Variety Telethon benefits Women & Children’s Hospital hosted at Seneca Niagara Casino [by Craig Avery]

When I was a kid, I would stay up all night – no kidding – watching the Telethon on channel 7. I got such a kick out of the people who would come in and tell their stories of how hey raised money:
“I dribbled a basketball around my block 427 times, and raised $312.45 from my neighbors!”

“My daughter and her friends washed cars all day in the rain, now they’ve all got colds, so I delivered the money.”

“We sold friendship bracelets at school, but we ran out of friends, so we have $24.50.”

Seriously, I love the Telethon and got to witness the action first hand this year, as Frank Scinta and Paul Cambria hosted the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls, Elvis impersonator, Terry Buchwald, and more. Area business leaders were there with oversized checks (how do they fit in the drive thru window at the bank?) raising a boatload of bucks for the Hospital.

Niagara Falls’ own, Chris Borgoti, representing the WNY Area Labor Federation dropped over $43,000 into the bucket. How cool is that? We saw Niagara Falls developer and building owner of the current location for the Craft Kitchen & Bar, Paul Stephens with a donation from his Rock Oaks Estates housing complex in Clarence. That donation entered into a challenge that doubled his donation with contributions from callers watching on TV.

This 55th annual production of the telethon is the first year it was held in Niagara Falls. We’re happy to be part of such an effort, and are confident the hospitality of the Seneca Niagara Casino played a big part in its’ success.

IMG_2606Was it killing Chris Borgati to part with $43,000? Naaaaaah!

HOLY SCINTA! Cosied up in the Bear’s Den (by Craig Avery)

IMG_2674I can honestly say I have seen the Scintas over 50 times. This show was one of the best. The locally grown Vegas sensation entertainers started wowing their fans in the late 70’s. We first saw them in Williamsville at a place called Goldie’s Apartment, and it was our little secret. When they moved to the Buffalo Playboy Club in the Executive Hotel by the airport, we brought customers there a couple of times a week. The act is a Vegas style mix of great music, comedy, impersonations, you name it. Frank Scinta was the main man last night at the Bear’s Den in the Seneca Niagara Casino, as his brother and sidekick, Joe, was dealing with a medical issue back in Vegas. Frankie didn’t miss a beat though, as his energy is endless, and his content is as unpredictable as it is awesome. He is a tremendous musical talent, playing keyboards, guitar, mandolin, and even the spoons. But it’s his delivery that makes the night. He and his backup band could play four chords of an Elton John song, and you’d swear they did the long version. He’ll interrupt a music set with impersonations of George Burns and Dean Martin, mocks ethnicities, then jokes at the thought of the audience being uncomfortable with it. You’ve just gotta laugh. He’s a master. Janien Valentine is the backup singer, and even belted out an opera song that brought the audience to its feet. She joined the band a few years ago, and hails from East Amherst.

American patriotism is a big part of Frankie’s show, and singing, “America the Beautiful,” while doing an impersonation of Ray Charles brought the Americans and Canadians in the audience closer together than the Rainbow Bridge could even think to. A full house of lucky concert goers at the Bear’s Den left smiling after a full two hours of laughing and singing. So Western New York is well represented in the world’s biggest entertainment venue, Vegas, while we still get up close and personal performances when these folks come home. And as Frankie repeated throughout the night, “There’s no place like home.”

Despite the extra workload Frank carried to manage the show by himself, he took the time to hang out with us locals at the Lobby Bar in the casino hotel for about an hour after the show. He was to start as a co-host of the Variety Club Telethon for Buffalo’s Women & Children’s Hospital at 7:00AM, a 12 hour gig for charity, then back to Vegas.

The entertainment industry- think about it. These guys have been “on” for almost 40 years straight, and haven’t missed a beat. Thanks to the Seneca Niagara Casino, they’ve got a great place to play to the hometown crowd.

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Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Guest View (by local physician Dr. Robert L. Bull Jr.)

Bull, Robert, MD 2017The Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center campus has undergone a tremendous transformation over the past 12 years.

The opening of the ER1/Heart Center of Niagara in 2006 and the Golisano Center for Community Health in 2016 have doubled the size of its downtown campus. The addition of a host of skilled and experienced physicians to its staff has resulted in greatly expanded high end surgical services and the opening of a primary care center, comprehensive wound care center, OB/GYN Center, bariatric surgery center and other vitally needed medical services along the 10th Street Medical Corridor.

All told, Memorial provided inpatient and outpatient services to more than 44,500 people (unduplicated count) in 2015 and again in 2016. In recent years, it has further solidified its status as a major economic contributor to the Greater Niagara Region with a stable work force of 1,200 employees, the creation of 150 well-paying new jobs during the past four years and an annual economic impact on Niagara County and the surrounding area of $275 million annually.

With this growth have come some serious challenges, especially at Memorial’s downtown campus. Its aging seven-story parking garage needs the kind of attention all such structures require after 40 years of service in a climate such as ours.

This structure is much more than a place to park. Its seventh floor houses vital hospital services including the Wound Center of Niagara and several doctors’ offices. The top level provides a helipad for Mercy Flight helicopter, a capability that will take on added importance in early April with the implementation of lifesaving cardiac catheterization emergency services at Memorial.

The growth being experienced along the 10th Street Medical Corridor has also added urgency to the need for Memorial to replace its aging emergency power generators.

The medical center and 1199SEIU, the union that represents more than 800 Memorial employees, recently launched a major joint initiative asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide state funding for needed capital and infrastructure improvements. The requested funds would renovate and transform the aging parking facility and bridge connector into an aesthetically attractive interactive facility that would host medical center and community activities.

They would also replace Memorial’s antiquated emergency power system with one that will guarantee adequate emergency power to support its critical role as a First Responder facility in the event of a public emergency situation.

Implementing these infrastructure upgrades will ensure Memorial’s continued ability to provide high-quality care by Memorial’s skilled and dedicated employees in a safe and secure setting for decades to come, as well as positioning the medical center for continued growth.

I urge you to show Gov. Cuomo your support for this project by visiting niagarafallsmemorialcares.org and adding your name to the petition at the bottom of the page.

[Robert L. Bull Jr., M.D., F.A.A.F.P., is a family physician at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s Lewiston Primary Care Center.]

Ion Yoga set to open on Third Street in Niagara Falls, USA

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Erdco Development, LLC is pleased to announce the opening of Ion Yoga, a Yoga studio available to all certified Yoga instructors to utilize in the entertainment district of Niagara Falls. Located at 451 Third Street, the 1200 sq ft facility will handle classes of up to 20 participants. Individual instructors can lease the facility for private classes as well as providing yoga services to walk-in clients as reservations dictate.

“Yoga has been an established form of wellness and exercise around the country and around the world,” says Craig Avery, owner of Erdco and Ion Yoga. “Since we have people visiting us from all over, there is a growing need for places to do yoga within a short distance of our downtown hotels. Our local residents are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of Yoga and will be more and more active as relationships develop with our instructors.”

This facility supplements the renaissance of Third Street giving yoga participants an opportunity to discover and enjoy the new restaurants and lifestyle that is developing downtown.

An open house will be held Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 5:00 – 9:00 PM to showcase the studio. Instructors will be present to discuss the various styles of yoga, the benefits of establishing an exercise program, and will explain the features of the facility.

Ion Yoga may be contacted at info@fallsyoga.com

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Dan Hill Earns Respect in Bears Den (by Craig Avery)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I headed to the Bears Den Saturday night to hear Dan Hill, known primarily as the guy who wrote and sang, “Sometimes When We Touch.”  I knew there wouldn’t be throngs of teenagers crying and throwing themselves in front of the band’s bus like when the Beatles first came to town.  I suspected a crowd of over middle-agers cringing from the days when his songs were either feared or relished as the first slow dance for many a Jr. High schooler.  Whatever, I have learned that these hour and a half to two hour concerts at the Seneca Niagara Casino are a welcome relief to hanging at a bar for five hours and stuffing our faces with chicken wings and nachos.

A seemingly elderly man made it to the stage, walking slowly, not because he was old, just because it was obvious that’s how he rolled –  Slow and steady, as we soon understood, like his music. As it turns out he is only 62, but I think most would agree that life and times in the entertainment industry must have differing effects on those involved.  He had a talented piano backup and a young female vocalist on stage with him, and he began to tell stories.  In a methodical and almost slurred vocal pattern, he told a little ditty about each song he was about to play.  With a very dry sense of humor, his delivery grew on us.  It soon became apparent that this guy was not just a one hit wonder singer, but a gifted song writer who has lived music his entire life.

He told tales of auditioning an 18 year-old Celene Dion, who toured with him for a bit.  He went on to write songs for her in her role as a music icon.  He told of his comforting his mother with song as she was hospitalized for mental illness, he told of his fear and reflections after being diagnosed with cancer. Each story had a twist, a moral, and usually ended with a smile.

What really got me was his ability to use words.  He was a lyricist, a wordsmith and his command of the english language in putting together a simple story, made it obvious how he became a successful songwriter.  He joked that the four water bottles on the table next to him were actually tequila, and they may very well have been.  But that didn’t matter.  Here was a guy for us to meet and understand in a way we never would have, and never would have asked to.

He finished with his signature song, then came back for one more. We weren’t hoarse from screaming, we weren’t tense cause the people in front of us wouldn’t sit down, we didn’t get contact high from second hand smoke, and no beer was spilled in the making of this concert.  It was just a nice evening, and a pleasant surprise. I appreciated the music, I appreciated the stories, but mostly, once again, I appreciated the experience that I wouldn’t have looked for in Niagara Falls.

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The Soapbox with guest Jonathan Rogers

[Press Release]

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Jonathan Rogers, an artist of distinction and man who has a resume that spans nearly 60 years- of animation, painting, art direction, drawing, and even some acting. Born an raised in Toronto, he soon found himself spreading his love of art and teaching future generations of artists.

His original animated productions helped launch the careers of Second City comedians Dan Ayckroyd and Gilda Radner. Check out 1973’s “The Gift of Winter” and 1975’s “Witch’s Night Out.” (Available on DVD)

In the early 1980s, he landed in Hollywood, working with Disney and Marvel Productions.He finally settled in WNY years later to continue his painting and art work. He currently has a studio at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center in Niagara Falls, NY.

Jonathan constantly contributes his talents to the local community and promotes his works worldwide via his website and social media.

On Sunday March 26th, at Wine on Third in Niagara Falls, you will have an opportunity to own original works by this amazing artist. Join us at 6pm for a live auction!

Wine On Third
501 Third Street
Niagara Falls, NY

Watch the video here:

Laugh it off – the Casino makes it easy (by Craig Avery)

Comedian Brian Regan took the stage at the Seneca Niagara Events Center and warmed a lot of us tired-of-the-winter locals with something to laugh at.  In a time when many stand-up comedy acts include topics of sexual dysfunction and masturbation, this guy was refreshing with his funny takes on normal life issues like kids, friends, shopping, and travel.  Sounds boring? Only because we’re so used to hearing about things that make us uncomfortable before we can laugh. Anyway, Brian Regan had the crowd going and even came out for an encore with a story familiar to many in the audience about a trip to the emergency room, and the nonsensical questions posed by the triage process.

Some thought the opening act, a Fredonia native named Pete Correale was just as good, if not better than the headliner.  Pete is another guy with good old fashioned clean humor on everyday observations.  But it’s hard to describe to anyone who didn’t attend. Ya gotta be there to enjoy it. So don’t miss the next comedy opportunity at the casino on April 6 at 8:00PM in the upclose venue of the Bears Den.  Tony Hinchcliffe will probably make us laugh with some of his political satire, as soon as we realize we can laugh at our current political situations.

And do you know what’s really cool? These guys travel all over the country and internationally, and they can say they’ve been to Niagara Falls in a great facility in front of a terrific audience. Damn we’re good!

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Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, 1199SEIU seek community support

image004Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and 1199SEIU are urging the community to sign a petition imploring Governor Cuomo to provide $8 million in state funding for crucial infrastructure improvements to the medical center’s campus.

Improvements will include the restoration and transformation of the Tenth Street parking garage and connector. The ramp supports the parking needs of NFMMC’s 1,200 employees as well as patients and visitors. The bridge connector is in many ways the lifeblood of the medical center as it enables patients and visitors who park in the ramp to have weather protected, interior access to the entire campus including the hospital, nursing home, Heart Center of Niagara and Golisano Center for Community Health.

The opening of the Golisano Center for Community Health at NFMMC, combined with an expanding list of outpatient services have put a tremendous strain on parking in the neighborhood surrounding the medical center campus. A minimum expansion of 150 parking spaces is needed to accommodate this growth.

The final project will replace NFMMC’s outdated emergency power system to safeguard overall well-being on the medical center’s campus. This project will ensure adequate emergency power is available for all hospital functions in the event of a power failure.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has been devoted to Niagara County residents for more than 120 years, addressing individuals’ needs and demands by offering patient-centered, compassionate medical care in a warm and caring environment.

Please visit NiagaraFallsMemorialCares.org and sign the electronic petition at the bottom of the page to urge Governor Cuomo to ensure these funds. Then share this message with your family and friends.

Southside Johnny ”on the spot” in the Bears Den (by Craig Avery)

Remember when you were a kid and the older boys in the neighborhood put a band together and played in your garage? Well, this was nothing like that. But, if you lived in New Jersey, the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and “Southside” Johnny Lyon may have influenced your taste in music. Johnny brought his “Asbury Jukes” to the Bears Den in the Seneca Niagara Casino and rocked the house. With the voice of Joe Cocker and the energy of Mick Jagger, Southside Johnny gave us an hour and forty five minutes of intravenously delivered musical saturation. He cranked. I remember hearing them when they first started back in the mid to late seventies, and I still pictured them as that start-up band with a youthful following. Well, those youths may have some grecian formula in their medicine cabinets now, but they can still boogie. Once again, the Bears Den venue proved excellent as the sound and lighting and intimate design of the room brought the crowd so close you could smell the fumes of the Jersey Turnpike from the guitar cases on the stage.

Thanks Seneca Niagara Casino for giving us great experiences in our own backyard!

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Councilman Andrew Touma announces City Council re-election bid

[Press Release]

It is with great pride and honor that I announce my re-election bid for Niagara Falls City Council in 2017. I have never viewed myself as a politician, but rather a hard-working, public servant dedicated to providing a service for the residents in the City of Niagara Falls. I have aspired to be someone that residents can trust to represent their best interests and make the best choices for them. It is imperative to work together with all stakeholders – residents, business leaders, city officials, and elected officials – to obtain growth in our city.

I ran for City Council in 2013 because I thought the council lost sight of their purpose and ability to move our great city forward. In my opinion, some members needed to be more receptive to the needs of the public and provide them a voice. Over the past three years, two of which as Chairperson for the council, I am happy to say that we have given residents the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process.
One example of this involvement is my neighbor-to-neighbor initiative, which was implemented by Councilman Walker, where we go into communities throughout the city to hear the concerns and ideas of the residents. Another example is the implementation of the Human Rights Commission, which ensures equal treatment of all individuals in our community.

During my tenure on the council I remained an independent voice, yet worked with my council colleagues to implement laws such as eliminating door-to-door solicitors, reducing the use of casino dollars in the general budget, reducing expenses, and increasing revenue. We have been successful with improving the quality of life through the improvement of city parks as well as the addition of a new skate park; all while lowering homestead taxes for residents.
Moving forward with a collaborative approach, it is imperative to keep our neighborhoods intact, provide efficient services, create a stable and sustainable budget, and use casino dollars wisely to incentivize economic development and job growth. We need to continue to provide our residents with training opportunities that will meet various industry needs.

I look forward to your support and participation as we pursue progress and continued momentum for our city.