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk – was none other than Nathan K. Hammond, well-known on the air show circuit for his skywriting.

A native of Rhinebeck, a small village in Dutchess County, who now lives in Kentucky, Hammond is part of an all-star cast that will be performing on Saturday and Sunday at the Wings Over Batavia Air Show at the Genesee County Airport.

The Batavian caught up to Hammond and his assistant, Alex Jamieson, another former Rhinebeck resident now living in North Carolina, earlier today prior to the show’s “dress rehearsal” at the Saile Drive facility.

“(Skywriting) is what we do to help the air shows that we’re at,” said Hammond, 42, acknowledging that he created quite a buzz with his antics. “While some people can make their airplane do amazing things, such as Michael Goulian’s airplane here behind me (Goulian pilots an Extra 330SC, arguably the world’s premiere aerobatic competition and air show plane), one of the things I can do with this airplane is to write in the sky.”

Hammond explained that he loads the plane with smoke oil consisting of a lightweight mineral oil with a lot of paraffin in it that, when injected into the exhaust, expands about 800 times its size.

“So, one cubic inch of oil becomes 800 cubic inches of smoke. We flow a whole lot of smoke and a whole lot of oil and are able to fill the sky and be able to draw those messages that you can see when we're two miles up in the sky,” he said. “We did lots of smiley faces, lots of hearts, and we did lots of butterflies over top.”

He said he was born and raised in the air show industry, down the Hudson (River) in Rhinebeck.

“I went to college and got a business degree so I could run an airport, and that’s what I do – 9 to 5 at my airport in Kentucky, running a business at the airport that maintains airplanes,” he said. “Then, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I get to go out and play.”

Hammond said his career is supported by his wife, Kelley, who coordinates the night show.

“Everybody has seen a skywriting over top during the day. The next step is Saturday and Sunday night when we’re going to load about 200 pounds of 'pyro' – of fireworks – on the wings of this airplane and fly with the fireworks that are coming off the ground and have a pyro-musical like you have never seen,” he said, his voice sparked with enthusiasm.

The Wings Over Batavia show will be Hammond’s ninth of the season – and he still has another eight more after this.

“We used to (fly) just in the summer months, but now our first show starts in January, and our last show is December 4th,” he said. “We follow about 70 degrees (temperature-wise). We start in Florida, and we end in Florida.”

He called the layout at Genesee County Airport a “perfect venue for an air show,” noting easy access to multiple towns, with Rochester to the east and Buffalo to the west – “with nice roads that lead in and out.”

“It’s a big, giant airport with lots of space so that everybody gets a front-row seat.”

Hammond also raved about the roster of performers for the Batavia show.

“The lineup for this show is nothing but headliners. You don’t see these performers gathered in one place, except maybe in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which is the second largest air show in the world (and) the largest in the western hemisphere,” he said. “If you miss this show, you have missed out on a monster opportunity to see the best of the best of the best.”

At this year’s Oshkosh show, Hammond earned the Bill Barber Award for Showmanship.

Jamieson, who has been helping Hammond for the past five years, said they connected “over our love for antique airplanes” at the old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

He said the plane was built as a training aircraft but also has the right stuff for aerobatics.

“This one has a more modern inline-six engine – a Lycoming IO 540, with about 300 to 350 horsepower,” he said. “It’s quite a hoot of an airplane to go up and do aerobatics.”

When you add the fireworks component, the show's bound to be extra special, Hammond said.

"We'll make our appearance during the fireworks, and then we've got a whole bunch more surprises in that time," he said. "So, at night what's neat is ... we bolt about 200 pounds of fireworks on the wing tips of the airplane. So, we'll actually have fireworks coming off of the airplane while there's fireworks coming off of the ground. It is going to be a bright, spectacular event."

batavia air show arrivals aug 29 2023
Nathan K. Hammond arrived in Batavia on Tuesday in his Chipmunk skywriting plane.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Jackson Square, Eli Fish, filled with Wings Over Batavia pre-event party on Thursday

By Howard B. Owens
jackson square wings over batavia party

The OHMS Band headlined a Wings Over Batavia Party in Jackson Square on Thursday night, sponsored by Eli Fish Brewing Company.

The organizers of Wings Over Batavia have been ensuring the pilots and flight crews have gotten a chance to enjoy Batavia during their time here, including taking them to locally-owned restaurants for meals and ensuring they get a chance to meet members of the community.

"All the performers I've spoken to tonight said they the community has embraced them," said Doreen Hillard-Zeliff. "They're blown away at how friendly everybody is here and helpful. They're just like shocked, you know. This is three-quarters of their season. They're getting tired by this time of the year and their show circuit. They've only got a few shows left for the year. So, to come to a show like this and have a community embrace them this way is really been wonderful for them."

Photos by Howard Owens

jackson square wings over batavia party
Members of one of the flight teams, Tora Bomb Squad, enjoy the music and atmosphere in Jackson Square.  From left, John Wolf, Jim Cool, and Jason Bartley.
Photo by Howard Owens.
jackson square wings over batavia party
jackson square wings over batavia party
jackson square wings over batavia party
jackson square wings over batavia party

Skywriting: More photos from readers

By Howard B. Owens
photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Jon Dayton
photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Jon Dayton
Photo by Marge Alwardt
Photo by Marge Alwardt
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Marcello Harris
Photo by Laurie Pocock
Photo by Laurie Pocock

Three people arrested in connection with raid on East Avenue home

By Howard B. Owens
15 east avenue raide
Investigators examine what appears to be a surveillance camera mounted outside the entrance 15 East Ave., Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens
alterique day
Alterique Day

Three people were arrested during a traffic stop on Clinton Street Road as well as a raid on a residence on East Avenue on Thursday night in connection with a narcotics investigation by the Local Drug Task Force.

Two people are accused of selling narcotics.

The arrest and raid were the result of a warrant issued as a result of the investigation.

The Sheriff's Office did not disclose the types of drugs potentially recovered at either scene, nor the amount of drugs recovered.

joanna larnder
Joanna Day

All three suspects also face weapons charges but details on the weapons recovered was not released.

Charges:

Alterique Day, 51, of Saint Casmir Street, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, a Class D felony. Day was arraigned in City Court and ordered held without bail.

Joanna F. Larnder, 30, of East Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a Class B felony, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and tampering with physical evidence, a Class A misdemeanor.  Larnder was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision.

Patricia McDonald, 37, of East Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, a Class A misdemeanor.

The Sheriff's Office did not specify the alleged actions leading to the tampering with evidence charge.  The release also did not specify which suspects were taken into custody at the traffic stop and which were taken into custody at the residence.

A drug possession charge in the third degree means investigators believe the suspect was selling drugs.

The Emergency Response Team, led by Batavia PD, assisted in the raid of 15 East Ave.

The District Attorney's Office assisted in the investigation.

UPDATE: Batavia PD also issued a statement:

The City of Batavia Emergency Response Team (ERT), made up of members of the City of Batavia Police Department and Genesee County Sheriff's Office, assisted the Genesee County Local Drug Task Force, also comprised of members from both agencies, with the execution of two search warrants in the City of Batavia in relation to a narcotics trafficking investigation. 

We encourage anyone with information about ongoing criminal investigations or drug dealing in their neighborhood to contact us by submitting a tip on our confidential tip page.

Previously: Residence on East Avenue raided, neighbors report loud bangs

raid on 15 east avenue
Deputy Erik Andre with a dog that was removed from one of the apartments.
Photo by Jim Burns.
raid on 15 east avenue
Sign on what appears to be the doorway on the Columbia Avenue side of the residence.
Photo by Jim Burns.

No new information on shots fired incident on Oak Street on Monday, public assistance sought

By Howard B. Owens
shots fired
The scene on Oak Street on Monday night where investigators marked possible evidence locations on the roadway.
Photo by Howard Owens.

An incident involving apparent gunshots on Oak Street in the City of Batavia on Monday night is still under investigation, said Chief Shawn Heubusch, Batavia PD.

Heubusch did not release any information on possible suspects or whether suspects have been identified. He did not release any information related specifically to the incident.

In response to an inquiry from The Batavian, Heubusch said, "We are still investigating the incident of shots fired on Oak Street and are asking the public, if they have any information, to contact the detective bureau at 585-345-6350."

The confidential tip line number is 585-345-6370. Confidential tips can also be submitted using this online form. The form offers an option for remaining anonymous.

Apparent construction office for Savarino Companies removed from Ellicott Station site

By Howard B. Owens
savarino ellicott station
A worker for A-Verdi Storage Containers loads what was apparently the on-site construction office for Savarino Companies at Ellicott Station onto a flatbed before removing it from the site at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Photo by Howard Owens. 

Just before 5 p.m. on Thursday, a worker with A-Verdi Storage Containers removed an apparent mobile unit that seemed to have served as the on-site office of Savarino Companies at the Ellicott Station construction site.

The Savarino sign that had been on the unit was removed, and a metal desk and storage cabinet sat on the ground outside of it.

The driver confirmed he was removing the unit from the site and was later seen hauling it west on Ellicott Street.

More than a week ago, Developer Sam Savarino announced he was shutting down his company, citing massive losses from a dispute over a dormitory project at Alfred State College.

While at times it has appeared that work has continued this past week on the $22 million Ellicott Station apartment complex, the project is supposedly without a general contractor with the closure of Savarino Companies.  Sam Savarino has said his management company is still in business, still running the project, and will seek a new general contractor.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski has said there has been no communication from Savarino regarding the status of the project, which is subject to multiple financial agreements involving the city, the state and GCEDC. 

Reached on Thursday evening, Tabelski told The Batavian that there have still been no updates from Savarino. She said she has heard that other general contractors and developers are contacting Savarino, expressing interest in the project.

"The city and GCEDC have been talking with potential developers who have initial interest in taking over the project, but there will be a lot of financials to unwind, if this is in-fact possible to reassign grants and pay off lenders, etc."

She said there is nothing concrete to report at this time, and there is a meeting with NYS Housing and Community Renewal, a major government funder of the project and has expressed a commitment to The Batavian in seeing the project completed.

HCR initially awarded Savarino $1.2 million per year of low-income housing tax credits for 10 years based on his ability to secure investors and more recently awarded Savarino $5.7 million in low-income housing tax credits for the downtown apartment project.

"HCR has been actively monitoring the progress of the construction of Ellicott Station and will continue to do so as we work to ensure completion of this critical project and deliver 55 affordable homes to Batavia,” a spokesperson for HCR told The Batavian a week ago. 

For all of The Batavian's previous coverage on Ellicott Station, click here.

savarino ellicott station
Photo by Howard Owens

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