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January 25, 2023 - 10:01pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia Players, city centre.

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Think of a tiny hamlet up north, not quite reaching Canada, filled with regular town folk but with no governing rules because nobody ever got around to officially organizing. It’s filled with geese, and moose, snow-sprinkled deer, and scenery so photogenic you’d swear it’s Maine.

But as you will soon learn, it’s Almost, Maine, Batavia Players’ next show to debut this weekend.

“The whole premise of the show is that it takes place over 10 minutes. And the place that's called Almost Maine is based on an actual place. So it's nine different vignettes that take place in the same town with nine different couples. It's kind of a cool premise, like a snapshot in a small town, to me is kind of like a cool premise,” Director Patrick Burk said. “So it goes from everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. There's extremely funny parts, there’s extremely dramatic parts, there's challenging parts, there's social redemption parts. It's really a great, great play.”

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday on the concourse stage inside Batavia City Centre.

What better way to spend a cold winter night than to learn about the intermingling of those nine couples, introduced to the audience through each separate scene? Though the entire production is 90 minutes, each scene reenacts the same 10-minute point in time from varying perspectives, which fascinated Burk when he first encountered the show.

It makes a spectator wonder, ‘why didn’t he know that so-and-so did that?’ a question that is answered when one realizes that the scene is happening at the same exact time as every other scene, Burk said.

“There's connections between the scenes because, obviously, like in any tiny town, everybody knows everybody else. So there's references to the other scenes. And there's a lot of names that switch back and forth with the scenes, with the couples talking about different issues. It's a beautiful, beautiful play, it really is. But it's kind of a strange way to be looking at things because you're trying to figure out, well, why didn't she know that?” he said. “And it's because it happens at the same time, so she wouldn't know. It's not like one scene follows another scene. It all happens at the same time. So it's a very strange premise, but it's beautifully done. And I think the cast does a phenomenal job of that.”

Part of the beauty is that people fall in — and out of — love, hearts get broken, love happens in the strangest of ways, and residents of Almost, Maine -- cue the dramatic music -- “will never be the same,” according to the show’s description.

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The set is rather basic since it is based outdoors, with a bench, chairs and a table, and costumes of winter apparel. There are 19 characters and 16 actors — some have two characters each — and Burk has been impressed with how actors embraced their roles so fully to unfold completely within each 10-minute segment.

“It is very, very popular in high schools. I think the characters are amazing,” he said. “I kind of looked at it as a fairy tale. Could this be true?”

He was equally impressed with how well actors collaborated with one another, given they were from several counties, including Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Niagara.

That, coupled with the ability to perfect the role and be familiar with those of others in case of illness and absenteeism, has worked out well, he said.

“We just came off of our Christmas show, with a cast of 40 people, we were really pushing the envelope, and then coming back with this — and we’ve only been rehearsing for three and a half to four weeks,” he said. “I really do hope people come and see it. It's a tremendous show. And it's absolutely beautiful. I know, I say that frequently when we do things, but it really is a beautiful show. It really has a huge appeal, I think to a wide array of people. And I think people will see things, and the characters, of family and friends and themselves, and people that they know.

"And I just think it's extremely well written, and our actors in this particular show, the 16 of them are absolutely amazing. I can't say enough about it,” he said.

Almost, Maine was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002 and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened Off Broadway in the winter of 2005/2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. Almost, Maine has been produced by more than 5,000 theater companies in the United States, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. To purchase, go to showtix4u.com.

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Photos during rehearsal include actors Shaun Coburn, Jacquie Morrison, Justin Chortie, Brianna Jones, Maia Zerillo, Seth Coburn, Richard Ferris, Sophie Houseman, Stephen VanValkenburg, and Kristen Gelia. Photos by Howard Owens.

January 22, 2023 - 3:58pm
posted by Press Release in KISS THIS, Batavia Downs, arts, entertainment, news.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the on-sale dates for 2 upcoming events taking place at Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel’s Park Place Room.  These 2 events join other, already announced spring events. 

The 4th annual Batavia Brew Fest, presented by Young Lion and Genesee Brewery, is back on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 5 til 8 p.m.  For $40, attendees receive 3 hours of beer sampling from WNY breweries like Genesee Brewery, Young Lion, Boston Beer, DogFish, Four Mile Brewing, Heineken, Yuengling, K2 Brewing, Clarksburg Cider, Blue Barn Cidery,  Three Heads Brewing, Captain Lawrence Brewery, Constellation, Diago, Molson/Coors, Blue Toad Cider, Press Seltzer, Hop Water and many more.  Light snacks will be served, and attendees will receive a commemorative plastic sampling mug along with $20 in Free Play.  Designated Driver tickets will also be available.

KISS THIS returns to Batavia Downs on Friday, March 3rd.  Western New York’s Premier Tribute to KISS brings all of the theatrics and bombast of a classic KISS show to their performance.  Tickets are $15, and attendees receive $10 in Free Play on the day of the show.

Tickets for these 2 events will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com beginning on Friday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m.

Visitors to the concert ticket website can also purchase tickets for other upcoming events like the BBQ and Bourbon Dinner, the Music of the Stars Tribute Concert and all the recently announced Pepsi’s Rockin’ the Downs Summer Concert Series shows.  Announcements for the rescheduled Furball Animal Shelter Fundraiser, Polka Buzz and the Kentucky Derby Gala will be announced in the coming weeks.

“The tribute acts we bring in are a great addition to our event schedule,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President and CEO for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “We look forward to welcoming back KISS THIS as well as our annual large-scale events like the Brew Fest and Derby Gala.”

Video by The Batavian:  KISS THIS at Jam at the Ridge in July 2021

January 16, 2023 - 4:07pm

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Press release:

The Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation has re-scheduled the BBC Band, a Beatles & Sixties Tribute Band. It is being held at the Historic Palace Theatre, 2 East Ave, Lockport, on Friday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. 

Tickets are $40 for regular admission and $75 for premier seats in the lower balcony which includes an hour-long reception prior to the show.

All seats are reserved and may be purchased at https://historicpalaceinc.thundertix.com/events/203461. There is a bus being organized from Batavia -- if interested, call Diane at 585-409-3485.

About the Band
Though the band has local roots in Buffalo, the BBC Band has a true connection with The Beatles.

Russ Thomas has spent a good amount of time with Peter Best, the Beatles' first drummer, pre-Ringo. They talked about the early days and how the band had evolved while and after his tenure with the group.

John Connelly and his family had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with Sir Paul McCartney one afternoon, chatting about life, family and how Paul’s music has inspired and influenced John’s musical career.

Meeting a Beatle has offered musical insights and an incredible inspiration to The BBC Band. Their shows are magical, the music is infectious, making you want to jump out of your seat, sing along and dance in the aisles….and in the words of  “She Loves You”…You know that can’t be bad!

In August of 2018, The BBC Band performed six concerts at International Beatles Week in Liverpool, England, including two standing-room concerts at the world-famous Cavern Club. ( www.bbcband.com)

The beautiful Palace Theatre is newly renovated with spacious seating, your favorite “movie concessions”, beer, wine and non-alcoholic items. There will be Autographed Bills jersey raffle and a 50/50.

A night to sing, dance, and celebrate friends, all while Lending a Hand for Hope to Others.   We do “Get by With a Little Help from our Friends” – Beatles.

January 10, 2023 - 6:54pm
posted by Press Release in news, Rockin the Downs, Batavia Downs, arts, entertainment, music.

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Press Release:                     

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the lineup for their sixth Rockin’ the Downs concert series, presented by Pepsi, which will take place outside on the racetrack, with eight Friday dates, starting in June and running into August of 2023.  

Kicking off the series on Friday, June 23rd is Almost Queen.  The Ultimate Queen Tribute show delivers a live performance, showcasing signature four part harmonies and intricate musical interludes. Donning genuine costumes, Almost Queen recaptures the live energy and precision that is the Queen experience.  Almost Queen was the first post-pandemic concert to take place at Batavia Downs in June of 2021 and played to a packed house.  Hear hits like We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions and many more.

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Next up, on Friday, June 30th, Batavia Downs welcomes back Get the Led Out.  One of the best attended concerts from last year, this group of professional musicians are passionate about their love of the music of Led Zeppelin, making it their mission to bring the studio recordings of the Mighty Zep to life on stage.  Songs performed by the band could include Led Zeppelin hits like Black Dog, Immigrant Song, Stairway to Heaven and many others.

Making his debut on Friday, July 7th is Country Music Artist, Craig Morgan.  Morgan has charted 17 times on the Billboard Country Charts including That's What I Love About Sunday, Almost Home, Redneck Yacht Club, Little Bit of Life, International Harvester, Love Remembers, and Bonfire.  Morgan’s New Album, God, Family, Country has just been released along with his memoir.  Morgan is an Army Veteran and is involved with several Veterans charities, having also been inducted into the U.S. Field Artillery Hall of Fame in 2022.  Opening for Craig Morgan will be Drake White.

Rocking the stage on Friday, July 14th is Heavy Metal Rockers Skid Row. After forming in New Jersey in 1986, the band has performed all over the world with hard guitars and a unique songwriting style.  They’ll be performing their hits; In a Darkened Room, We Are the Damned, Youth Gone Wild, 18 and Life and many more.

On Friday, July 21st, Batavia Downs welcomes back Southern Rock legends The Marshall Tucker Band.  MTB will bring their 40 years of hits to Batavia Downs with hit singles like Heard It In a Love Song, Fire On The Mountain, Can't You See, and Take The Highway, The Marshall Tucker Band earned seven gold and three platinum albums. During the 90's, the MTB scored four hit singles on Billboard's country chart and one on Billboard's gospel chart.

Performing on Friday, July 28th  is the returning Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. Peter Noone is a multi-talented entertainer, who achieved international fame as Herman, lead singer of the legendary Sixties pop band Herman’s Hermits.  His classic hits include: I’m Into Something Good, Mrs. Brown, you’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, I’m Henry VIII, I Am.  The Grass Roots will once again open for Peter Noone.  Last year’s Concert featuring both artists saw one of the largest concert crowds in Batavia Downs History.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles, will perform on Friday, August 4th.  As a renowned former lead guitarist of The Eagles, one of the most popular and influential rock groups of our time, Don has helped write and perform many iconic classics.  His 2008 memoir was a New York Times best seller.  Don will perform solo and Eagles’ hits during his set including Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride), Hotel California, Life in the Fast Lane, the Long Run and Tequila Sunrise.

Closing out the series on Friday, August 11th is Mike DelGuidice and the Big Shot Horns. A recording artist, singer and songwriter who is currently on tour with Billy Joel, Mike has wowed audiences across America with his voice and musicianship .  Mike and the Big Shot horns enjoyed a standing ovation after each of their last 5 songs during last year’s concert series.  Mike and his band play all of Billy Joel’s big hits along with other renditions of classic rock songs.

“We are excited to be welcoming new artists and some of the most popular ones from year’s past,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President and CEO for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “We’re appreciative to have Pepsi again as our headline sponsor this year and looking forward to allowing great charities like Make-A-Wish Western New York and Kat Colony Animal Rescue to utilize our events to help raise much needed funds for their organizations.”

Tickets for all eight concerts will be available only at www.BataviaConcerts.com beginning on Wednesday, January 11th at 10 a.m.

Tickets this year will be $15 for General Admission, $30 for VIP, $60 for Premium and $75 for front row seats.  All tickets can be redeemed at Player’s Club at any time in the three days following the concert for $10 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 950+ gaming machines.

Season Tickets are also back and will also go on sale for General Admission, VIP and Premium Sections.  A Season pass for General Admission will be $100 (a savings of $20) Season Passes for VIP tickets are $200 (a savings of $40). A Premium Season Pass is $400 (a savings of $80).  Season passes may ONLY be purchased online.

Until February 8th, tickets purchased online for the General Admission section will only be $10. Concert goers will still receive $10 in Free Play on show day with this ticket.

Concerts are held Rain or Shine.  Additional information may be found at www.BataviaDownsGaming.com.

Photos: File photos.  Top photo, Almost Queen by Philip Casper; second photo. Get the Led Out, by Howard Owens

December 21, 2022 - 10:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Christmas, Alex Feig, music, arts, entertainment, news.

Area musician and songwriter, and former WBTA news producer, Alex Feig has released a new Christmas song, "The Truth About Christmas," and a video shot in Medina to go with it.

December 16, 2022 - 1:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Marsha McWilson, Batavia Downs, arts, entertainment, news.

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Marsha McWilson brought down the house at Batavia Downs on Thursday night with her high-energy soul, R&B, and funk Christmas-themed variety show.

Photos by Howard Owens

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December 15, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, batavia, music, arts, entertainment, Christmas, news, religion.

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The set list for tonight's (Dec. 15) Christmas Concert at City Church promises to be as diverse as it is joyful, with more than just gospel and hymns but also hip-hop, R&B, and smooth jazz celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Ryan Macdonald also promises concertgoers will enjoy engaging and energetic performers and great musicians.

"We've done (the Christmas Concert) every year now, with the exception of COVID, for about five years," Macdonald said. "It's really been a wonderful night of really coming together and celebrating."

The artists, Macdonald said, are also personal friends.

"They are not just great artists but great people," Macdonald said.

Carlton Wilcox, Rufus McGee Jr, and Trellis Pore have all performed at previous Christmas concerts.  This is the Batavia debut for Kimera Lattimore (top photo).

Macdonald said he's tried to get her on the bill for years, but there was always a scheduling conflict.  He said he met her in Buffalo years ago, where she is the music director and worship leader of Renovation Church.  She is a national recording artist, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, rapper, vocal teacher, theologian and Elder of the gospel."

"She is really a great spirit, a great believer," Macdonald said. "She believes people matter. She believes humanity matters."

Her bio states that she believes, "We were all created, by the creator, to create."

The concert, Macdonald said, is intended to uplift the whole community, and all are invited.

"Our goal the whole Christmas season is the celebration of the birth of Christ, but beyond that, we're celebrating each other," Macdonald said. "The term that has really stuck with me is that we're not independent; we're interdependent. We need each other.  We don't only need each other as believers, but we need the whole community." 

The concert begins at 7 p.m. at City Church, 210 East Main St., Batavia. The concert is also live-streamed.

Submitted photos.

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Submitted information:

Pastor Trellis Pore, multi-instrumentalist and Vocalist. A Western NY native. He started singing and playing instruments at the age of 5 with his family gospel group, The Cooper family Gospel singers. Singing traditional quartet Gospel music. Also was apart of the band Perifial Vision,  and The Glorious Sons of Rochester.  Currently, he leads The Trellis Cooper Band. Singing gospel music with a twist. Trellis has his own Signature series guitar with the company Mucho Guitars of Rockwall, Texas. Trellis is currently the Pastor of Shiloh Church Albion. 

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Submitted information:

Rufus McGee Jr., son of Bishop & Lady Rufus and Linda McGee is Rochester’s best-kept secret, however, now the secret is out! His parents began molding him at age 2 years old to become a musician. Although he began as the church drummer at 6 years old, at 11, he progressed to becoming one of the most extraordinary organists/keyboardists that anyone has ever heard.

His ability is God-given, but can also be attributed to years of absorbing gospel music passed down through the classic COGIC style of music, and the music of the church that he attended growing up in his hometown, Rochester, New York. His drive and confidence developed from the challenge to rise above mediocrity. 

He is an exemplary musician, producer and the founder of RMJ Productions. He enjoys listening to George Duke, Chick Corea, Kevin Bond, Jason White, Mike Bereal and Eddie Brown. 

He has recorded with: Aaron Lindsey, Kathy Bowman, Ricky Dillard, Jason Wright, Serena Young, Shirley Murdock, Eddie Balltrip, Danell Daymon and Royalty, Malcolm Williams, Amar’rae Hill True Foundation and Jerome Francis and Divine Nature.

Rufus gives every ounce of his being to excelling and finishing well! Rufus has a great passion and love for gospel music and enjoys devoting his life to giving God his all. His greatest inspiration is God. He often says, “Without God, I would be nothing.”

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Submitted information:

Carlton Wilcox has been creating a standard of excellence in music that embodies, style, quality, and substance. This singer, songwriter, and accomplished bassist has been entertaining Western NY for over two decades. Resounding melodies accompanied by rich voice make this crooner one of our area’s sought talents. With gospel, smooth jazz and R&B roots, Carlton wants to spread the message of hope through music. Carlton Wilcox is also a Monroe County Deputy Sheriff, event promoter and music instructor for the City of Rochester’s ROC Music Program. Carlton Wilcox wants to make a difference in the world, one day at a time, by giving back the love and support that he has been given.

December 9, 2022 - 11:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Claudia Hoyser, Mr. Wine & Liquor, batavia, news, music, arts, entertainment.

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Country music recording artist Claudia Hoyser, pictured left above with WBTA's Nici "Noir" Johnson, was at Mr. Wine & Liquor in Batavia on Friday evening to promote her coffee-whiskey blend, Drunken Bean Whiskey, during a special event at the store that included tastings of a variety of wine and spirits.

WBTA was on site for a live broadcast during the event.

Hoyser released a music video three months ago that was partially filmed at farms in Genesee County.

Photos by Howard Owens

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December 7, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in st. james, Genesee Chorale, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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The Genesee Chorale performs its annual holiday concert -- From Star to Star -- at 4 p.m. on Saturday at St. James Episcopal Church.

Ric Jones is the director. Janine Fagnan is the associate conductor, and Doug Hanson is the accompanist.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or at www.geneseechorale.com/box-office.

St. James is located at 405 East Main St., Batavia.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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December 3, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia High School.

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Members of the Batavia High School choir perform a special concert Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in Batavia.

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Photos by Howard Owens.

December 3, 2022 - 7:30am

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Not naming all of the musical line-up ahead of time is not to be punitive, says conductor S. Shade Zajac.

But rather, it’s similar to how Christmas operates: there’s usually an element of surprise by not opening the gift until it’s time.

“The idea was, normally, we put all the pieces we're playing on the poster, or at least most of them, so people kind of know what to expect. But you know, I've been thinking that it's, it's really easy sometimes to fall into the trap of just doing the same things over and over again, especially for holiday concerts,” Zajac said about his orchestra’s upcoming concert. “And, you know, it'll just have to wait until Sunday when you come to the concert to see or to hear exactly what we're doing, just so that there's a little bit of mystery, kind of like getting a gift or something you can't open until the day of. ”

The gift of Genesee Symphony Orchestra’s Symphonic Holiday Surprise will be opened at 4 p.m. Sunday at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road, Batavia.

To be sure, there will be plenty of holiday favorites tucked into some new, and perhaps less familiar songs, he said. Zajac, now in his seventh season with GSO, takes his time to develop a concert menu and does so well in advance.

“I’m always looking ahead to what’s next, logistically and practically. We start planning things now for next year, especially when working with soloists,” he said, adding that next year’s soloist has been booked since 2020.

“There are a lot of different holiday pieces with different arrangements of the same piece. So, it always makes things a little difficult. I had this realization this is my seventh season. And I try to always change it up a little bit each year,” he said. “We are always exploring different music and sometimes in different avenues, and always wanting to bring a new experience and bring pieces that people haven't maybe heard before, or maybe the orchestra hasn't played before.”

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After asking the orchestra how many have played a particular piece that he was considering, only a few hands went up, which meant the number would not only introduce a new melody to patrons but also create a challenge for versed musicians.

And they have earned it.

“I just feel us getting better and better. I can certainly feel it, and I know the orchestra is starting to feel it as well,” he said. “There are so many things I still want us to do together. This orchestra really has a special place in my heart.”

Zajac continues to strengthen his own professional chops by performing with other groups and, for a week in January, working with Baltimore Orchestra.

This concert also features a promising violinist, Hilton High School senior Luke Pisani, recipient of GSO’s Young Artist Competition award, among many others.

Pisani, whose LinkedIn account states that he is a motivated, straight-A student who demonstrates a strong work ethic and creative ability, put that hard work on display for the competition, Zajac said. Pisani had competed previously, and, although he did not win that time, his musical prowess was a teaser of what was to come.

When Zajac heard him this time around, he couldn’t believe it was the same person playing.

“Some years, it’s really, really challenging to pick a winner, the talent is so vast. And some years you have someone who comes in, and that’s it,” he said. “He blew us all away; he stood out from the rest of the competition. The Concerto (for violin and orchestra in D major) is a very well-known, very challenging piece of music. He's playing the first movement, and so our audience will absolutely recognize some of the tunes and will just be blown away by his playing, I'm sure.”

Pisani also won competitions with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Violin, Hochstein Youth Symphony Orchestra, Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra and the Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music. His versatility spreads over to jazz piano, basketball and serving at his church. His list of accomplishments is quite lengthy, and his performance for the GSO competition demonstrated that his “amount of growth is incredible,” Zajac said,

“He is very technically advanced, you have to be to be playing Tchaikovsky,” he said. “He has that little something extra that makes people pay attention. And that's, of course, something that we look for in these competitions. A lot of people can play the notes. And then there are people who can actually play the music and just kind of give it that little extra something that grabs your attention. And he did that for us, and we were engaged his entire audition.”

As for the remaining concert, there will be “plenty of holiday cheer,” Zajac said. It will include works by Tchaikovsky, Anderson, Rimsky Korsakov and Vaughan Williams.

“Of course, there's holiday favorites that everyone loves that I'm sure we'll be playing. And maybe a couple of other little pieces that people wouldn't expect," he said.

Click HERE for a sample of Pisani on violin.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and free for students with an ID, and are available at YNGodess, Holland Land Office Museum, The Coffee Press, from any board member or at GSO

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Top Photo: Conductor S. Shade Zajac leads the Genesee Symphony Orchestra through rehearsal for its upcoming holiday concert. Photos by Howard Owens.

December 2, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Christmas in the City, batavia, notify.

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December means a triple-play for Batavia Players, Pat Burk says.

Actually, there’s only one play, “A Christmas Carole,” that runs Thursday through Sunday, plus Our Hometown Christmas all day Saturday inside Batavia City Centre, and spaghetti with Santa event on Dec. 11.

If that schedule tires you out, it has been plenty for members of the theater group. In addition to many of them participating in the show, they will also be helping out for a vendor fair throughout the mall concourse from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and at Santa’s Village at the concourse stage.

Home Depot has donated wood kits so that kids can put their hands to work at Santa's Workshop making birdhouses and other creations, he said. Photos with Santa Claus will be from 1 to 5 p.m., with the outdoor parade to begin at 6 p.m. and take off from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street.

Entertainment will be provided at 12:15 p.m. by Main St. 56 Dance Company, and dancing and musical performances are scheduled throughout the day, he said. Other activities include cookie decorating and a live nativity at EverPresent Church.

There were 49 vendors registered just before Burk talked to The Batavian Tuesday afternoon, he said, and there were a few more interested, so expect several dozen ready and waiting to sell their wares, from Christmas and general craft items to kitchen goods, woodwork and assorted foods. Many of the usual Mall Market participants will be there throughout the day as well, he said.

A concessions food truck will be available beginning at 9 a.m. outside the former Sunny’s restaurant site in the parking lot. That vendor’s specialties include deep-fried Oreos, flavored french fries and various barbecued items, Burk said.

If you’ve got some time to spare, volunteers are needed for miscellaneous tasks, such as helping visitors locate certain activities, vendors find their assigned spots, and other volunteers so that they can take periodic breaks.

Neck deep in the construction of a new Main St. 56 theater means that Batavia Players is raising money to help make the costly endeavor happen. The vendor fair and weekend shows are fundraisers and will be complemented by a basket raffle, specifically for the group’s Building Committee. Tickets are $5 for a sheet, and drawings are to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, just before the parade.

Speaking of the show, Burk and fellow actor Paul Spiotta are thrilled to be celebrating their 15th season of singing a duet during the weekend performances, Burk said.

“We were both 50 years old when we first sang together,” Burk said. “We’re pretty excited to still be around to do it.”

Burk is sort of amazed at how much he’s learned about construction, having been part of contractor meetings for the theater, he said. He now knows the gritty details of HVAC systems and supporting walls, and, unfortunately, also about how slowly such projects can progress with stalled and rising costs of materials due to post-COVID supply chain issues.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to put the finishing touches on it,” he said. “After January 1, we’ll actually be doing a big fundraising effort.”

There have been sacrifices, mostly behind the scenes, he said, by reducing bathrooms from four to two and shifting the configuration of dressing rooms. However, patrons are still getting nice new restrooms, and there won’t be cost-cutting with aesthetics if he can help it, Burk said.

The final fundraiser for this season will be a Spaghetti With Santa event, set for 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia. Photos with Santa will be from 3 to 5 p.m., and there will be a basket raffle. Meals are for dining in or take-out and are $12 a person. To purchase tickets ahead of time or obtain further details about these events, go to Batavia Players

Christmas in the City, sponsored by the Business Improvement District, will also be happening throughout downtown from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Local shops, restaurants and organizations will be offering holiday specials, activities and food samples, including Letters to Santa at The Coffee Press on Jackson Street and horse and buggy rides beginninning at Center Street Smokehouse, with tickets availalbe for purchase at Adam Miller Toy and Bike shop, on Center Street. While at Adam Miller, check out the toy specials and warming chili.

Over on Main Street, Hunt Real Estate will be hosting an ornament-making craft while The YNGodess will provide adult tastings, and make sure to track down the Dickens carolers and Scrooge from 3 to 5 p.m.

 The outdoor fun will be topped off with a holiday parade at 6 p.m. down Main Street. There are 35 participants registered for the parade, BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said, and judges include City Council members Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Bob Bialkowski, and BID community members Carol Hunt, Sandy Licata and Ken Mistler.

"We have added giant blow-up decorations for downtown, and added more things for kids. We are working hard on creating memories for all ages, especially the kids," Maute said. "I am overwhelmed with the participation and the generosity of everyone. I have a great board, an amazing committee, and a fantastic community.

"The BID Christmas in the City Committee will be transforming downtown Batavia into your favorite Christmas movie!" she said.

Volunteers are welcome to join the parade line-up or Santa's Village to help out, she said.

File photo of Christmas in the City parade, by Howard Owens.

November 30, 2022 - 6:43pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, LeRoy Winterfest, notify.

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Out of a decade’s worth of the annual Le Roy Winterfests that have happened in December, this is the first one that has drawn people together for an organized event, organizer Lori Steinbrenner says.

As a member of the newly formed FRESH Committee, which operates within Le Roy Business Council, Steinbrenner has been impressed with how much effort the village has put into the 2022 winter festival.

“It’s a great committee of business members; we’re really going after it and doing great things,” she said Wednesday. “The events committee is going strong; we’ve always had a Winterfest, but not like this. We’re putting on a united front. Anyone can come; the more the merrier."

Established just six months ago, the committee has organized an extravaganza of activities from noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the village of Le Roy.

Don’t plan to rest and relax just yet, as the Jinglin’ All the Way Festive 5K heads out at 10 a.m., while local businesses prepare to offer assorted fun activities and additional vendors throughout the day. Steinbrenner, who owns Personal Preference salon, is hosting seven vendors at her shop, and others are likely to do the same, she said.

Santa Claus is going to have a busy day, from a visit at The Moose Club from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by 3 to 5 p.m. at the former Sweet Betty’s location, and then leading a parade at 5 p.m. from the old Bank of America parking lot to the Christmas tree, which is scheduled for lighting at 5:30 p.m.

There will be caroling around the tree with Le Roy Jr/Sr High School’s choir, s’more cones, Santa story time, hot chocolate from Dave Ehrhart and cookies from Le Roy Presbyterian Church. Tucked into the schedule is the Maddie Masters second annual one-mile walk, to begin at 3:30 p.m. at Sweet Betty’s.

Throughout the day, there will be a bounce house, balloon animals, business specials and craft and vendor sales. New this year is a horse and carriage ride, from 1 to 5 p.m. from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church parking lot along Wolcott Street to see the schools, Oatka Creek and Creekside’s “beautiful bubbles and Christmas trees,” Steinbrenner said.

Other activities include a kids obstacle course by BeyonDriven, crafts from noon to 5 p.m. and face painting from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Art of Mandy, and Woodward Memorial Library, from noon to 4 p.m., and Save-a-lot from 1 to 3 p.m., will also have face painting and kids’ crafts; and a store scavenger hunt and free hot chocolate and cookies, respectively.

Another new offering will be a poker run, set to run from 6 to 9 p.m. at five establishments: American Legion, The Moose, Capish! Brick Oven Pizza Ristorante, Sweet Betty’s, Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew. Wristbands are $10 each, and participants will get a cocktail and poker card at each stop before turning in their final hands for a 50/50 jackpot.

A three-piece acoustic band, Nate Coffey, will be performing at Smokin' Eagle to cap off the night.

Formed in June of this year, the FRESH Committee’s mission is to “promote commerce development, unity, beautification, and revitalization throughout the town and village of LeRoy,” with an emphasis on food and drink; retail; events and attractions; services; and enhancement.

“I wanted to bring some vitality, events and life to Le Roy,” Steinbrenner said, emphasizing that many business people have joined in to help. Click here for Winterfest details.

The Hope Center will also be having an offshoot Winterfest for families at 42 Main St., Le Roy, organizer Valerie Moore said. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, there will be oodles of games and prizes available for toddlers up to 12, including a bean bag toss, nerf target games, ice and candy cane fishing, ornament ball sorting, a snowman toss, lollipop matching game, snowball toss, snowball basketball and snowman dart board.

There will also be face painting, a snowman, snowflake, woodland animal and coloring craft; and goodie bags for each child.

“This event is a great way for families to spend time together doing some holiday activities and making memories,” Moore said.

Go HERE for more information. 

File Photo of Winterfest's Jinglin' 5K, by Howard Owens.

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File photo by Howard Owens. The 2017 tree lighting.

November 30, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, city centre, Batavia Players, theater, arts.

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After performing twice before in the same Batavia Players show, Heather Ferris is now taking the baton, so to speak, as director of what’s become a holiday favorite for the group each December.

This year’s “A Christmas Carole” has not only made Ferris attentive to the script, but also to every other aspect of production — from auditions early on to the finishing touches of dress rehearsal.

“I definitely enjoy the directing versus being on stage. I’m a little shy. Sometimes getting on stage for me is, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be a little scary. But being able to direct, I feel like I can let my creativity come to life through the actors that are on the stage. So it's more of a creative outlet for me than actually being on stage,” she said prior to rehearsal Tuesday. “I just start thinking about how far we’ve come. My youngest cast member is 3 years old, and then I've got cast members all the way up into their 70s. And just to see them kind of blossom, and just really bring characters to life, for me, it’s just so fun to watch that. And so I get really excited for them when they're bringing it all together.”

Scrooge and his ghosts debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the makeshift theater at Batavia City Centre.

This isn’t a first-time directing for Ferris, who is co-directing this one with her husband Richard; however, it is her first experience off-stage guiding the action for the beloved Christmas classic.

“It’s a fun show, it’s very family-friendly,” she said. “You expect the change that Scrooge comes through, and see the spirit of Christmas come alive through him. To see how the story that was written almost 200 years ago can be so much like what we deal with today … money doesn’t always make you happy. It’s a feel-good story, and you go from bah-humbug to a time where people are happy; it makes you feel good at the end.”

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Written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, the story features Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, penny-pinching curmudgeon whose ultimate life lessons come to him through ghosts of Jacob Marley and of Christmas past, present, and future. After learning about each phase and its impact on people and the community, Ebenezer’s moral compass and hardened heart are transformed.

Of course, before that idyllic ending takes place — just as with the storyline itself — there are the typical challenges with such shows, especially with a cast of 32 and half of which are youngsters, she said. School activities, sports practices and work schedules all must be juggled amidst a rehearsal timeline that began in October.

And even though the pandemic has rested in most everyone’s rearview mirror, there has been illness to deal with amongst the troupe, she said. But now, with a full dress rehearsal upon them for Wednesday night, it is, as they say, show time. And Batavia Players is ready to entertain, said Ferris, a retirement plan consultant.

“Tomorrow is really just making sure that our lighting is good, our sounds are good, that we have all the costuming in place and things like that,” she said. “So it's literally just the finishing touches, the little things that make the production a whole production.”

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Although by day she crunches numbers and deals with accounting for clients, Ferris, a resident of Medina, can let her innovational nature flow in the after-hours of theater.

“It really allows me to have that creative outlet,” she said. “It’s a way to get away from my everyday challenges, and let that stress melt away.”

Filled with familiar music and traditional Christmas carols, the show is also augmented with pianist Kathy White and Kristin Gelia on violin.

Tickets are going fast, and folks are encouraged to get them sooner than later, said Patrick Burk, aka Ghost of Christmas Future. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at showtix4u.com or possibly at the door for some dates, Burk said.

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Photos of rehearsal Monday for "A Christmas Carole" by Batavia Players at Batavia City Centre. Photos by Howard Owens.

November 29, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia High School, notify.

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This week’s production of "The Trial of Robin Hood" will probably seem familiar, since most people —whether through cartoons, movies or live stage — have watched a version of the English-based character performing his obligatory duties to give to the poor.

Except for the fact that this Robin Hood must fight for his life in a court battle. And King Richard, in this case, is Queen Richelle. Oh, and there are those three witnesses who describe in conflicting detail who they believe Robin Hood to be. And, yes, another variation is that the audience gets to vote for one of three endings to the story.

So perhaps you may not be as familiar with this version of the good-deed-doer and his band of merry men. But one thing is certain, says Caryn Leigh Wood, director of the Batavia High School Drama Club’s play.

“It’s very Robin Hood in tights-esque. It’s tongue in cheek, almost poking fun at itself,” she said after rehearsals Monday evening. “Obviously, it's a well-known story. I feel like almost everybody has heard the story or concept of Robin Hood. And obviously, there's tons of different adaptations. But it's funny, it's very silly, and we don't take it too seriously at all. If people come with an open mind and be ready for some silly fun time … I think people will laugh a lot.”

The trial is set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia.

Funny thing is that The Batavian asked Wood how many BHS shows this makes for her, and she only happened to realize earlier in the day that it’s her 20th season. It gave her pause to reflect on the work that has gone into each and every show — from the selection process and auditions to the creation of the set, costumes, running lines, choreography and the maestro act of pulling it all together.

Throughout it all, Wood has questioned herself: am I doing everything that I need to do?

“I want to work as hard as I can for the students; they are putting in a tremendous amount of effort and time, and I want to reciprocate that for them. And so before every show every year, I'm just like, okay, mentally I've gotta prepare, gotta make sure I have my checklists. And I foresee a daunting task, and then I get to this point, and it's like, a whirlwind. And I'm like, how did I get here?" 

It’s really that "day-to-day, constant, chipping away" at the minute details that have brought her and the club members to this point. And yet, she remembers every single production, she said, and the significance of each. This winter’s show puts a cast of 25 students and a crew of six to work on the tale of Robin Hood of Nottingham, England.

“I look at a ton of material each year, I like to cast a wide net,” she said. “It comes down to what fits the kids best. When I start hearing their voices speaking the parts, I know that’s the one. And we want one that also be entertaining to the audience.”

The Drama Club voted for a comedy this year, a stark contrast to last year’s sobering “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” They got what they asked for, though it has meant three times the work.

The trial puts Robin in the hot seat, as witness accounts by Maiden Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham widely stray from Robin’s own accounting. As each witness describes his and her version of details, a vignette of characters acts it out before the audience.

Whose version will win out? With Queen Richelle as the judge, the court must rule on what happened to a kingdom run amok. Is Robin Hood a lusty hero, a hapless romantic or truly an evil criminal? That’s where the audience comes in, to vote on a finale.

Typical for many of Wood’s shows, this will be a black box-style, putting the audience square in the eyes of actors during the performance. She likes that it really draws spectators into the action while also giving students a more intimate acting experience.

All this is to say that the cast had to rehearse three different endings and be prepared for the final decision, chosen on the spot during the show. Rest assured, Wood said, “we have a plan.”

No matter what scenario is chosen, the kids will have fun with it, she said.

“They know all three endings. They are very prepared,” the confident director said. “I think that everybody will laugh at something in the show.”

Tickets are $9 and available at showtix4u.com or $10 at the door.

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Photos of dress rehearsal for "The Trial of Robin Hood" feature BHS senior Paul Daniszewski as Robin Hood, junior Cassidy Crawford as Maid Marian, senior Christina Brown as Sheriff of Nottingham, and Saniiya Santiago as Queen Richelle. Photos by Howard Owens.

November 22, 2022 - 6:15pm
posted by Press Release in Batavia Downs, news, entertainment.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced that tickets are now available for several indoor events happening in the Park Place Room this Winter.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, Batavia Downs welcomes back Marsha McWilson as she performs a Motown Christmas.  This will be The Niagara Falls Music Hall of Famer’s second Christmas Concert on-site.  Doors are at 6:30 p.m. with music beginning at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are $15 and concert go-ers will receive $10 in Free Play.

On Thursday, Dec. 22, The Uncle Louie Variety Show will return to Batavia Downs.  The Uncle Louie Variety Show is composed of two hilarious Italian American comedians, Carlo Russo and Lou Greco. For many years, they have been making people laugh through their unique brand of comedy that brings memories of what it was like to grow up as an Italian.  Doors are at 7 p.m. with music beginning at 8:00.  Tickets are $20 for VIP tickets and $15 for regular tickets.  Ticket holders will receive $10 in Free Play.

On Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, the BBQ and Bourbon Dinner presented by Beam Suntory is back for its 2nd annual event.  This event includes a BBQ buffet dinner, talks from Beam Suntory reps, Bourbon & BBQ flights, a blind Bourbon sampling, 40+ raffles from Beam Suntory, a free hand-dipped Makers Mark glass, and $50 in Free Play with every ticket.  Tickets are $109 per person and spots are limited.  Doors open at 5:15, and the event begins at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets for these events are available now at www.BataviaConcerts.com

Hotel Packages for select events can be found on the hotel deals page at https://www.bataviadownsgaming.com/hotel-deals/

Other events scheduled for January and February at Batavia Downs include the Polka Buzz, Experience Psychic Fair, the Legends & Stars Sports Expo, and a Fundraiser for local animal shelters.   Information on these events and the Summer Concert Series will be found in the coming weeks on the Batavia Downs Facebook page.

“We are looking forward to providing even more quality events this coming winter than in years past,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President and CEO for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “The success that these events had last year shows that we are offering the types of experiences that our valued guests have come to enjoy.”

November 9, 2022 - 10:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alexander, arts, entertainment, High School Musical, news.

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Alexander Middle School/High School presents Little Women: The Musical on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m.

All performances will be in the Alexander District Auditorium and admission is free.

There will be concessions sold at intermission.

Students from 7 to 12 will perform, as well as work backstage, on lights and sound and playing with the orchestra.

The director and choreographer is Batavia resident Jacqueline Morrison. Mark Hoerbelt is the vocal music director and Drama Club advisor. Joe Paris is the set designer. Loretta Stratton is the costume designer.

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November 4, 2022 - 10:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bennie and the Rest, Batavia Downs, arts, entertainment, news.

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It sure seemed like Sir. Elton John visited Batavia Downs on Friday night but in reality, it was actor and musician Jason Ostrowski, who headlined a tribute show to the British hitmaker as Bennie and the Rest.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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November 4, 2022 - 4:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tom Torrisi, music, arts, entertainment, news, video.

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Video Sponsor

 

 

Guitarist Tom Torrisi performed at the Richmond Memorial Library on Wednesday evening, entertaining the audience with pieces by Leo Brouwer, José Luis Merlin, and Francisco Tárrega, as well as his own compositions.

Originally from Clifton Park and now residing in Buffalo, Torrisi developed his love of classical guitar while in college and eventually studied at the Eastman School of Music.  

The video is of Torrisi performing "Ballad of a Woman In Love" by Brouwer.

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October 29, 2022 - 8:05am

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Video Sponsor

Cody Harloff was caught clowning around Friday evening at Harvester Center.

Of course, the stark white face with black-rimmed eyes and deep red lips didn’t seem quite so jovial as you might expect from a clown, but that’s because Harloff was part of the haunted house on the first floor of 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia.

“I’m gonna give them the thrill and, kind of keep pushing and make them shake a little bit. It's been a mix of reactions. Some people have no reaction. Some people are screaming and running. We've had a bunch of people run through faster than they should be, going through. But it's been quite fun,” he said. “I feel like there's not enough organizations like this in Batavia that do stuff like this. So I think it's just good for them to come and get out. Whether it's, you know, the thrill of Halloween or just spending some quality time and having fun.”

Walk right up, and wait for the heavy metal door to open. An escort will wave you in by rapping his heavy wooden dowel on the door. Once inside, the door slams shut. It’s a first-time haunted house at Harvester Center sponsored by the Just Kings Social Club. It runs through this weekend.

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Not to give anything away, but a group of girls just ahead screamed their heads off, albeit, not literally. With each flinch and movement of the key house inhabitants, the girls let out a whelp and scream until finally out the other end with some fluttered breathing. The Batavian asked Chloe Cullington, 13, what got to her during the walking tour of gravestones, creepy residents, corpses, and a very loud noise reminiscent of a massacre-esque movie.

“The clowns, they were the worst,” Chloe said while trying to catch her breath. “And the chain saw.”

Her friend Meki’ayla Vazquez, 15, agreed that the clowns were pretty scary, especially in the hazy darkness filled with fog. “I couldn’t see anything.”

They were in a group of about a half dozen girls, and each one let out a scream during various points throughout the haunted house.

The evening offered up a trunk or treat and hay rides earlier on the street, followed by the Halloween feature inside. Kristyn Thomas greeted visitors as they lined up, estimating toward the end that at least 100 people — youngsters, teens, and adults — came through.

“It’s been steady, with no break. It’s kind of cool because you have people who never had the opportunity to go to a haunted house, other than in Buffalo or Rochester,” she said. “It’s kind of exciting.”

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She’s the wife of Victor Thomas, one of the chief organizers with Just Kings Social Club, a civic group that aims to give voice to the black community and raise money to then spread some kindness and cheer amongst local children. The Kings’ initiatives have included backpacks for school and, for this fundraiser, buying Christmas gifts again this season for kids.

“We’re hoping to raise a bunch more money so we can help a bunch more families. We just wanted to find a way that we could do something that we can raise money to really help out on Christmas,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can, on top of doing what we usually do, by getting toys and donated items and giving that back to the community. Hopefully this year, we'll be able to start a little earlier and have kids actually write to us, and maybe we can grant that one wish. So like, say, if a kid had a specific wish, and he wanted an Xbox, well, this is gonna give us enough money that we can actually grant a wish instead of just donated gifts.”

More details will be publicized, probably after Thanksgiving, he said. Just Kings has a membership of 10 people, all of who work to raise money through activities including barbecues, and now the haunted house. A first-year event, Thomas believes it may be a yearly happening. For the moment, though, he was focused on this weekend.

“Tomorrow is going to be even bigger. There will be live music and different events, the scavenger hunt, so hopefully, it just gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “We really don't have a goal … just to help more kids than we had last year."

The nonprofit assisted nearly two dozen kids and 12 families last Christmas, he said.

He and three fellow members, Ray Williams, Terry Smith and Greg Munroe, worked every night after work to build the haunted house atmosphere. Harvester Center Manager Jared Clark offered the use of the Center, which has a perfect landscape for such a creation — a cemetery across the street and a cavernous building that certainly could stoke one’s imagination.

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“Me and a couple of the other guys have been here every day, busting our butts to get this done. So I know our wives and our girlfriends are happy that this is the final weekend because they'll see a little more of us around the house. The way it's going now, it can definitely generate money for our Christmas drive. So if we can get this to go annually, that'd be awesome,” Thomas said. And bring something back to Batavia for Halloween, because there's really nothing other than trick-or-treating, so it’s a different idea.”

The guys had some fun developing ideas for the house, with a barbershop — just where is he going to use that razor? — and a creepy doll room, to name just two. Local companies stepped up to sponsor, including My Cut Barbershop, WNY Concrete Corporation, and Keith Roth Allstate Insurance.

Rob Credi, owner of Pub Coffee Hub, extended his shop’s hours to correlate with the haunted house, reaping him at least another 15 or more customers for the evening. He will be selling Thriller Pizza on Saturday as part of the spookfest.

Saturday’s line-up happens from 5 to 8 p.m., with hay rides for $2, and a scavenger hunt; and the haunted house goes from 7 to 11 p.m. Festivities on Sunday include a House of Bounce activity, hay rides and penny carnival from noon to 5 p.m., and the haunted house from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission for the haunted house is $12 a person.

“So we're just trying to continue something to give these little kids something to do on a Friday, Saturday night that they usually don't get to do,” Thomas said. “We just had a seven-year-old coming through here and he wasn't scared of anything. So if your parents are watching, if you're watching scary movies at home with your parents, and you're watching them with your little ones or whatever, and they're not scared, bring them on down. It's a good time.”

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Top Photo: Haunted house occupants are waiting for your visit this weekend at Harvester Center, 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia; a group of visitors catch their breath after walking through the spooky exhibit; other creatures look forward to entertaining people on Saturday and Sunday. Photos by Howard Owens.

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