Skip to main content

The Batavian's guitar contest inspired by the area's community of music artists, today's opportunities for young musicians

By Joanne Beck
Remote video URL

It was as if we arranged the tribute band The Eaglez to perform at Genesee County Fair during The Batavian’s debut, along with WBTA, for the first-time official Media Center at the Fair this coming week.

Along with the Media Center’s booth, The Batavian is sponsoring an eagle drawing contest, with the first prize being Harley Benton BigTone Trem guitar for some lucky artist aged 17 or under. The guitar for the winning eagle drawing (randomly selected from among staff favorites) will be presented during The Eaglez concert on Thursday (July 27) night!

This will now be the third such guitar giveaway sponsored by The  Batavian, and it might seem like a completely incongruous thing for an online media company to do, right? A news site giving away a musical instrument? Shouldn't we give away a typewriter or a camera?

Well, first, let’s explain the eagle-drawing contest.

An eagle is the primary essence of The Batavian’s logo, borrowed from the Upton Monument, which sits at the intersection of routes 5 and 63 in downtown Batavia. Publisher Howard Owens wanted to capture that symbol along with the name of this city he now holds dear after setting down roots more than 15 years ago.

“The Upton Monument is our community's most important and significant landmark, and the eagle that sits atop of it represents independence and courage, two characteristics of good news organizations,” Owens said.  "When planning our new logo, the eagle seems a natural way to represent our commitment to the community and to fearless and honest journalism."

The guitar contests are something Owens said he wanted to do to give back to the community to promote an appreciation for the magic and beauty of music among its youth.

Owens has been a music fan from his most formative years growing up in California, listening to The Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Elvis. He had musical ambitions early on, but his parents couldn't afford the investment in music lessons and instruments, and by the time he did get a cheap, almost unplayable guitar, there was nobody in his family or neighborhood to help him develop his skills.  

"The world of music is so different today than when I was young -- there are guitars available that play and sound great, stay in tune, and are well made that are affordable," Owens said. "The online resources for players of all skill levels, from the first-day beginner to the advanced player, just didn't exist for most of my life. I get excited when I think about the musical opportunities available to kids today, and I want to help point them in the right direction."

No, not everyone is going to be a rock star, Owens admits, but he is aware of how many local musicians there are who have humbly started out on a family keyboard, a hand-me-down guitar or a used set of drums, who continue to gig today, or have found other avenues for careers and secondary incomes in music, or just continue to play for their own enjoyment.

“Batavia, Genesee County, the GLOW region is bursting with musical talent," Owens said. "I'm inspired by so many people, from Bill McDonald and Justin Williams to Tom Ryan, Daniel King, Ray Williams, Steve Kruppner, Dylan DeSmit, Michael Murray, Alex Feig, and the whole Del Plato family, among so many others, that I want to see that local musical tradition continue. Paul Draper shared with The Batavian recently how his musical career began with an inexpensive keyboard, and he's become one of the region's top gigging performers. It's great to see so much talent in our community, and I think we, as a community, can develop more young talent."

For the first two contests, The Batavian set up a booth for a one-day event and gave away an acoustic guitar and a knockoff of a Fender Telecaster.  Since the fair is a bigger, multiday event, Owens said he wanted to find a guitar that would really grab people's attention and get kids excited about the possibility of winning a quality musical instrument.  He figured an archtop guitar would fit the bill, and was excited when he found the Harley Benton BigTone Trem in white.

The guitar, he explained, is patterned after a Gretsch White Falcon, which among guitar enthusiasts is an iconic instrument. A new White Falcon costs thousands of dollars.  The Harley Benton guitar is a fraction of the cost, and Harley Benton is considered one of the world's best budget-line guitar companies.

Steve Kruppner, an accomplished solo performer and guitarist for The Bluesway Band, played it on Wednesday and said he's impressed by it (see video above).

"This is extremely well built," Kruppner said during his test drive of the guitar. "Like I said, I learned guitar on what was probably an Italian-made copy of a Fender Strat. It was just a complete piece of junk. It was unplayable.  The strings were this far off the neck and they wouldn't tune. But this guitar is really sweet. I wouldn't mind having one myself just to have at home right now."

Kruppner admired the tuners, neck, solid build of the guitar, its Bigsby-style tremolo, white finish, gold trim and clean sound of the pickups.  The guitar is both a great lead instrument and a great strummer, like an acoustic guitar, he said.

"I tell you what, if I was 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 years old and I got this guitar, I'd be thrilled," Kruppner said. "This is a far better guitar than what I learned on, I can tell you."

To enter the contest, visit the Genesee County Fair, go to the Exhibit Hall, find the Official Genesee County Fair Media Center, where both The Batavian and WBTA will be set up with booths, and ask for an entry form.  While at the booth, draw your best version of an eagle (entries must be drawn at the booth or nearby). The Batavian staff will select their favorite drawings to be entered into a random drawing.  To enter, you must agree to return to the fair on Thursday night for the Eaglez concert (a free pass will be provided to the winner's family) where you will receive the guitar on stage during the concert.

For adults, there is also an eagle drawing contest, and the prize is a $100 gift certificate from the original Red Osier Landmark Restaurant. The winner will be asked to return to the fair at an agreed-upon appointment time for a promotional photo and to receive the gift certificate.

The People's Choice award is a harmonica.  The Batavian staff will pick its 20 favorite drawings from all the entries, and visitors to the Media Center on Thursday and Friday will vote for their favorite of the 20 selected. The winner will be asked to return to the fair on Saturday for a photo-op and to receive the harmonica.

Steve Kruppner and The Bluesways Band perform at 7 p.m. on Friday in Jackson Square as part of the Business Improvement District's weekly concert series.

Authentically Local