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Photos: Eli Fish Oktoberfest in Jackson Square

By Howard B. Owens
eli fish oktoberfest 2023

There was a big crowd, frothy beers on tap, and plenty of "zicke zacke hoi hoi hoi" to go around in Jackson Square on Saturday as Eli Fish Brewing Co. hosted its now annual Oktoberfest.

Photos by Nick Serrata.

eli fish oktoberfest 2023
eli fish oktoberfest 2023
eli fish oktoberfest 2023
eli fish oktoberfest 2023
eli fish oktoberfest 2023
eli fish oktoberfest 2023

Photos: The Bluesways Band fills Jackson Square for a Friday night concert

By Howard B. Owens
Remote video URL

It was a full house in Jackson Square for the Business Improvement District's weekly Friday night concert, this time featuring The Bluesway Band.

For one song, Guitarist Steve Kruppner played a Harley Benton BigTone White Trem that is a featured prize in a drawing contest at the Genesee County Fair this week sponsored by The Batavian (see video above).

The Bluesway Band is:

  • Chas DelPlato, keyboards, vocal 
  • Anthony DelPlato, guitar/vocals 
  • Brad Kujawski, bass/vocals 
  • Pete Metzler, drums/vocals 
  • Steve Kruppner, guitar/vocals
  • Special guest for Friday night: Frank Minuto, Congas/percussion

Photos by Howard Owens.

the bluesway band jackson square 2023
the bluesway band jackson square 2023
the bluesway band jackson square 2023
the bluesway band jackson square 2023
the bluesway band jackson square 2023
the bluesway band jackson square 2023

Photos: BID's Thursday Nights in Jackson Square opens with Vette

By Howard B. Owens
vette in jackson square
Kole Moore, the band Vette.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Vette opened the Thursday Night concert series in Jackson Square yesterday.

The band consists of Kole Moore, lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Alex Fitzak, lead guitar, and on Thursday, the substitute rhythm section was Mike "Thunder" Warren on bass and Alex DeSmit on drums.

The next show is the band Free Beer on Thursday, followed by Qwister on Aug. 10 and Radio Relapse on Aug. 17.

The concerts are hosted by the Business Improvement District.

vette in jackson square
Vette on stage at Jackson Square.
Photo by Howard Owens.
vette in jackson square
Alex DeSmit
Photo by Howard Owens.
mike thunder warren
Mike "Thunder" Warren on bass.
Photo by Howard Owens.
vette in jackson square
Alex Fitzak on lead guitar.
Photo by Howard Owens

Photos: Eli Fish Carnival in Jackson Square

By Howard B. Owens
eli fish carnival
Matt Gray, co-owner of Eli Fish Brewing Co., takes a splash in the dunk tank during Saturday's carnival in Jackson Square, Batavia.
Photos by Howard Owens.

Eli Fish Brewing is hosting its second annual carnival in Jackson Square today (Saturday).

The carnival runs until 10 p.m.

Photos by Howard Owens.

eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
eli fish carnival
Batavia High School Class of 2003 visited the carnival as part of his 20th Class Reunion festivities.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Music and open containers go hand-in-hand at Ramble

By Joanne Beck
Woman with beer at Ramble

There was at least one slight twist to this year's annual Ramble Music & Arts Fest for the portion that took place in Jackson Square. And that was the ability for people to enjoy their suds outdoors in the Square without concern of violating a city code. 

City Council had recently approved a request from the downtown Business Improvement District, GO ART! and business establishments to allow for open containers on the premises of the Jackson Square that is neatly contained by Eli Fish Brewing Company, Bourbon & Burger, Center Street Smokehouse, and The Coffee Press, plus other businesses. 

Matt Gray, a partner in Eli Fish, said that the event reaped "all positive reviews from our end."

Photos by Steve Ognibene.

Man with drinks at Ramble
Couple with drinks at Ramble

Local talent shines through on damp evening in Jackson Square

By Howard B. Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
William Franz performed on bagpipes. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

The skies may have been overcast, but the local talent shone through in Jackson Square on Friday night with the first of two Homegrown Concerts, hosted by Bill and Kay McDonald.

A second featuring young local talent, and some mature folks, is scheduled for Friday, June 30. The showtime is 6 p.m.

On the bill for the next show: William Franz (bagpipes), Leah Ford (guitar), Nolen Wright (guitar), Ayralynn Thompson (ukelele), and Quinn Karcher (accordion), along with Deanna Spiotta and Don Thomas and Steve Kruppner.

The evening's entertainment is rounded out with the Ghostriders and the Old Hippies.

Previously: Homegrown talent starting young in concerts hosted by The Old Hippies

homegrown concert july 23 2023
The family of William Franz watched from the High Cotton patio at Center Street Smokehouse.
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Local acoustic guitar virtuoso Steve Kruppner performed two original instrumentals and songs associated with Doc Watson.
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
As always, performers found an appreciative audience in Jackson Square. 
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Leah Ford performed with the Old Hippies (Kay McDonald and Bill McDonald).
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Nolen Wright performed with the Old Hippies
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
The new patio at Eli Fish is open.
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
Bill McDonald
Photo by Howard Owens
homegrown concert july 23 2023
It got a little damp at times during the show.
Photo by Howard Owens

Got your $1 million liability? Open containers welcome

By Joanne Beck
beertavia 2016
File photo by Howard Owens.

What’s that in Jackson Square? Open containers for alcohol, now that City Council has approved them, with a few special contingencies in place.

After much discussion a few weeks ago about allowing open containers within the confines of Jackson Square — surrounded by buildings and alleyways within Main, Jackson, School and Center streets — council agreed to try out the concept during spring, summer and fall events. But not without some protection, as requested by City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

Those extra precautionary measures include:

  • Bars and restaurants bordering and participating in Square events shall provide the city with general liability coverage in an amount of at least $1 million, naming the city as additional insured, and provide liquor liability coverage for off-premises naming the city as additional insured with a minimum of $1 million in coverage.
  • Prior to permitting any open containers in Jackson Square, the city shall be provided with the necessary insurance certificate and policies from the participating bars and restaurants and will approve coverages as a condition of participation.
  • A yearly review, or as necessary, of the policy.

During council’s last meeting two weeks ago, business owner Matt Gray spoke about the positives to come from allowing people to mill about in the Square with alcoholic beverages, including how the state liquor authority only allows four licenses per business, and this would free up his and other restaurants to host more outdoor events.

The current policy prevented folks from being able to carry their beverages with them to enjoy the outdoor concerts in the Square, and an open container policy may help establishments to get cross traffic, he said, such as Center Street Smokehouse, Eli Fish Brewing Company and O’Lacy’s, which surround the Square.

Likewise, Mary Jo Whitman, who has been involved with the Ramble Music and Arts Festival, said she thought that loosening the open container policy would bring more people into Jackson Square and provide more opportunities for people to enjoy a drink while participating in the outdoor events. 

And offering a different perspective on the same subject, James Simonds said he favored the policy because it might encourage recycling of container materials by keeping them in one area.

Council approved the application for open containers, per a request from the Business Improvement District and local groups, including Genesee County Chamber, GO ART!, and city business and restaurant owners. It is to take effect now for any business that provides the required liability insurance per stated above.

Jackson Square is about to get busy at 7  p.m. with a line-up of:

  • Old Hippies June 23 and 30
  • Ramble Music & Arts Festival July 1 (All Day)
  • Skycats July 7
  • Jim E Leggs July 14
  • Bluesway Band  July 21
  • Creekbend  July 28
  • Don Newcomb  Aug. 4
  • Songbirds Aug. 11
  • Ohms Band Aug. 18
  • Ghost Riders Aug. 25

Homegrown talent starting young in concerts hosted by The Old Hippies

By Howard B. Owens
Bill and Kay McDonald
Kay and Bill McDonald in Jackson Square recently preparing for the Homegrown Concerts hosted by the Old Hippies on June 23 and June 30.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Bill and Kay McDonald have spent their living the dream, playing and singing for smiling, clapping, foot tapping, and sometimes dancing audiences.

They decided a few months ago they wanted to give young, aspiring performers a chance to relish the same experience they've enjoyed all these years -- getting on stage with a good sound system in front of an audience looking to be entertained.

The McDonalds are producing concerts on June 23 and June 30 that will feature young performers. Both shows start at 6 p.m. in Jackson Square.

"We're really concentrating on the youth this time," Bill McDonald said. "We've got eight, nine, 10-year-olds that we've wrangled in -- guitar players, a bagpipe player, and accordionist.  We've got a couple of more seasoned veterans like Deanna Spiotta and Don Thomas and Steve Kruppner."

The young artists include William Franz (bagpipes), Leah Ford (guitar), Nolen Wright (guitar), Spencer Moscicki (guitar on June 23), and Quinn Karcher (accordion on June 30).

Also on the bill, the Ghost Riders and the Old Hippies.

The name of the show is, naturally, "Homegrown."  The event is paid for through a $5,000 grant from the state that was administered by GO ART!

The young performers were found by talking with teachers and friends, but even with the dates set, there might be more room on the bill for other aspiring performers.

"We could probably squeeze room for more," Bill said. "If we had a few more, we could. Every time you do that, it limits somebody else's time. But that's okay. We think the more, the better. Everybody's gonna play. If we (the Old Hippies) only get a couple of songs than so be it."

Bill McDonald can be reached at 585-250-2269 or  

The performances will be live-streamed at and


Bill and Kay McDonald
Photo by Howard Owens
Bill and Kay McDonald
Photo by Howard Owens

City Council hasn't closed the book on open container requests

By Joanne Beck


Jackson Square 2011
Could there be open alcoholic beverage containers allowed in Jackson Square's future? BID has requested approval from City Council to drop the open container ban in the downtown Square during the summer.
File photo from 2011 by Howard Owens

We’re here to promote business, not to destroy it.

Those words, spoken by City Councilman Al McGinnis Monday evening, seemed to capture council’s sentiments to move forward on allowing open containers for alcoholic beverages in Jackson Square, throughout various downtown streets during a special event in July and with a limit of two beverages on a specially built group pedal vehicle.

The agreement didn’t exactly come without a lot of discussion, questions and clarifications about each element of the open container requests before them.

Batavia’s Business Improvement District, aka BID, requested that open containers be allowed in Jackson Square during the summertime when the space is ripe with concerts and spectators are usually relegated to sitting inside or on the upper deck of nearby restaurants.

City law hasn’t allowed music revelers to sip a craft beer or gin and tonic while relaxing in their lounge chairs outside — a point that may change when council gathers again on June 12 to discuss the issue with a detailed resolution in hand to potentially vote on afterward.

Entrepreneur Matt Gray spoke as a business partner of Eli Fish Brewing Company, which backs up to the Square and is in progress with building a patio. He listed reasons why council would want to give a yes for open containers, including number one, the state liquor authority will only permit a business four events for open containers, and after Eli’s carnival, Octoberfest, BID’s Italian Fest, and the Ramble, “we’re out of licenses for that space,” Gray said.

There’s potential for grassroots development within that area, he said, that could mean other types of businesses, such as a cider distillery or similar, to bring more people downtown.

“If you bring the people downtown, and that is our goal, more development happens on its own. So it's great that we're doing this work to Jackson Square, but I really think that having an open container will kind of push us to the next stage as far as getting more traffic to the downtown area,” Gray said.

While some council members agreed with Gray and supported his stance, they shared the possible pitfalls as well.

“My concern is, people using it as a public space, bringing their own alcohol, they get out of the eye of the public, and hang out in there, when there isn't a function going on at the restaurants that connect to it. So I'm in favor of it. But I would like to see possibly signage warning people if they leave that area that they're going to be in violation,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said. “And obviously, if no one is responsible for it, but yet they use it, who's going to be cleaning it up? I mean, I'm sure it's inevitable. There'll be bottles or glasses or plastic cups being thrown around in there. I know a lot of businesses clean up around their own business anyway. It's fine.

“But you know, hopefully, they would keep it clean on their own and notify if somebody was just in there, having a private party without any authorization and using the space for a hangout and drinking location. But that's not what you're talking about here. You're talking about promoting business, promoting activity in there and maybe even freedom to go from one establishment to another,” he said. “That's all great. I love all that. But my prior life has taught me that not everyone obeys the unwritten rules, so to speak.”

He suggested that some type of guidelines might be warranted to ensure that everyone follows the rules.

“To make sure that it stays clean, doesn't turn into a hangout, and that people know, if they're walking out with a beverage and they walk out to Jackson Street, they know when they walk through the alley that they're leaving the space, and then they probably should either dispose of their beverage or finish it up,” he said.

The BID also requested that the city drop its open container law per Batavia Municipal Code during the Italian Festival on July 29, so that people can enjoy libations on downtown streets during the event from 1 to 9 p.m. This approval would require council to grant special permission to allow open containers on designated city streets and sidewalks during this event.

The third request is from Kuyler Preston of his newly formed company Batavia Pedal Party LLC. Using a specially crafted pedal and motorized open-air vehicle, a driver takes groups on a two-hour tour of the city for a fun, enjoyable ride, Preston said. 

While everything about his business is licensed and insured, he is seeking approval from council to allow each passenger to bring two cans of alcoholic beverages on the ride.

The difference between this type of group trip and that of a limo is that the pedal party vehicle is not enclosed, and the alcoholic drinks are visible to other people not in the vehicle, city attorney George Van Nest said. So Preston needs approval from the city to allow for the open containers on the bike, Van Nest said.

Jankowski said that some further research and discussion with police may be needed before making final decisions on some of these requests.

“I think we're gonna have to do some research like other places have done and talk to our police and DPW and see how they feel about it. But definitely, I like the idea of that square becoming a more multi-use space, or the businesses that they use it there for any private gathering or whatever,” he said. “But as long as it's approved, instead of just, we're starting to get calls because people realize it gets off to a place that you can use it at four in the morning and drink alcohol. And that's not really what it was intended to be for.”

Council is expected to discuss them further during a special conference session on June 12, to be followed by a business meeting for related votes.

Finally, it looks like Jackson Square's redesign is a keeper

By Joanne Beck
Jackson Square Ceiling

An outdoor project that’s taken quite some time in the creation mode seems to be coming along now, city officials say, teased by warmer weather and sunnier days.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski recently reported to City Council about “a really positive meeting on Jackson Square.”

“The redesign is going extremely well,” she said, adding that by working with Architecture Unlimited and an engineer who works with them have been creatively frugal in the design phase. “We hope when we go out to bid we can create substantial cost savings for the project. One of the items was the original project had footers in the stage, and by just placing concrete blocks instead of these footers is going to save us upwards of $150,000 on the project.”

Architect Kenneth Pearl said the Jackson Square stage was a type of pre-engineered wood (photo above) in a rather eloquent description, she said.

“So it'll be a very nice finish that will hold up the roof, and will be very similar to what we use on our buildings, on a rubber roof with kind of tongue and groove panels above it, and that will hopefully have a 20-year warranty,” she said.

A handicap ramp will be removable, so that it won't be built directly into the structure, will be something that can be “absolutely safe to roll up gear and or persons that need to use that ramp,” she said, and will also be removable so that it won’t jut out into the audience.

Another cost savings measure is to analyze the brickwork that is there, and some of the concrete larger slabs which architects have discussed, they are going to try to remove and salvage them in lieu of a concrete base so they don't sink again, Tabelski said.

“Because what happened before is they were just placed there and they sink like they might in a residential project. And with reusing those, we should save another significant amount of money. We want to look at different concrete dye colors to add just a little bit of textual and color elements to the flooring,” she said. “But overall, Jackson Square is really the paintings on the buildings, there's not much that needs to be done there. The catenary lighting, which is the lighting that goes above will still be part of the project.”

There will be LED performance lighting on the stage with color changes per holidays and special events. For example, Fourth of July would feature red, white and blue lights. Cobra heads will also be used, which are outdoor fixtures mounted to poles and mainly used for street and roadway lighting but can be used for other general area lighting.

“We’d have control over that. We also have one or two Cobra heads, (DPW Director Brett Frank) hooked me up to that,” she said. “As soon as we take possession in the phase two LED light changeover from National Grid, we'll be able to put dimmers and timers on that so we can turn those Cobra heads off during performances.”

The Jackson Square project has been at least three years in the making, reaching a point of requesting bids and City Council approving one in June 2022. But Mark Cerrone Inc., after receiving word that the company’s bid of $654,000 was selected, backpedaled with last-minute revisions and add-ons, hiking the bid up to $847,950.

Council then rescinded its approval and rejected that and two other bids for the project. The design went back for what Tabelski called a “deep dive” into potential cost-cutting revisions since it had to go back for a whole new bid process anyway.

The project is to be primarily funded with a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, plus $225,000 from National Grid, Tabelski said.

“When we go out for bid, they look at the scope of work, and they put a price to that with the materials and the labor … so it necessarily doesn't always line up with the budget we have,” she said at that time to The Batavian. “So we will be re-examining our bid specifications to make sure we think that pricing can come in within that.”

She was hopeful that a contractor with an acceptable bid could be approved for construction to possibly begin in 2022.

Well, that hope has come and gone, and city officials are hanging onto the expertise of Pearl and his architectural firm.

“So we’re really, really happy of the work that Ken and his firm has been able to do to bring this project into where the DRI Committee asked it to be and to be able to bid it out in what we think will be on budget,” Tabelski said. “So the hope is if everything goes well, which I absolutely hope it does, you'll see bid awards in July.”

The plan is for the Business Improvement District to host the Thursday and Friday night concerts in Jackson Square series throughout the summer, and begin construction at the end of August, she said.

Photo of a similar Jackson Square stage image, with pre-engineered wood ceiling and LED lights, courtesy of City of Batavia. 

Photos: Eli Fish celebrates 'wet hop' beers in Jackson Square

By Howard B. Owens


Eli Fish Brewing Company hosted a "wet hop" festival on a slightly-chilled Fall day on Saturday in Jackson Square, and more than 200 beer aficionados from all over the region turned out for the event.

"The weather is kind of cooperating and not cooperating but it's a good turnout," said Eli Fish co-owner Jon Mager.

About a half-dozen other breweries participated in the event as well.

Wet hops are freshly picked hops that typically spoil quickly after harvest so they need to be added to a brew the same day as harvesting, and wet-hop beers have a short shelf life before the wet hop flavor fades.

"Today is a celebration of wet hop beers, which means we're using fresh hops," Mager said. "We only get to do it for a very short period every year so we like to celebrate them while they're here."

It's a special flavor for beer lovers, Mager said. 

"You just get a fresher taste," Mager said. "You get a more, you know, some people will say grassy or vegetal taste, but it's such a specific type that we tend to enjoy it."









Photos by Howard Owens.

Ready for another outdoor tasting? Eli Fish hosts NY Wet Hop Beer Festival Saturday

By Joanne Beck


While 99 percent of all beers produced depends on freeze-dried and preserved hops, there’s also a type of craft beer made from freshly harvested hops flowers, Adam Burnett says.

That 1 percent happens for about one week a year with a farm-to-brewery operation. And Eli Fish Brewing Company is taking advantage of those special brews this weekend.

“It’s the New York Wet Hop Beer Festival,” said Burnett, a lead organizer and brewmaster from Eli Fish. “Hops are just flowers. And when you pick a flower, it doesn't last very long. So there's only about a one-week window a year when you have the opportunity to pick hops off the vine and use them fresh. And when they’re fresh to pick, and are put right in the brew, you should use them the same day they’re picked; it can be anywhere from the last week of  August up to mid-September.”

The first-time wet-hops fest is set for noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Jackson Square in downtown Batavia.

“We found that 14 breweries around New York State did that this year,” Burnett said. “We do it every year, and this year I made two different beers to kind of showcase different farms. There were different varietals this year, and it kind of peaked at different times so the window is actually different depending on what type of hops you want to use.”

Burnett made his two brews — pale ales that allow the juicy hops to shine — out of New York-grown chinook and cascade, two popular types of hops, and his Harvest Ale, featuring cascade hops and Michigan copper hops, which is described by as a “vigorous super-aroma hop with very fragrant floral and tropical fruit aromas and flavors.”

He will have plenty of company from eight wet hops brewers from Western New York and six from New York City. Each booth will have a home-style brew plus a guest brew from another location, he said.

Breweries include 1927 Brewhouse at Santora's, Nine Maidens, Beer Tree, TIL Brewing, Wagner Valley, Swiftwater, Three Heads, Noble Shepherd, Strong Rope Brewery, DaleView, Greenpoint, Endless Life, Threes, KCBC, Port Jeff and Good Nature.

Eli Fish owners and staff are hoping that this inaugural event draws interest and attendance in an effort to make it a yearly and growing festival, Burnett said. Not only is Strong Rope Brewing Company of Brooklyn participating, but it is also hosting the same event on Saturday at its hometown location, he said. So each event will “mirror” one another with similar craft beers and producers for brews from each a local and more distant locale.

Pre-sale tickets are still available for $35, which includes a glass and eight tastings, or people may purchase the glass for $5 and tastings for $5 each on the day of the event. Pre-sale gives you two free tastings, Burnett said.


There will also be specialty foods available for purchase, and the musical stylings of The Eaglez, “a very good” Eagles tribute band from Buffalo, he said.

“We want it to be even just the smallest amount of success. I mean, everyone wants New York to be the (craft beer) place again. But until we respect that we have the ingredients to make beer, it's not going to happen,” he said. “So it takes this kind of stuff to get there.”

Go here for tickets.

Top File Photo of Oktoberfest hosted by Eli Fish at Jackson Square; above, image of The Eaglez logo from its website.

Photos: Eli Fish Oktoberfest in Jackson Square

By Howard B. Owens


Eli Fish hosted its fourth annual Oktoberfest Saturday at Jackson Square in Batavia. As promised by organizer Adam Burnett, the event was overflowing with attendees, as the ever-popular German band The Frankfurters played traditional songs, accompanied by the band's dance troupe. Attendees joined in with the dancing, and quenched their appetites with German-themed brews and food from Eli Fish Brewing Company.













Joanne Beck contributed to this article. Photos by Howard Owens.

Build Day for boxcar derby brings, kids, families and volunteers downtown

By Joanne Beck


There was one part about an upcoming boxcar race that especially appealed to Mason Dominiak, he said.

The 13-year-old likes speed.

“I like racing,” he said Saturday at Jackson Square in Batavia. “The adrenaline of going fast, I like going really fast.”

He and Adrian Tabelski were watching Adrian’s dad work to gradually put together a boxcar for them. The boys are participants of a first-ever Batavia Business Improvement District Boxcar Derby. Handmade creations will take off down the Ellicott Avenue hill at 9:30 a.m. sharp on Aug. 27.

Saturday was “Build Day,” and about 10 kids and their parents picked up their car kits and took them home to work on while the remaining 20 stopped by throughout the day to put their cars together with hands-on support from many BID committee members and community volunteers.

In between sounds of construction equipment, Adrian, 10, said that his participation was sort of a surprise.

“My mom signed me up,” he said.

Adrian in turn invited Mason to come along. They are sharing the initial duties of assembling and decorating a car, and both agreed that Adrian would be taking the wheel on race day. He has never been in a boxcar, but has “learned a lot about construction” during the day, he said.

Mason didn’t think he’d know as much as he did. Then again, he has worked on vehicles — four-wheeling is his favorite ride — and once had to take an entire engine out for a piston issue, he said. He will be there on race day to root on his friend. They began to brainstorm their car's exterior: how about black and gold with flames for a design, they agreed.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Mason said.

Committee member Lydia Schauf had telltale signs of sawdust on her black outfit. Using a saw, perhaps? No, drilling into wood.

“So we found out that they're doing the boxcar thing, and they were doing a build day. So we all came out and said that we’ll volunteer and help cut out templates, like my dad said, and just help build wherever we can with these kids,” she said. “It was fun to get out and try my hand at it.”

Lydia gave her dad, Rich Schauf, a nudge to join her in the effort. She also brought friend Marianne Pautler with her.

When asked if there had been any mishaps yet, Pautler smiled and nodded yes.

“I might have added a couple extra pieces here and there,” she said. “Those two extra pieces slid in. But hopefully it's been rectified. We went back through and pulled them out,” she said. “So yeah, just putting the kits together so that they're ready for the people to pick up or build here.”

Looking like he was ready to hunker down for some work, Rich Schauf, wearing a thick gray headband, happily obliged his daughter’s request, he said. He saw lots of enthusiasm during his time there.

“I thought it was a very worthwhile project,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of kids. And it's been really great to see these young kids and their excitement. I don't know if memory is still serving people about it, or if this will be new to people, but it's pretty exciting. And if you remember back in the day, it was quite good.”

There were stations with various tools and materials set up for the project, and several committee members and volunteers on hand to help. Participants each received a car kit, and BID merchants have been supportive of the idea, Executive Director Shannon Maute said. The race will be double elimination, which means several — about 50 — races on event day.

She and the others encourage spectators to join the fun and root for the kids. There will be tents set up and pizza and beverages for sale afterward as a “picnic in the park” BID style at Centennial Park, she said.

“We would like to make this a really large event. I mean, how fun cheering on these kids going down the hill, because what a feeling of a park filled with people cheering you on when you're going down this ramp,” she said. “I have challenged every child that I've come in contact with, because I built a car and I have challenged them to race me, so it's gonna be fun.”

She joked that she threw the gauntlet down to committee member Chris Suozzi, but believes that “he’s afraid to race me.”

The actual race is not in the downtown business district, she said, but merchants were OK with that. Ellicott Avenue has not only a nice hill that’s in the city but also was used years ago for similar races, she said.

“We had talked at length if anyone minded us doing (this) actually outside of the downtown area, but everyone was all for it because it's really more about the kids and not the district,” she said.

Other members Saturday included Jim Krencik, Lauren Becht, Gail Tenney, John Roche, and volunteers Don Cunningham, Jay Steinbrenner, Ron Galdun, Derek Ells, and TJ Henderson. Genesee Lumber cut and delivered the wood needed for the car kits.

The adults have taken care of all of the “logistics,” Krencik said, so that “the kids can focus on the hands-on skills that they’re learning by building the boxcars.”

“And then having a lot of fun racing them,” he said. “Our goal really was, for Build Day, to see the kids, their smiles as they’re walking away with these projects that they’re gonna dive into. And it’s going to be several hours of memories that I think are gonna really inspire them as they go through middle school, high school and, for my hat with GCEDC, to integrate into careers.”

As for the fun of it, someone suggested to him to think of the Little Rascals movie, in which the impish kids race boxcars. That sealed it for Krencik, he said, and that movie has fueled his zeal for the grand finale next month.

“It's really gonna be fun on August 27, to see these kids take off … it’s right at the corner of Centennial Park. But I liked that the race kind of goes towards the heart of the BID,” he said. “Because I think that's the energy that's right there. And it's getting more memories for those kids coming downtown like they are today.”



Parents, committee members, volunteers, and kids got together to build some boxcars Saturday at Jackson Square. Photos by Jim Krencik.

Time for some music, pedestrian-friendly fare and a visit during Batavia Ramble

By Joanne Beck


Chuck and Kathy Walters just happened to be driving down Main Street, Batavia Saturday when they noticed some commotion on Jackson Street.

The entrance was closed, but the rhythmic beat of drums and tents along the street enticed them to stop for a visit.

“We didn’t know this was happening,” Mrs. Walters said during the annual Batavia Ramble Explore Art and Music Fest. “We watched the African drummers and dancing … it’s the first time I’ve seen African music that’s not on TV.”

Womba, a group of authentic African performers, was a new element to the music festival. Organized by GO ART!, a series of culturally rich musicians and dancers, artists, crafters and puppeteers filled the street with activities throughout the day.



The Walters found a spot at a picnic table to nosh on grilled hotdogs from a nearby food stand. Troupe Nisaa members, dressed in sparkly, colorful outfits, performed a traditional bellydance at one end while a singer belted out tunes at the Jackson Street stage on the other end near Ellicott Street.

“They should have more of these,” Mrs. Walters said, adding that they would “definitely” come again next year.

The Bergen couple agreed that it was nice to visit Batavia, especially since “they’ve got so much more than Bergen.”

When asked if they would like to see anything else at the event, Mr. Walters suggested a large sign with a schedule for visitors to know what’s happening, when and where. They had never attended a Ramble and had not been to Jackson Square before.

Mrs. Walters likes country western music, she said, and would like to see that featured.

Overall, though, she was ready for more.

“I would like a two-day event,” she said.

As the Walters finished and walked away, Jay and Christine Elmore and a friend, all of Le Roy, sat down to enjoy some Red Osier fare. Mrs. Elmore’s sandwich was filled with prime rib, coleslaw and barbecue sauce, capped by a roll with salty crystals promising a sweet and savory bite.

“This is so good,” she said.

She and her friend had gone to a concert at Batavia Downs Friday, and decided to return Saturday to use their freeplay money. They then stopped downtown, first at O’Lacy’s and then the Ramble just around the corner.



Foot traffic had thinned out some, and most art vendors had left by that time in the early evening. Mrs. Elmore suggested that a corn hole tournament would be a fun addition to draw people and provide more interaction.

“My husband is a huge cornhole (fan), that would be a big draw,” she said. “It would bring a lot of out-of-towners.”

Her husband Jay agreed that he’s really into the game, but not exactly sure why. His wife suggested that it’s about the competition and camaraderie of people getting together.

It may be something for Ramble organizers, including lighting and sound man Stephen Kowalcyk to consider for next year. During a talk with The Batavian, he had mentioned wanting to expand the offerings at Jackson Square, including themed music nights.

“This is an awesome asset to this music scene. Typically, I would like to see some new stuff in here. I've talked to the owners in here (Eli Fish), we have some ideas of doing some DJ nights out there, or doing an 80s night, one night, maybe a hip hop night or something just to change things up,” he said. “And I think that benefits all the restaurants around here. So it'd be a fun thing to do.”

See also:

Top photo: Chuck and Kathy Walters of Bergen stop for a bite during Batavia Ramble Explore Art and Music Fest Saturday downtown. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Womba entertains spectators at the GO ART! tent, a crowd enjoying the art vendors, food, and cultural performances on Jackson Street Saturday. Photo by Howard Owens.

Low bidder for Jackson Square project hikes bid, loses contract

By Joanne Beck


A deeper dive may be needed for a Jackson Square project that's already gone out two times for bids, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

She had recommended Monday that City Council vote to rescind a bid from Mark Cerrone Inc. due to the company’s last-minute revision of its original low bid of $654,000. After all, bids were received and council agreed to award Cerrone with a contract, the Niagara Falls-based company hiked its bid up to $847,950.

That move didn’t exactly seem kosher to Council President Eugene Jankowski.

“Is that even legal,” he said, addressing City Attorney George Van Nest. “We certainly have a lot of concerns with the communication that took place … there was some back and forth between the architects and the city, and contractor. At this point, we have a new contract. I’m just trying to get educated here for the future. It almost appeared that once they brought out their bids, then they mysteriously appear to be just under the next bid. Once someone bids, that’s it.”

Van Nest agreed.

“In general, I’d say that’s accurate,” he said. “There are some other nuances with this. Just to be clear, you’re not rejecting Mark Cerrone Inc’s bid; you’re rescinding that bid and rejecting the other two bids.”

Council agreed to move the item to the business meeting that would follow. The council later unanimously voted to rescind Mark Cerrone Inc’s bid due to "failing to honor" the original bid of $654,000 and reject the other two from Scott Lawn Yard, with a bid of $870,000, and Whitney East with a $1,002,800 bid.

An architect had originally recommended that council approve a contract award to Mark Cerrone Inc. for construction enhancement of Jackson Square. That bid would have included an alternative plan that would add about $31,000 for a total bid of $685,500.

However, once the city agreed, the contractor “refused to proceed with the project as bid, claiming significant mistakes and the need to adjust the contract price,” according to Director of Public Works Brett Frank.

The Batavian reached out to Senior Project Manager Jeff Salvatore of Mark Cerrone, Inc. earlier Monday for comment about the revised bid and council’s impending decision to rescind it. Salvatore offered “no comment.”

The project is to be primarily funded with a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, plus $225,000 from National Grid, Tabelski said.

“When we go out for bid, they look at the scope of work, and they put a price to that with the materials and the labor … so it necessarily doesn't always line up with the budget we have,” she said to The Batavian. “So we will be re-examining our bid specifications to make sure we think that pricing can come in within that.”

She was hopeful that a contractor with an acceptable bid can be approved within the “next few months.” That leaves the door still open for a construction start date this fall or winter, she said.

“But we do want to take a deeper dive at the design of it. Because this is the second time it's been bid out,” she said. “So yeah, we have some review work to do internally. Construction projects can certainly start in the fall. But again, we'll have to analyze when; it could technically happen in 2022.”

Illustration: File photo. One of the architectural renderings for the proposed redesign of Jackson Square.

Friday night Jackson Square Concert Series with Deanna Spiotta

By Steve Ognibene


The Friday Night Jackson Square concert season opened last night and featured on the bill was up-and-coming local artist Deanna Spiotta.

The Batavia High School graduate has been singing for most of her life.  She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from Nazareth College, lived in Nashville for a couple of years, and moved back home to WNY to continue her music and songwriting career.

She released her debut EP, “The In Between” last year, produced by 1809 Studios in Macedon.

Deanna is performing solos in the Rochester area and singing with Eric Carlin’s Half-Dead, a tribute to the Grateful Dead, and also performing in an acoustic duo called, Pushin’ Time with her fiancé, Eric Carlin.

Her music and tour can be found at

Opening up for Deanna were local artists Crimson Crossroads, Dave Knaudt and Ross Chua, two Batavia natives that just recently connected to start performing together. They can be followed on Instagram @daveknaudtmusic and

The Old Hippies and the Ghost Riders also performed Friday.

For a list of upcoming shows, click here.

To view or purchase more photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene








African drumming, bellydancing, interactive crafts and plenty of music for Ramble Arts & Music Fest

By Joanne Beck



What do you call a fun, outdoor, multi-pronged event geared for adults, families and children of all ages?

It’s the Batavia Ramble Explore Arts & Music Festival, of course. Filled with a full day of live bands, African drumming, a larger-than-life puppet show, interactive theater workshop, and Mexican, African and belly dancers, this fest incorporates the best of the sights and sounds for spectators, organizers say.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 2 at Jackson Square, tucked between Center and Jackson streets, Batavia.

Beginning the arts end of the event at 10 a.m., there will be a children’s camp of arts projects, face painting, temporary tattoos, caricatures, sidewalk chalk drawings, take-home crafts and other assorted activities, GLOW Traditions Director Karen Canning said. The camp will be found at the Explore Art tent, and runs until 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, Artsapalooza has two sessions, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Meant especially for families with young children, the palooza features the Springville Center for the Arts touring troupe centered around a theater performance by resident artists using large-sized puppets. This is an interactive theater experience that lures kids into the fun while ukuleles and drumming warm up the crowd, Canning said.

Drop-in visual arts stations encourage kids to make art while also watching the show.

“This promises to be a fun-filled and enriching experience for all ages,” she said. “GO ART! is happy to join with the Ramble to add opportunities to explore dance, visual, theater and diverse musical arts. The Artsapalooza program that we are able to sponsor this year will definitely be something different and fun for everyone to enjoy.”


Later in the afternoon the sounds of authentic, traditional African drumming, songs and dance from Ghana will be led by Quaye Odai of Womba Africa, a cultural drum and dance group that’s part of the Ga Adangbe People in greater Accra, Ghana.

Known as a tribe with a rich history and culture distinctive from other major ethnic groups, these performers first came to the United States in 2019 to compete on America’s Got Talent. They settled into Rochester after the show and now give workshops and performances throughout New York State at schools, libraries, community centers, festivals and parties.

“Anywhere that people are ready to move and renew their body and soul,” she said.

A workshop for families runs from 4 to 5 p.m. with a performance from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. at the GO ART! stage.


Womba Africa’s performances showcase their unique culture through costumes, instruments, rhythms, dance, and songs, Canning said. The costumes’ colorful Ghanaian fabrics are embedded with Adinkra symbols, with each symbol having a distinctive meaning.


The instruments include drums, xylophones, flutes, and a variety of shakers and bells. They are mostly handmade from wood, bamboo, gourds and seeds or beads, with drumheads from goat, cow and antelope skins. Womba’s songs and rhythms “intertwine in a characteristic African, polyphonic manner, blending distinct voices into a tapestry of rhythm, harmony and color,” she said.

Next up is Troupe Nisaa (pronounced Nee-Say), with many styles of belly dancing, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Performers put an emphasis on Fusion Style and include “beautiful, strong women who gather together to enjoy the art of bellydance.”


“The Troupe believes strongly in the sisterhood bond of bellydance, and supports and promotes the empowerment of the feminine through their dancing,” she said.

Capping off the lively arts-themed day is Alma de Mexico from 7:15 to 8 p.m.

Karla Slack Alcalá was born and raised in Mexico City, and is in love with her country, customs and traditions, Canning said. From a very young age, Alcalá had a passion for dancing, and at the age of 8 years, her mother “noticed her eagerness and thankfully enrolled her in Mexican folklore dance classes,” she said.

“Karla has over 25 years of teaching experience serving at Casa de Cultura de Acolman, Grupo Mexicatlalli, and at other dance school programs in Mexico. She holds a diploma in Art from CEDART Luis Spota and is an interdisciplinary artist and physical and wellness educator who focuses her efforts on Mexican traditions, Canning said.

“Karla has taught, performed, and choreographed numerous dance programs within the Mexican territory and in other countries like Cuba, Belgium, Spain, Basque country and Guatemala,” she said. “She loves movement and obtained a degree in Physical Education. She believes that sports and dance are perfect tools for our abilities and the development of motor skills. In her dance classes, there was always time to play and integrate sports.”

In 2013, Alcalá left Mexico for the United States and is now making the Rochester area her second home. With a goal to preserve the soul of Mexico, she is leading Alma de Mexico program as the artistic director and is responsible for three different groups of children, youth, and adults. The program’s principal objective is​ to show her Mexican culture through music, costumes, and folkloric dance, Canning said.

“We're very excited to bring Womba Africa Drumming and Dance, Ghanaian master drummers and dancers who have recently moved to the Rochester region. Along with Alma de Mexico, and Nisaa Belly Dance, these artists lead audiences into their unique cultural traditions through a shared enjoyment of rhythm, movement, color, and sheer joy of making music,” she said. “There are many connections audiences will find as they listen and watch -- and move.”


On the musical side, event coordinator Paul Draper has a slew of bands to fill out the day into the evening with tunes. The lineup includes:

  • The Ghost Riders
  • Groove
  • Warren Skye and Friends
  • Kissin' Whiskey
  • DriVen
  • The Trolls 2.0
  • Lonesome Road
  • Marnie Kay and the Nonblonds
  • Beethoven's Dream Group
  • Sierra
  • Jostepa Trio
  • Noah Gokey
  • The Bluesway Band
  • Zackstreet Boys
  • Steve Kruppner
  • Tom Ryan and Friends
  • PD3
  • Knaudt and Chua
  • Vette
  • Midnight Cruisers
  • Brick
  • Spare Parts
  • High Pines
  • The Remediators
  • Bad Sign

Top photo: Womba Africa; a prior Batavia Ramble Arts & Music Fest; Womba Africa drummers; Troupe Nisaa; Batavia Ramble. Arts photos submitted by Karen Canning. 2018 File Photos of Batavia Ramble. Photos by Howard Owens.

Old Hippies are Home to Home for concert series

By Joanne Beck


Old Hippies, flowers and art seem to be a natural fit, and all three are part of this year’s Home to Home Concert Series.

A free yearly event hosted by Bill and Kay McDonald of the Old Hippies, the Home series is billed as being “for the common good.” Since the duo requires a nonprofit to receive grant funding, it partnered with Batavia Peace Garden and GO ART! to bring two concerts in June at Jackson Square.

“Featured local artists performing will be Old Hippies, Ghost Riders, Deanna Spiotta, Don Thomas, and a selection of talented youth and seasoned artists,” Bill McDonald said. “We will los have three other artists: Leah Ford on bass guitar, guitar and French horn; Ross Chua on stringed instruments and vocals; and David Knaudt on stringed instruments and vocals.”

The first concert, at 7 p.m. June 17, will also include Chua and Knaudt in their band Crimson Crossroads. It’s a safe bet that the musical genres in these concerts will go from folksy, blues and country to contemporary. Chua’s repertoire has included the Beatles, Katy Perry and Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, in which Chua does a mean ukulele.

Old Hippies perform guitar-rich tunes such as Blowin’ in the Wind, Three Little Birds, Fallen Eagle and James Taylor’s classic You’ve Got a Friend.

Batavia Peace Garden treasurer Carol Grasso said the group’s members will be out of the weeds and selling hotdogs during the first event June 17.

“That’s how we make our money for flags and mulch, and things for the garden,” she said.

If you’ve got a bit of a green thumb, members are looking for more volunteers, Grasso said. Pulling weeds and maintaining the landscape on West Main Street takes time and energy, she said.

“I’ve got 10 years into the garden,” she said. “We started when we retired, and now we’re just tired. We’ve been working hard.”

A second concert is set for 2 p.m. June 26. The concerts are free, and attendees are encouraged to bring a lawn chair to park and enjoy the show.

The Restart NY Regrant Program was developed as part an initiative to spur the revitalization of New York's creative economy. The program is administered through a network of local and regional organizations through a transparent peer panel funding process and is available to artists and organizations in each of the state's 62 counties. Organizations or individuals with a fiscal agent  -- in this case Old Hippies have Batavia Peace Garden and GO ART! -- that meets NYSCA and GO ART! criteria may request regrant funds.

For those unable to attend in person, these music shows will be livestreamed online at Bill McDonald’s Facebook page . For more information, click HERE.



Top photo: Bill and Kay McDonald of the Old Hippies, submitted photo. File photos of Ross Chua, Old Hippies and the Ghost Riders.

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