Thursday, July 31, 2008


Congressional candidate Jack Davis was in town on Wednesday as the Lockport Journal reports....

ELECTION 2008: Davis: 'Predatory' trade practices hurt WNY

GASPORT — Put country-of-origin labeling on all foods. Get the United States out of its free-trade entanglements. Convince elected representatives to stop taking campaign contributions from special interests. That’s Jack Davis’ prescription for fixing what ails American agriculture.

Davis, who is seeking the Democratic line in the 26th Congressional District race, strove to hit the low lights of free trade in a Wednesday speech at Becker Farms/Vizcarra Vineyards. The campaign’s perennial catch line is “saving jobs, farms and American industry,” but with a working farm as his backdrop, Davis focused on local agriculture.

Of apples, which used to be Niagara County’s premiere crop, Davis says they’re going unpicked — reportedly by the millions statewide last year — while fresh product and juice concentrate are imported from China and South America. “Local apple growers are being destroyed by free trade policies, the same as our manufacturing jobs,” he said. Dairy farmers also are undercut by lower-cost foreign dairy producers, and Davis suggested something as “American” as ice cream becomes less so when the ingredients are imported from South America.

The importing, enabled by free trade agreements that Congress approved, undercuts American family farmers and farm workers and at the same time does not benefit consumers, Davis observed. The price of milk lately hovers around $4 a gallon.

Of imported farm products generally, he says, their safety isn’t assured, because the government doesn’t inspect them at their points of entry any more than it demands imported foods meet the same environmental standards that U.S. producers are held to. Tons of U.S.-grown tomatoes were thrown away because of the recent salmonella alert and now the government says the source more likely was Mexican-grown jalapenos. Blame big-scale agribusiness and Congress for the senselessness, Davis says. The former’s campaign contributions to the latter keeps the “predatory” free-trade cycle going unchecked.

“Last year (the United States) imported more food products than we exported. ... Our Washington elected officials have been bought by the free traders,” he said. “We have lost the toy industry, the electronic entertainment industry and many others. As a nation, we are also losing our ability to feed ourselves.”

To help U.S. agriculture, Davis said, he’s committed to three specific acts: Pushing for mandatory country-of-origin labeling of all food products to help consumers make informed choices; pushing for U.S. pullout of existing free-trade pacts and the World Trade Organization; and refusing campaign contributions from agribusiness corporations, importers, wholesalers, retailers, their lobbyists or political action groups.

“The huge agribusiness corporations don’t care about our farmers or our way of life. I do,” Davis said. “Special interest money does not impress me. I will not take a dime.”

Davis, 75, seems to be waging an uphill battle to claim the Democratic line in his third consecutive House run. He’s wealthy and can afford to not dip at the campaign donor well, but he’s shut out politically by the seven county Democratic committees in the district, all of which endorsed Jonathan Powers, a 30-year-old Army veteran. Also vying for the party line in the upcoming primary election is environmental attorney Alice Kryzan.

Despite his name recognition and financial means, Davis acknowledges he’s not sure his save jobs-farms-industry message is getting across to district residents. Speeches are sparsely attended and the parades he’s been in get rained on, he said. His biggest people-drawing campaign event was an offer to make gas available at $1.50 a gallon at a Byron station one day last month and he can’t be sure his name stood out after the rush on cheap fuel.“ It’s hard to get people out and paying attention to the election; they seem somewhat apathetic,” Davis said. “There is a disadvantage in not having the (Democratic) endorsement, but I’m working my way around it.”

The party preference for Powers doesn’t make sense to Davis supporters like Paul DiFiglia, chairman of the Town of Pembroke Democratic committee. “What a steal (Davis) is, what a chance we have to get the right person to do the job — and they’re confused,” DiFiglia said. While Davis’ competition steals sound bites from him, they don’t seem willing to embrace the larger message, added Gene Simes of Gowanda. “Most candidates say what they think you want to hear and they only talk at election time. Jack says it all the time,” Simes said. “He said today what he was saying yesterday and the day before that. And you know he means it. Look at his (R Squared Element manufacturing) company; it’s built on, and takes care of, families.”

Becker Farms owner Oscar Vizcarra said he doesn’t know much about Davis’ specific issue stances, but the fact that agriculture is consistently a campaign plank makes him want to learn. Vizcarra is a registered Republican who never met Davis before Wednesday but was willing to host his speech because the topic doesn’t get much attention from many other office seekers.

“He’s speaking on behalf of small family farms and he seems to have knowledge of the problems that small farms face,” Vizcarra said. “We’ve been trying to fight this situation for years, but we don’t have the lobby power that the agricultural corporations have.”

Vizcarra interprets Davis’ self-financed campaigns as a sign of independence and says he appreciates that, too.“It’s interesting, someone putting his own money into helping the country,” he said. “I like his approach to government.”


Monday, July 28, 2008


The Niagara Gazette reports on the Erie Canal Derby's climax....

FISHING DERBY: Cook cleans up at awards ceremony

Justin Cook of Shelby and Jacolyn Schaffert of Lockport were the big winners in this year’s 18th Erie Barge Canal Fishing Derby. Cook claimed the Adult Division grand prize of a new fishing boat, motor and trailer at the annual derby awards ceremony Sunday at the Gasport Fire Hall. Schaffert won the Kids Division top prize — a new canal trail bike.

More than 150 people attended the awards ceremony, which honored adult and children’s winners in the 2008 derby, which concluded July 20 along the canal, between Tonawanda and Albion.

“With the economy so bad and gas prices the way they are, it was tough, but we pulled it off again,” said event founder and director, Steve Harrington while handing out prizes together with his wife, Lynn.

The seven adult division winners were Cook (bullhead, 1.50 pounds), Norman Schultz of North Tonawanda (carp, 22.53 pounds), Lynn Bensley of Albion (walleye, 5.28), Alonzo Maxwell of Lockport (bass, 4.55), Dale Benny of Wilson (catfish, 14.50), Steve Pallone of Ransomville (pike, 5.24) and Vincent Hackmer of Lockport (sheephead, 11.20).Youth winners honored were Schaffert (bass, 2.78), Wade Sargent of Shelby (carp, 17.79), Dylan Bilicki of Newfane (walleye, 2.05), Tristan Torres of Albion (catfish, 5.30), Joshua Woods of Lockport (pike, 3.74), Joseph Hahn of Niagara Falls (sheephead, 6.96) and Cody Sikora of North Tonawanda (bullhead, 1.10).

Schultz’s story is a remarkable one because he only has one leg. He caught his winning fish at Gateway Park in Tonawanda, with a little help from his friend, Glenn Krull. “The weigh station in Tonawanda was closed so we brought the fish to Les Allen’s in Lockport and had it weighed in there,” Schultz said.

Josh Woods of Lockport caught his winning pike in the canal by the Prospect Street bridge on the city’s West End. “I like the derby. It’s nice for kids like me. I’ve been in the derby for the past eight years,” boasted the 11-year-old. “Everyone should try it. You never know. You might win.”

Other winners, like Joel Feagin of Niagara Falls, a former Wilson High School stand-out athlete, declined not to give the exact location of his winning catch in North Tonawanda for obvious reasons. “I can’t give away all of my secrets,” he said. “The trick is live bait. There’s no substitute for live bait. If you want to catch a big fish, especially in deeper waters. It’s hard to get a lure down there.”

Harrington thanked his many sponsors, the derby’s official newspaper the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, and weigh stations, including the derby’s newest station, Jeddo Bait & Tackle, operated by Tom Kenward.

“Aside from the money the derby generates businesses like mine, it was great seeing so many families come in with their kids and the looks on their faces,” said Kenward, a Medina resident. “The kids come walking in with a quarter-pound bullhead and they’re all excited. It was like that all day long throughout the derby. It was nice to see all the kids out there fishing.”

More than 1,000 people participated in the derby this year, Harrington said.

Four locals who caught tagged fish also received prizes. Lockport’s Jeff Kinney caught the derby’s first tagged fish, which was sponsored by Darrell’s Place in Middleport. Lockport’s Haley Storms caught a tagged fish sponsored by DiNardo Company Flooring and two more tagged fish were caught by Angela Fasciano of North Tonawanda, sponsored by Sunrise Door; and Matt Snicales of Tonawanda, sponsored by Jacob Kern & Sons. Harrington said the four tagged fish (out of 50 available) are the most ever caught in the derby’s history. The fish are tagged each year by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


There are quite a few purple boxes hanging in trees roadside throughout the Gasport area. Two that I know of off the top of my head: there's one on Hartland Road and another on Dale Road (off Slayton Settlement Road).

What are they?

They are traps placed by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell Cooperative Extension to collect emerald ash borers, an invasive beetle that has the potential to wipe out all the ash trees in the area. The traps have ash borer phermones in them which attract the beetles to the box, the outside of which is covered in a flypaper-like sticky substance. The scientists will then study the creatures caught in it.

The box on Dale Road is covered with insects, which is not a good thing. 2007 studies had us pegged at being 50 -100 miles away from the nearest infestation, an easy distance for flying insects to travel.

How bad are these beetles? The DEC says....

This Asian beetle, discovered in 2002 in southeastern Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, infests and kills North American ash species (Fraxinus sp.) including green, white, black and blue ash. Thus, all native ash trees are susceptible. Damage is caused by the larvae, which feed in tunnels (called galleries) in the phloem just below the bark. The serpentine galleries disrupt water and nutrient transport, causing branches, and eventually the entire tree, to die. Adult beetles leave distinctive D-shaped exit holes in the outer bark of the branches and the trunk. Adults are roughly 3/8 to 5/8 inch long with metallic green wing covers and a coppery red or purple abdomen. They may be present from late May through early September but are most common in June and July. Signs of infection include tree canopy dieback, yellowing, and browning of leaves.

Most trees die within 1 to 4 years of becoming infested, unless treated. The Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for the destruction of over 50 million ash trees in the U.S. since its discovery in Michigan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The Buffalo News reports on Royalton's settlement with the County....

Royalton settles workers’ compensation case with county out of court

The Town of Royalton has settled out of court with Niagara County on a six-year-old workers’ compensation case, agreeing to pay the county $210,000. The County Legislature is to vote on the settlement today, as County Attorney Claude A. Joerg and Robert S. Roberson, the attorney representing the town, dispute who got the best deal.

Joerg told the Legislature’s Administration Committee last week that he got Royalton to pay what it owed the county “dollar for dollar,” while Roberson crowed that he talked the county down from a lawsuit that demanded nearly $1 million. The two attorneys were last heard ripping each other about three weeks ago, when Roberson sued the county over more than $17,000 he says he is owed for his past work for the county Sewer District, a bill the county has refused to pay.

Roberson charged that the county was wasting money fighting a previous suit he filed over the matter, which was dismissed, while Joerg said he would countersue Roberson to try to force him to repay money the Sewer District approved for him before the county auditor’s office shut off the tap.

This time, referees were needed to bring the two together. Joerg credited Legislator Michael A. Hill of Hartland and Royalton Supervisor Richard Lang for playing that role.

Royalton was one of several municipalities the county sued in early 2007 to try to collect cash the county thought it was owed by former members who pulled out of the county-run Mutual Self-Insurance Plan, a county-wide workers’ compensation insurance plan, in 2001 and 2002.

In the summer of 2007, the Niagara- Wheatfield School District settled out of court for $225,000, and the City of Lockport followed suit in March, paying $278,220 on top of the $219,896 it paid the county in 2004.

Besides Royalton, suits are pending against the towns of Niagara and Wheatfield, while the City of Niagara Falls, which wasn’t sued, has been making payments but still owes about $1.1 million. The county sued to try to collect back premiums for the plan and also to gain reimbursements for money it spent on old claims since the former members left the pool.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled Feb. 1 that the county’s suits were legally filed.



I received an e-mail from someone who moved away from Gasport as a high schooler in the late-1980's. She's looking for one of her classmates and friends from that time, Irene Taylor, and was hoping that someone could help find Irene. If you know how to contact her, shoot me an e-mail at and I'll share it with Angie.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I received this e-mail yesterday. Hopefully, someone in the know in Royalton can help her out. Her e-mail address is .....

I have been doing research into my family tree, and I have found that some of my ancestors lived in Royalton in the mid 19th century. I am trying to get a few details about them, and I was wondering if someone can help me find out what resources may be available. I have seen the census pages on, so I know their name was Talcott and they were baptists, but other than that I have few details and none of the maiden names of the females. There are a lot of Talcotts in New York, but my branch was conspicuously less illustrious, so many Talcott resources have led to dead ends.


Char Barnes

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The Buffalo News reports on today's early AM fire.....

Antique car, farm equipment lost in Hartland barn fire

An antique car and some farm equipment were destroyed along with the barn where they were stored during an early-morning fire today in the Town of Hartland, Niagara County sheriff's officials reported. Volunteer firefighters from Hartland, Gasport, Middleport and Terrys Corners responded to the 2:51 a.m. alarm at 3334 Hartland Road, near Chapman Road. Upon their arrival, the firefighters found the barn completely engulfed in flames. The barn was considered a total loss.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Buffalo News reports on today's happenings in this ongoing saga that took place on Gasport's roads....

Former elementary teacher indicted on three felony DWI counts

Marcy L. Cole, the former Lockport fourth-grade teacher who was arrested four times in 14 months on drunken driving charges, pleaded not guilty today to three felony DWI counts in Niagara County Court.

Cole, 35, of Main Street, Gasport, also is charged with two felony counts of first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation and some lesser traffic charges in an 11-count indictment. If she were to be convicted on all charges, the maximum sentence would be 12 years in prison. Cole resigned last month from her teaching job after having been suspended with pay Jan. 8, when she was escorted out of Roy B. Kelley Elementary School, allegedly for being drunk in class.

Cole was indicted by a Niagara County grand jury on DWI charges stemming from incidents Oct. 7 and June 16 in Royalton, and Jan. 10 in the Town of Lockport.

She had pleaded guilty in Town of Lockport Court last year to misdemeanor DWI stemming from an April 19, 2007, arrest. She was fined $500.



The Medina Journal Register reports....

ROYALTON: Auditors: Budget financially mixed up but not troubled

Ears perked up when the small audience at Monday’s town board meeting heard the auditor say the words, “bogus entries.”

Prior to that, Jack Berry of Berry & Berry talked numbers, money from the A Fund, B Fund, the water fund, etc., during the financial overview. Folks were nodding off. “Bogus entries” perked them up. Who made bogus entries? Why were bogus entries made? What is a bogus entry? Is Royalton in deep financial trouble?

The board was able to read the report along with Berry, but the document of at least 35 pages was not available for public viewing, and was not made available to the Greater Niagara Newspapers when requested. Supervisor Richard Lang, board members Jennifer Bieber, Brad Rehwaldt and Lee Criswell are going to take time to study it. James Budde was absent.

The financial report was confusing, attendees said, but the bottom line is, according to the auditors, the town isn’t deeply in debt. “I really didn’t expect anybody to really understand,” Berry said. “It was too much ... ‘Bogus,’ as opposed to ‘genuine,’ means there was not the correct entry made.”

“That was Mr. Berry’s terminology,” Lang said. “These were what was found by Mr. Berry in the prior administration.”

The 2006 funds were overstated and carried over to 2007, but never corrected, Berry said as he addressed the board. There were bogus entries. Money went through the water fund but should have gone through another. Bills were paid late and through the wrong accounts, but most were paid.

“We’re not in trouble,” Supervisor Dick Lang said. “Even though they were bogus, the figures pretty well balanced out.”

“There’s a proper way to do things in municipalities,” Berry explained. “If you run something through a capital project, you do the activity there. If you’re providing water for people, you do it there. You don’t do refinancing through the water. I know how they did it, but not why they did it.”

Royalton called upon the Frankinville auditors after Jack and Kathy Berry helped Wilson out of its bookkeeping quagmire. Lang thanked the Berrys after the report.“If I’d known beforehand, I wouldn’t have taken the job,” Jack Berry said, half-jokingly. “I thought Wilson was a problem, but Wilson was a piece of cake compared to untangling this one.”

Royalton’s balances are fairly decent, according to the accountant. The water fund still has a $44,000 deficit, and sales tax revenue should have been handled better. Lang felt assured. “We wanted it done as soon as possible and we wanted it done correctly and he did an excellent job. I was very pleased with Mr. and Mrs. Berry.”

Berry concluded that Wilson and Royalton are good towns that lost track of their money. “Because they didn’t know, both boards tried to be conservative with their budgets. They just didn’t now where they were at.”

The board is preparing for a long work session to discuss and review it.

• The board is pushing for four-year terms for the supervisor, town clerk, highway superintendent and tax collector. There will be a public hearing.

• Gina Carter was named clerk of the planning board and zoning board. Budde had offered other names for consideration.

• The speed limit on Root Road has been lowered to 45 mph.



This message was sent to us by Jennifer Bieber....

In Support and Friendship of Bob and Shirley Stahl

Last year Bob was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. What is ALS? It's a progressive, disabling and fatal disease. With time, walking, speaking, eating, swallowing and breathing become more and more difficult.

The Stahl family has a need for handicap home renovations. Their most basic needs, that we all take for granted every day, are becoming increasingly difficult. We have already received some donations of time to work on this project but we still have to pay for the supplies.

Bob's Grandpa Mietz was the founder of the milk hauling business. When Bob and his brother Arnie were old enough, they took over and became the co-owners of Stahl Bros. Milk Hauling. Bob was also a dairy farmer for many years. He served on the board of directors of Niagara Milk Co-op for 15 years as well as church council at Trinity Lutheran of Wolcottsville for 12 years, 6 of those years as President. He is an exempt member of the Wolcottsville and Terry's Corners fire hall. He was also a member of the Bergholtz Insurance Company for 15 years. He was a member of Farm Bureau and Committee member of the ASC office. Bob also served as a councilman for the Town of Royalton for 12 years. He has always done his civic duty and given back to his community in many, many ways. Now we have the chance to give back to him.

A spaghetti dinner fund-raiser will be held on Sunday, July 20th from noon-5 at the Wolcottsville Fire Hall. Kids 5 and under eat for free. There is a special 20.00 ticket that includes one dinner and a chance at 10 items valued at 100.00 or more, you do not need to be present to win. We will also have a 50/50 drawing and a large basket auction. We have had a special donation of 4 tickets for the 2009 Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee. The tickets are 10.00 a chance and only 500 tickets will be sold. If you would like to make a donation or buy a ticket, please feel free to contact any committee members. Monetary donations can be made through the Bank of Akron, 46 Main St, Akron, NY 14001.

Committee members are Carson and Cindy Kelley, 542-4755; Jesse and Jennifer Bieber, 735-7335; Gretchen Bruning, 433-0308; Cathy Bergquist, 542-9824; John Villella, 772-2548; Dick and Gretchen Lang, 433-7748; Donna VanBuren, 434-3059; Jim Bugenhagen, 772-2668; Cheri Smith, 434-6435

Monday, July 14, 2008


Julie Rizzo sent us the following message....

United Neighbors Interested in Tommorrow's Environment (UNITE) has been invited to speak at the following reception regarding the contamination at the FMC site in Middleport. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) has determined this site to be one of four sites in WNY named "Love Canals of Today".

It is our feeling that because of the proximity of the site to our school district's middle and high school, all district residents should be kept informed as to what is happening at this site. Many residents do not know of FMC's application to the DEC for a permanent CAMU (Corrective Action Management Unit) - landfill. If it is approved, all the contaminated dirt required to be removed by FMC will be stored at this site which is approximately 100 FEET uphill and up wind of the school track. This is the same track that was remediated years ago by FMC because of the contamination caused by wind and water flow carrying chemicals onto the field.

Please help us spread the word, so that residents outside the village of Middleport can be well informed. Thank you for your help in this endeavor.

Julie Rizzo

Love Canal 30th Anniversary Reception & Program
Friday, August 1, 2008 from 6:30 - 8:30 pm
VFW Post 917 - La Salle Griffon Post
2435 Seneca Ave, Niagara Falls, NY 14305

Suggested Donation: $30 ($1 for each year of our journey)

Speakers: Lois Gibbs, CHEJ Executive Director, other Love Canal survivors, and Western NY community leaders fighting the "Love Canals of Today" including Bethlehem steel workers exposed to radioactive contamination, CWM hazardous waste landfill in Lewiston/Porter, FMC pesticide contamination in Middleport, and W. Valley nuclear waste site.

To RSVP or for information on sponsorship opportunities contact Mike Schade at 212-964-3680 or

Love Canal marked the beginning of the environmental health movement in Western NY and across the country. 30 years ago on August 2, 1978, the NYS Department of Health declared a State of Emergency at Love Canal, ordered the 99th Street School be closed and a clean up plan be undertaken immediately. It recommended that pregnant women and children under two who lived in the area surrounding the Love Canal landfill should move. Further relocations followed in response to this legendary grassroots community struggle.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), Citizens' Environmental Coalition, and the Love Canal Medical Fund invite you to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Love Canal as we continue the journey to prevent harm to our families from toxic chemicals in our homes, schools, and communities in WNY and across the country.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


The town of Royalton will meet this Monday at 7:30 at the town hall. The agenda can be found here:;/content/Minutes/View/73

Among the items to be discussed:

* Legalized entry into the cold storage building on State Street for a safety inspection

* Resolution to call for a public hearing in August to discuss extension of term limits


This Niagara Wine trail story ran in the July 4th Miami Herald...

Niagara Wineries Trail: Grapes, tastings and ghosts

Standing behind the long wooden bar in one of two elegant tasting rooms at The Winery at Marjim Manor, Margo Sue Bittner proudly shows off her 28 wines. Her eyes twinkle as she tells visitors that she's named some of the wines in honor of former residents of the house, built in 1834, and which, she says, is home to six ghosts -- five human, one dog.

''One of the ghosts, Shubal Merritt, died on a Thursday at 3 o'clock,'' Bittner says, picking up a bottle of a white grape and peach fruit blend called, of course, Thursday Afternoon at 3. There's also a dry red Lord of the Manor wine, and the sweet red Lady of the Manor.

Close to the shores of Lake Ontario in Appleton, N.Y., Marjim Manor adds a bit of spooky fun to our tour of the Niagara Wine Trail. If you do the grapes of math, you'll count nearly a dozen wineries that opened their doors here in the past decade -- seven of them since 2004. The wineries are located in Western New York's rural Niagara County, bounded by Lake Ontario in the north and the base of a bluff, known as the Niagara Escarpment, to the south. In this micro-climate, the warming effect of the lake extends the growing season north of the Escarpment, where thousands of years ago the rich deposits left by the receding glacier created the fertile beginnings for growing fruits and premium grapes.

New York wines often struggle to find a place at fine dining tables, playing second fiddle to California's better-known labels. In truth, the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley and Long Island regions of the Empire state have been producing award-winning wines for many years. Canadian wineries in Southern Ontario Province, west of the Niagara River have also flourished, but Western New York's Niagara Wine Trail is the newest kid trying to make its mark in the vineyards, and orchards.

Marjim specializes in fruit wines, but before you turn up a snobbish nose at them, give them a try. Sample Cherry Concerto, Applely Ever After, or an award-winning dessert wine called A Pear Made in Heaven. Marjim's Merlot has a hint of vanilla, not too dry, not too sweet, refreshingly right.

A few miles beyond the Olcott Harbor bridge, we hang a left on Coomer Road to Schulze Vineyards & Winery. Relax on the covered patio or gather at the tasting bar for cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

Farther south in Newfane, we meet Tom Chiappone, a master winemaker. His Chiappone Cellars Winery is not formally part of the group of wineries marketed as the Niagara Wine Trail. Chiappone has his own wine-testing lab and more than his share of awards. We sampled a dry Ives Red, a seyval blanc, and a surprising catawba, refreshing but not overly sweet.
Near the warmer limestone base of the Escarpment, 20 miles south of Lake Ontario, find the cluster of wineries west of Lockport. If pinot noir is your thing, Warm Lake Estate is a must, home to one of the largest pinot noir plantings east of the Rocky Mountains.

The only winery on the trail not family-owned, Warm Lake is a limited corporation of investors, created by winemaker Michael VonHeckler. After years of part-time research and study, the former Lockheed Martin engineer took an early retirement, and opened his winery in the summer of 2000.

Wine Spectator has called Warm Lake's world class wine the best pinot noir in New York State. We sampled three, the signature and smoother Warm Lake Estate Pinot Noir, the pleasant Mountain Road and just a swirl of the very sweet Glace Noir dessert wine, all 2004 vintage.

The granddaddy of the Niagara Wine Trail is Niagara Landing Wine Cellars, owned by Pete Smith and his sister Jackie Smith Connelly. Although it was re-established under the Niagara Landing name only 10 years ago, it is the oldest winery and founder of the Niagara Wine Trail. The 19th century vineyards yield premium grapes and wines ranging from a fruity blush to a rich cabernet sauvignon.

We cleanse the palate, get our camera ready, and head east of Lockport on Route 31 to experience a still-developing, but promising touch of Tuscany. Nestled among acres of bucolic woodlands, with walking paths and a picturesque 8-acre spring-fed lake, is the newly opened Spring Lake at Varallo Vineyards. ''We're Italian. Winemaking is in our blood,'' says Dominic Varallo, whose father, grandfather and 10 more members of the clan work there, contributing to the operation. They decided the sandy clay soil and climate are best suited for riesling, with a second vineyard for pinot noir. They're also experimenting with wine ice cream in three flavors--peach zinfandel, red raspberry chardonnay and port.

A few miles to the northeast on Quaker Road in Gasport, we rendezvous with Oscar and Melinda Vizcarra, an enterprising couple who started Vizcarra Vineyards at Becker Farms. In contrast to the elegant Marjim Manor, Vizcarra is a more rustic family-friendly vineyard, specializing in fruit wines. The Vizcarras studied fruit science at Cornell University and moved to Western New York to open Becker Farms where they still grow fruits and vegetables, and offer homemade baked goods. They made fruit wines as a hobby until Oscar returned from a trip to a Long Island winery to issue a proclamation to wife Mindy: ``They have a lot of money, but they're not any smarter than we are. Let's open a winery and you're going to make the wine!''

They opened the winery in 2004 and today offer a riesling, a vidal blanc called Falls Fusion, and a dry red called Paso Fino. Try the Quaker Red Rougon, but don't overlook Vizcarra's award-winning fruit wines.

Start in the cheerful tasting room with a popular and smooth Red Creek Raspberry and end your day on the outdoor patio, watching the sunset and sipping Becker Blue, an award-winning blueberry wine. For families, Becker Farms also has a playground, farm tour, hay ride, a petting zoo, ice cream, chicken barbecues and evening bonfires.

Also on the trail: Eveningside Vineyards, a small boutique winery featuring high quality European-style cabernet and chardonnay, and Freedom Run Winery, which offers bold reds. Along Ridge Road (Route 104), which stretches from Rochester to Niagara Falls, is the newer Honeymoon Trail Winery, which has already won an award for its pink catawba.

At every stop on the Niagara Trail, you'll discover an array of tastes, down home rural friendliness, and winemakers willing to share their passion for producing and enjoying fine wines. Cheers!



From yesterday's Lockport US&J.....

OUTDOORS: Little Fish give Big Fish a run for the money

Sometimes, it’s the “little fish” who are hardest to catch.In this case, local adult fishermen have had to “catch” up to an 11-year-old Wolcottsville boy who reeled in a division-leading carp this week in the 2008 Erie Barge Canal Fishing Derby. Justin Miller, 11, caught in a mammoth, 16.87-pound carp Thursday near the Carmen Road bridge in Gasport, a fish that gave the youth a brief lead in the division, as local anglers compete for a new fishing boat, motor and trailer as part of the 18th derby, which runs through July 20 between Albion and Tonawanda.

Miller, an Akron Middle School sixth grader who began fishing at the age of three with his grandfather, Charles Landow of Wolcottsville, said the key to catching fish is patience.“Let the fish come to you. Don’t force the fish on the hook,” Justin said.“When he first bit, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a big fish.’ ”It took Justin about 12 minutes to reel in the monster carp. Justin, who is in second in the catfish kids division with a 2.77 catch, won the kids bass division back in 2005. “When I saw the carp out of the water for the first time, I thought woo wee! A big fishee!” said Justin, who’s been competing in the derby since he was seven. “That’s the biggest thing I ever caught in the canal. It makes me proud that I led the whole division,” Justin added.

Justin’s lead in the adult carp division was short-lived, however, as Gasport’s Lee Hathaway turned in a 17.95 carp on Wednesday to retake the overall carp lead. Hathaway had the lead at the start with a 16.73-pound carp before Miller’s big catch on Wednesday. Hathaway, who fishes in the canal behind his Gasport home, was a good sport about temporarily losing the overall carp lead. “My daughter, Melinda has a first-place fish in the carp division and there are so many kids involved — I was happy for the little guy,” Hathaway said.“I was in first place in the derby for a day-and-a-half last year, then I got pushed back. There’s more than a week left in the derby left, so there’s still a lot of fishing left. I don’t think this one will hold up either. I’ll have to keep fishing.”

Hathaway’s nine-year-old daughter Melinda is a fourth grader at Royalton-Hartland Elementary School.“I get excited when I fish, especially when I get a bite. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Other Adult Division leaders are Lockport’s Greg Buchanan (catfish, 5.77), Shelby’s Justin Cook (bullhead, 1.50), former stand-out Wilson athlete Joel Feagin of Niagara Falls (bass, 4.15), Lockport’s Vincent Hackmer (sheephead, 11.20), Susan Huryn of Niagara Falls (pike, 4.00) and Medina’s Troy Bouter (walleye, 3.49).

Kids Division leaders are Lockport’s Robert Brott (catfish, 3.22), Melinda Hathaway of Wolcottsville (carp, 16.00), Medina’s Cody Newton (bullhead, .61), Gasport’s Luke Brauer (bass, 2.57), Kurt Griswald of Knowlesville (sheephead, 3.19), Lockport’s Thomas Vona (pike, 1.97) and Joshua Parker of Knowlesville (walleye, 1.57).


The Lockport Journal reports......

GASPORT: Landlord accused of forcible touching

Two men were arrested after an apparent confrontation outside a Haseley Road home Monday. Deputies responded to the home about 6:45 p.m. Monday for a report of a possible assault on a man inside a car. Charles Mattina, 53, 6648 Bear Ridge Road, told deputies that Michael J. Dunker, 51, 8860 Haseley Road, had tried to pull him out of his van.

Mattina said Dunker’s 27-year-old daughter had told her father Mattina had touched her inappropriately. Mattina told deputies he was in the process of trying to rent out a Main Street apartment in Gasport, and he met with the woman at the apartment so she could fill out an application.

After the woman filled out the application, Mattina told her he would be doing a background check. He told deputies the woman started crying, and he hugged her. The woman then filled out another application, this time including her criminal history and her boyfriend’s criminal history, which was “quite lengthy,” the report said.

The woman later told deputies that when Mattina hugged her, she started to pull away, and he grabbed her breast and pushed her on the apartment floor. She said Mattina made comments such as, “I’m the one that can make this criminal check disappear,” and reportedly offered to accept the application without the criminal history.

Mattina drove the woman back to Dunker’s house, according to reports. Dunker told deputies his daughter got out of the car and told him and her boyfriend Mattina had touched her. The woman’s boyfriend reportedly said this was the second time Mattina had refused to rent to them. Mattina said Dunker then tried to pull him out of his van and kicked the side of the vehicle, causing $100 in damages. Dunker was charged with second-degree harassment and criminal mischief, and Mattina was charged with forcible touching. Both were issued appearance tickets are due July 22 in Royalton Town Court.



The nice thing about this website is, people can comment and add news when I'm unable to do so. Someone did just that while I was gone, posting the story about July 4th in the comments section. Thank you.

If you missed it.....

HOLIDAY: Royalton does it right on the Fourth

ROYALTON – The Royalton Ravine was abuzz well before the town’s Great Royalton 4th of July Celebration on Friday. The Independence Day festivities have gotten so popular Niagara County has requested it to be scaled down a bit, according to founder Tom Brigham. “The county wanted us to downsize it because it got too big,” the former contractor said as he manned one of the gates. “We were anticipating 500 people the first year. The county wants us to hold it less than 5,000. It may be tough to do.”

The celebration, which is put on by a committee of 18 businesses, clubs and individuals, does not advertise or market the event. Volunteers arrived at 7 a.m. to heat up the barbecue grills for 1,000 chickens. Booths were set up for kids games and families were staking claim to their favorite spots to pitch a tent or camp.

Chairman Jeff Brown noted that the party got too big for two people to run. “The committee of 18 dug in and grabbed it by the horns. Tom used to do everything. We all pitched in and said, ‘OK what can we do?’ It’s quite an effort, that’s why there’s 18 of us.”

The Victor Fitchlee Education Park was ringed with pony rides, a petting zoo, Pluck a Duck, Wheel of 4-tune, lollipop gambling and a ping pong toss. There were T-shirts for sale, sno-cones and face painting. “It’s really about the kids,” Brown said. “We’ve got a ton of stuff for kids to do, a lot of games. It’s just a family atmosphere. That’s what we’re trying to promote.”

Brenda Sims, a Batavia native who made her home in Gasport, brought her son, Daniel Sims, 17; granddaughter Emily Collette, 8; and grandson J.J. Collette, 6. They all agreed that the fireworks were the best. “It’s an awesome time,” Daniel said. “I meet friends I haven’t seen in years. They come here. It’s fun.”

“We got the spot we get every year, because you can see the fireworks,” Emily said.“We’ve been here every year since they started it,” Brenda said. “The fireworks, the band. You always meet people you haven’t seen in years. Everybody meets here.”

The children helped themselves to selected freebees, courtesy of Tri-Town Ambulance. The volunteer ambulance company also provided free blood pressure checks while it was on EMS, volunteer Jason Randolph said.

Bob Beyer of Middleport relaxed with about 20 members of his family and friends. The group had three tents set up strategically located between the band, the barbecue and the portable restrooms.

The Brighams got the idea for a 4th of July celebration while vacationing in the Adirondacks. Area businesses, clubs and restaurants were quick to donate money and volunteers.“We wanted them to cover the fireworks and we didn’t have a single no,” Brigham said. “They said yes, what else can we do for you. They’ve been very supportive. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time. The fireworks (display is) one of the best in county if not Western New York.”

The Lions Club is no longer a sponsor, but it’s mascot, “Mr. Lion” was part of the parade. The Lion is caged and always makes the Royalton parade, said Joan Nachtrieb of the Gasport Lions who was chauffeured by her grandson, Harry Grandzow.Bruce Ainsworth and Dorrie Farewell of D & B Auto had 10 children hand out 300 balloons instead of candy. Daughter Kendal Farewell, 9, directed the team.


Saturday, July 12, 2008


I have just returned from a trip to the far North. I've been completely away from civilization since the 4th, so I've got some catching up to do. I will be posting newsy items that I missed in the next day or so.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


The town council's June minutes are available. They include 2 special meetings and 1 regular meeting:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Quite a few people have sent me e-mails asking where Father Joe Badding has gone since St. Mary's has closed. I really don't know...I've received conflicting reports. If you know, let us know. Thanks!


From the Lockport Journal...

18th Canal Fishing Derby begins July 8

GASPORT — The biggest and brightest fishing derby on the 363-mile-long Erie Barge Canal can be found on a 30-mile stretch of “Clinton’s Ditch” between Albion and the Tonawandas. It’s here, in the counties of Niagara, Orleans and northern Erie each year, along the banks of the canal, more than 1,000 avid anglers participate in the annual Erie Barge Canal Fishing Derby, competing for cash prizes, a new fishing boat and trailer, and of course, pride.

“It’s all about catching the biggest fish,” said event director for he past 18 years, Steve Harrington of Gasport. “We have seven categories of fish and the biggest fish in each category will win you prizes.”

Youth and adult prizes are on tap in the derby which runs this year from July 8 through July 20. Categories are bullhead, bass, walleye, carp, Northern Pike, catfish and sheephead. The cost to enter the derby is $11 per person, $6 for children 14 and under and $21 per family. More than $20,000 in prizes are available including the grand prize, a new fishing boat, motor and trailer from Bryce Marina of Rochester. Kids can win daily prizes and a chance to win a canal trail bicycle.

“It’s really picked up over the last three to five years,” Harrington said. “I’ve had more parents and grandparents tell me what a great idea it was and how their families finally spent some quality time with their kids. I keep hearing that more and more each and every year.”

Tagged fish, including one worth $2,500 are also lurking, Harrington said. Look for the tag upper top center, just below the dorsal fin. Tagged fish prizes total $10,000, Harrington said.

Weigh Stations are as follows: Niagara Outdoors, 223 Witmer Road, North Tonawanda (695-5873); Les Allen Bait, 350 Hawley St., Lockport (433-8983); Harrington’s, 7963 Telegraph Road, Gasport (772-7972); Middleport Sport Shop, 25 Main St., Middleport (735-7140); Outdoor Adventures, 541-543 B Main St., Medina (585-798-3047); and Jeddo Bait & Tackle, 10282 Ridge Road, Medina (585-318-4310). You can enter the derby at any of the above weigh stations, as well as at Gander Mountain, 880 Young St., Tonawanda (743-2300).

For more information, log on to


The Lockport US&J reports....

ROY-HART: Riegle returns as school board president; Bragg is vice president

Patricia Riegle will return as the president of the Royalton-Hartland Board of Education and Daniel Bragg will serve as vice president for the 2008-09 school year, after the two were elected by the board Tuesday night at the school district’s reorganizational meeting. Also, new board member Keith Bond was sworn in. Jeffrey Waters, another new board member, was not present at Tuesday’s meeting but was sworn in at an earlier school board meeting last month.

In other board action, members approved membership for the New York State School Board Association and the Rural School Boards Association. There was some discussion among board members about joining the associations, especially the Rural Schools. Superintendent Paul Bona said there was a benefit to being a member of the Rural Schools, as it provided information about educational programs that help out rural school districts academically. “If Paul says he sees value in it, then I’m all right with it,” said board member Joseph Czach.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008


This Sunday, July 6 at Becker Farms....

Raspberry Jamboree: Come out to the country and enjoy the raspberry harvest. Pick your own raspberries (weather permitting). Feed the animals, pony rides, hayrides, bakery, homemade fudge, ice cream, gift shop, and much, much more. Live Free entertainment by "Fiddlestix." Vizcarra Vineyards will also be open with over 15 fruit and grape wines!

For more information:


From the Lockport US&J.....

ROYALTON: Major party chairmen avoid endorsing town candidate

A candidate for town board may be looking to the county’s major party committees for backing, after the town Republican and Democratic committees both declined to endorse her. Mary Cedeno of Lincoln Avenue, a registered Democrat, is pursuing both major party lines and two minor party lines in her bid for the seat now occupied by Lee Criswell. Cedeno is pursuing the GOP line despite she didn’t interview with the town GOP committee, and Republican Dan Bragg already has its endorsement. In addition, the town Democratic committee declined to recommend Cedeno after chairman John Villella discovered she’s also trying to run as a Republican.

Cedeno, a nine-year town resident who’s never held elective office, said she is trying for both major lines and the Independence and Conservative endorsements “to help me get my foot in the door.”

While Cedeno says she has about twice as many signatures as she needs on her Republican nominating petition, town GOP committee chairman said unequivocally Monday that she does not have the committee’s support. Bob Johnston said he advised Cedeno previously that the committee would expect her to switch parties after the election if it did endorse her; and also that, if she was awarded the GOP endorsement, she would not be able to also accept the Democratic endorsement. The committee this past winter adopted a written policy stating it will not endorse, or will cancel a previously awarded endorsement of, any candidate who seeks and wins “other” major party backing. The policy is its response to the intraparty upset that ensued last year after several registered Republicans, including one endorsed by the GOP committee, obtained Democratic backing and ended up beating GOP committee-backed candidates at the polls.

“You’re a Republican or a Democrat, one or the other,” Johnston said. “No double dipping.”

Separately, Villella said the town Democratic committee is “referring” Cedeno’s endorsement request to the Niagara County Democratic committee for a decision and will not recommend her, itself. The action comes after Villella said he found out Cedeno was also passing Republican nominating petitions and questioned which party she’d belong with if she won. “I’m not sure if she’s remaining a Democrat or going Republican. I didn’t get a definite answer from her when I asked her last week,” Villella said. “How can you not know?”

The town Democratic committee last year backed three registered Republicans, Supervisor Dick Lang, council member Jennifer Bieber and council candidate Harry Nachtrieb. None are known to have switched their party affiliation afterward.

Cedeno on Monday asserted she’s already endorsed by the Democrats and that Villella is assisting her campaign. Of her ability to land GOP candidacy authorization without the town committee’s backing, Cedeno said she doesn’t know how it works, only that she’s trying.“I can’t give you an answer to that right now,” she said.

The county GOP committee’s bylaws say it can override a town committee’s recommendation by majority vote. The town committee isn’t on best terms with county Chairman Henry Wojtaszek after members backed Mike Cole over Jane Corwin in the 142nd state Assembly district race and preferred Brian Grear over Ernie Palmer for sheriff in a race that still hasn’t popped yet. Grear last week declared himself a candidate for state Senate, setting in motion a primary race with powerhouse GOP incumbent Sen. George Maziarz. The county committee has not endorsed or authorized anyone to run in the Royalton town board race. When the committee last met to vote on requests, the Royalton endorsement stayed off the table at Johnston’s request, Wojtaszek said Monday.

Of Cedeno, he said, some “investigation” of her party affiliation would be required before the county committee considered backing her. If the committee reconvenes before mid-July, candidate filing deadlines the question likely would be taken up, Wojtaszek said, and the county group “probably would leave it up to the local committee” to choose gets its backing.

Criswell, a past elected councilman, is serving in Supervisor Lang’s old board seat through the election. He declined to run in the current race. Bragg, a Royalton-Hartland School Board member, ran unsuccessfully for a board seat last year. Cedeno, whom the town board appointed to the planning board this past February, is attempting her first political campaign. She’s a project administrator for URS Corp., an environmental engineering firm, and works on remediation at DuPont in Niagara Falls. Her candidacy offers “a fresh view on politics,” she said. “I don’t have the (personal) affiliations that so many others have now. ... I’d work for taxpayers solely. That’s it.”