Sunday, May 25, 2014

'Grandpa' hits the lanes for the flag

Bowling Friday night in the first Flag Day bowl-a-thon at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy was a blast!

It's been about 25 to 30 years since I last bowled, and let's just say that my bowl-a-thon scores reflected my lack of  any recent experience on the lanes. Can you say gutter ball? Say it a few times and you'll get really close to my scores.

There are two reasons why Friday night was such a blast: The people and the cause.

Nora Dwyer enters our team, 
"The Munsters,"  into the
 computer for scoring
We were bowling to raise money for this year's Flag Day Parade on June 8. For a lot of reasons, fund-raising for the 47th annual parade is lagging, and the bowl-a-thon was a new event planned by the Flag Day Committee to get the community involved in raising funds for this annual tribute to our nation's flag.

Tom Walsh, owner of Uncle Sam Lanes on Sixth Avenue, was only too happy to host the bowl-a-thon to help this hard-working group of people come up with the funding to put on the best parade they possibly can.

Cindy Bizaro Wilson and 
Jerry Weaver of the 
Flag Day Committee

Speaking of people -- the organizers, the bowling alley staff, the bowlers -- everybody there Friday night was terrific!

I don't think people realize how hard this committee works year after year to put on this parade. Once one parade is done, they're on to planning the next one, no matter what challenges they face -- and those challenges have been many in recent years.

When I walked into the bowling alley Friday, the first people I saw were Cindy Bizaro Wilson, secretary of the parade committee, and Jerry Weaver, committee vice president. I wish I had that woman's energy. She was greeting everyone, getting teams together, working with Tom Walsh and his staff, selling 50/50 and raffle tickets, and just genuinely having a good time. Jerry, her partner in crime, was only too happy to take on the greeting and selling roles when Cindy got ready to bowl. Later, he add the task of acting as MC during the games.

Record reporter Danielle Sanzone

One of the guys set to bowl in the lane next to us came up with the clever idea that each team should be named after classic TV shows. Soon we had the "I Dream of Jeannie" team bowling on one side of us, "The Addams Family" on the other side and "Welcome Back Kotter" was down a lane or two.

Our team was "The Munsters:" Nora Dwyer, who generously volunteers her time to work on a lot of community projects including the Flag Day and Uncle Sam Parades, bowled as the lovely "Lilly Munster, Record newsroom administrative assistant Sue Chasney was "Herman," and Record reporter Danielle Sanzone bowled as the beautiful "Marilyn." I got to be "Grandpa Munster," who was played by the late actor Al Lewis on the TV show during the mid-1960s.

It was nice to see that the fund-raiser drew the support of students from both Russell Sage College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Even parents of a graduating RPI student in town from St. Louis for the commencement took part in the bowl-a-thon.

"Lily Munster" aka Nora Dwyer
Suffice to say you won't be reading about our bowling efforts in an upcoming edition of John Craig's bowling column for The Record, but we did have a good time. We laughed at the gutter balls and we cheered the spares and strikes -- even "The Munsters" had one or two of those!

Jerry did a great job announcing the raffle winners. Even some of "The Munsters" were lucky enough to walk away with a door prize or two. I particularly like the BellaRyann bracelet that I won with the flag charm; the item was donated by MarEle Boutique Accessories. Kudos to Cindy for all the great door prizes she was able to collect for the event.

Sue "Herman" Chasney, left, cheers on
 "Jeannie" during the Flag Day Bowl-a-thon
Flag Day Parade Committee President Ed Manny was on hand to pick the winning ticket for the 50/50 drawing at the conclusion of the evening.

My thanks to "The Munsters," members of the Flag Day Committee, Tom Walsh and his staff and everyone who participated in the bowl-a-thon for a truly enjoyable evening.

Here's hoping the event raised a lot of money for the 47th annual Flag Day Parade, which steps off at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 8. This year's parade will feature a variety of veterans groups and drum & bugle corps from throughout the Northeast and it has the Marine Corps Band New Orleans as its headliner.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tea anyone?

Bush Memorial Hall in Troy

The YWCA of the Greater Capital Region Inc. really knows how to put on a fundraiser!.

On Sunday, at Bush Memorial Hall on the Troy campus of Russell Sage College, the YWCA hosted "Victorian Tea in Troy" to benefit its various programs.

Those programs include Supportive Housing, Community Meal, Sally Catlin Resource Center, Food Pantry and My Sister's Closet as well as the various Jamison-Rounds Ready for Work, School and Life programs.

YWCA board member Theresa Moroukian, at right
An array of beautiful hats were worn by many of the women attending the benefit. Some of my favorites were those worn by Lisa Lagon, president of the YWCA's board of director, and my fellow board members Davia Collington, Meghan Keenholts, Theresa Moroukian, Colleen Paratore, Rhe Potenza, Lori Quigley and Beth Walsh. Also looking quite fashionable were YWCA Executive Director Daquetta P. Jones and Malissa Pilette-McClenon, the organization's director of fund development, as well as YWCA "godmothers" Phyllis Conroy and Mary Ann Willett.

Truly Rhe hat display at YWCA tea
I carried a hat into the event, but it remained on the seat next to me. Somehow, it looked so much better on the chair than on my head. I could have done so much better if I had stopped by Truly Rhe on Broadway in Troy to find a hat rather than digging one up from the back of my closet. Rhe had a terrific collection of hats, fascinators and other accessories on display at the event.

Sue McLane as "The Victorian Lady" did an admirable job speaking with us about all things tea.

Kudos to Sweet Sue's on River Street in Troy for its delicious assortment of sweets, fresh fruit, canapes and finger sandwiches. The array was beautiful to look at and even better to taste.

It was nice to share a table with Kathy Sheehan, registrar for the Rensselaer County Historical Society, and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam. Kathy was on hand to conduct the trolley tours of Troy offered to tea-goers at the conclusion of the event.

Congratulations to Kathy who was recently appointed historian for the city of Troy. There is no finer choice for the post than this lovely, knowledgeable lady!

Also on hand at the event was Kathy's co-worker, Stacey Draper, curator for the Rensselaer County Historical Society. Stacy brought a mini exhibit to the tea highlighting some of the YWCA's milestones in the city of Troy. Some really interesting items were on display.

One of the teapot centerpieces
The raffle prizes were amazing and I loved the teapots that decorated each of the tables. Board President Lisa Lagon, among others, worked hard to find these beautiful pieces of china that were filled with fresh flowers and raffled off to raise money for the YWCA.

The YWCA of the Greater Capital Region does a lot to improve the quality of life for area women and children and I'm proud to be a member of its board of directors.

Stay tuned as more good things are ahead for this organization!

"The Victorian Lady" Sue McLane
Tasty treats offered by Sweet Sue's of Troy

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'm missing Uncle Sam

Last week, I took a day off from work and journeyed west — all 302 miles in four hours and 20 minutes to be precise! — to my alma mater, St. Bonaventure University in Olean.

The purpose of my trip was to pick up my niece Elizabeth and a good chunk of her worldly possessions —  at least it seemed that way when I was going up and down three flights of stairs in her dorm — and bring her home for the summer. Elizabeth, an Averill Park High School graduate, just completed her sophomore year at the Franciscan university.

Uncle Sam statue in Troy
As I drove through downtown Olean, waiting for her to finish up her last final, I realized something was missing from my life.

I think it was all those darn squirrels placed around town as part of the Woodland in the City project that did it to me.

And what's missing from my life?

It's those Uncle Sam statues that were placed around downtown Troy until they were auctioned off in an online bidding process last  December. I loved driving through the Collar City, eyeing those patriotic gents on the various street corners always made my day.

Seeing those painted 4-foot tall, fiberglass squirrels in Olean made me nostalgic for all those Uncle Sams so I made a few stops to take some photos. While they' no Uncle Sam, some of them are cute and some of them are "interesting."

Check out two of my squirrel photos below:

Lady Justice in Olean
Ronald McSquirrel in Olean

Apparently this worldwide public art craze for over-sized fiberglass statues start in 1999 with cows in Chicago, moved on to guitars in Cleveland and Labrador retrievers in Aspen, Colorado. Buffalo soon was bedecked with buffaloes and Erie, Pennsylvania put up frogs.

Oh well, if I can't see Uncle Sam, I can still take delight in those fiberglass statues when I go up to Saratoga Springs twice a week to work. If you look closely on the busy main streets of the Spa City, you can still find a horse or two or a ballet slipper en pointe.

A horse at the Saratoga City Center
A ballet shoe near Stewart's in Saratoga.

The horses have decorated downtown Saratoga since 2002, while the ballet shoe sculptures joined the local arts scene last year as part of a project called Saratoga En Pointe! As any local dance enthusiast knows, the Spa City is home to the annual Dance Flurry Festival and the National Museum of Dance and features performances by the New York City Ballet each summer.

I guess there are enough statues still around to help me stop missing Uncle Sam!

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A little late, but no less sincere

My late mother, Nancy Whalen Robert, used to tell me that I was born three days late and I've been late ever since.

With that thought in mind, I am late — but I am sincere — in offering congratulations to Marla Ortega of the Illium Café on Broadway in Troy.

In case you didn't hear, Marla won $18,000 for her culinary talents and grocery shopping skills on the Food Network's "Guy’s Grocery Games," hosted by TV personality Guy Fieri. Four chef moms went head-to-head on national television in a special Mother’s Day episode of the game show for the chance to win a maximum of $20,000.

The Ilium is one of the many fine restaurants Troy has to offer diners. I love going there for lunch; Marla has a knack for making the ordinary into the extraordinary by adding the nicest touches to her meals.

For the complete account on Marla's accomplishment, read reporter Lauren Halligan's story at

Also, check out the rebroadcast of the competition on the Food Network at 7 p.m. Saturday, May. 17.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

It's time for "Meet the Mayors"

One of the best parts of my job is being involved with the community.

The involvement comes in a variety of ways -- talking with people on the phone, receiving emails and letters, partnering with local organizations, attending community events, and serving on a variety of area boards.

As a member of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce board of directors, I've gotten the chance to meet an amazing group of people, I've seen first-hand how hard people are working to promote and develop the Capital Region, and I've been able to attend many interesting programs that have benefited me professionally.

One of my favorite chamber programs is the annual "Meet the Mayors" breakfast. You get to hear what's happening in our local cities and villages from the leaders themselves.

This year's program, which will be on May 20 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 235 Hoosick St. in Troy, features Rensselaer Mayor Daniel Dwyer, Watervliet Mayor Mike Manning, Cohoes Mayor George Primeau, Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia and Green Island Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan.

The schedule is 7:30 a.m. registration and breakfast with the program running from 8 to 9 a.m.

It's normally a lively session, with updates on economic development and a look at what's ahead for each municipality, and there'seven  time for your questions and answers. If you're interested in attending, call (518) 274-7020 or go to

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