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Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:26

Nice Beats Nasty—Every Time!

Saratoga Children’s Theatre Proves It Once Again with Cinderella G2K


SARATOGA SPRINGS — Beauty is valued in cultures throughout the world, yet graciousness is a truly priceless commodity. When Cinderella triumphs by fitting into her glass slipper, she reaches a rarified and legendary perch by forgiving her evil stepsisters. That is the common moral lesson among the thousands of versions of the beloved fairy tale which stretch across all continents and well back into the 1600s.

Over 30 local children will be providing their rendition of these versions as Saratoga Children’s Theatre (SCT) presents Cinderella G2K at the Saratoga Music Hall on the Third Floor of City Hall, 474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Performances are on Friday, October 25 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 26 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and are available at the door.


Cinderella G2K is directed by Tony Rivera, with music direction by Maria Laurenzo and choreography by Rosie Spring.


The G2K refers to the “Getting to Know” Series, which are uniquely adapted musicals specifically for youth performers. In this specially created version, all the beloved songs and familiar characters are present and accounted for. However, the entire script has been condensed to better suit young attention spans and the plot is slightly altered to highlight a few important lessons.

The cast is, as is the case with all SCT offerings, uniformly excellent and precocious, and given the cast’s young average age, surprisingly accomplished.


A good example is Spencer Boyce, 9, who plays both a white horse and a townsperson. When asked if this was his first time on stage, he replied that “actually, I brought along my resume,” which he preceded to fish out of his pocket and unfold with great theatrical flourish.


In addition to nine previous SCT roles as diverse as a genie in Aladdin to a rooster in Annie, Spencer also has made a mark in singing in several talent shows, offering his takes on tunes by Michael Jackson, Elvis and Dean Martin (“You’re nobody till somebody loves you” is a particular favorite). Spencer is most excited about his next SCT role, where he will play young Marley in A Christmas Carol. 


He is also a long-time supporter of big brother Matthew, 14, who is cast as the Prince. Unfortunately, the Prince’s royal duties prevented him from attending our sit down, yet Spencer appeared confident that Matthew’s glass slipper dispensing technique would be well-received by the audience.


Cast in the role of slipper recipient is Emory Garber, 11. Emory studied several Cinderella’s for this role, preferring the 1997 remake starring Brandy (with Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother) as most inspiring. Such was her dedication to her craft that she graciously consented to see Cinderella on Broadway as well, starring Laura Osnes. This is Emory’s first SCT production, yet the Forts Ferry Elementary sixth grader has already been slotted for their January production of Jungle Book, in which she will play Bagheera.


An old theater expression is that there are no small roles, only small actors. In this case, about 30 small actors are all playing a large role in making Cinderella G2K a SCT production that everyone in the family can enjoy.


Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:08

In the Soup Again—and Loving It!


Fifth Annual Soup ‘r’ Bands will Rock Roaring Brook Saturday.

 LAKE GEORGE—What’s the secret to a great event?

Thanks to assistance from some incredibly giving people, I have learned the recipe and have permission to share it with you. 

Here are the ingredients:

- Soups and chowders from 34 restaurants, derived from a wide geographic area that spans from Saratoga Springs to North Creek

- Nine of the area’s most talented and popular bands spread liberally over two stages

- Assorted miscellaneous optional beverages

- A wonderful resort setting centrally located and in full foliage flowering

- One great cause.

Once you assemble these ingredients, the directions are simple:

1)      Combine all into one great evening

2)     Shake, shake, shake till you can shake no more

3)     Consume liberally with friends

Should you not fancy yourself a master chef capable of pulling off a recipe of this magnitude, I have even better news. The Roaring Brook Ranch has it all prepared for you this Saturday night and you can tout your buds and BFF’s to this with confidence: They have perfected this particular recipe for five years and have the lineage and pedigree for this sort of thing for decades.

The short course is that the fifth annual Soup ‘r’ Bands to benefit autism awareness will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, October 19 at the Roaring Brook Ranch, located just off Northway Exit 21 in Lake George. Admission to the event is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. Advance will call tickets can be secured by calling Andrea Jacobs-Merlow at (518) 744-8952.

The beneficiaries of this event are organizations that are dedicated to helping local children and families affected by autism. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be divided among three local non-profits: Upstate New York Autism Awareness Association and the Autism Task Forces in both Greenwich and Hadley-Luzerne.

Andrea, who is the resort’s events planner, has been in charge of stirring the soup, if you will, and is uniquely suited to run this event. One of this year’s recipients of a “20 under 40” leadership award from the Post Star, she epitomizes the term multi-tasker. She also teaches French at Greenwich Central School and has worked at Siro’s for several summers, which gives her a prime view of many of the area’s leading bands.

“The task each year is to make a great event even bigger and better.” She said.

To that end, the bands have increased from three the first year to nine. On Saturday’s roster are several regional favorites, including the Audiostars, Rich Ortiz, Groove Therapy, Radio Junkies and Tim Wechgelaer and his quartet. This has necessitated opening up a second room (The Powder Horn Saloon) to accommodate the extra bands and so Tim Wechgelaer was asked to run the sound for the Powder Horn in addition to his band set.

“I was more than happy to say yes to Andrea,” Tim said. “She’s an easy person to say yes to.”

Tim is also uniquely qualified to maximize the sound in the space.

“I’ve been working with Andrea and her family for many years, and have run the sound in that room for the annual Bands and Beans benefit for several years now. So I know a lot of the nooks and crannies.”

The enhancements extend to the soup sampling area as well. Not only have the number of participating restaurants grown over the event’s five years, but they get to compete for your vote. As with Bands and Beans, when you enter the event, you are given three chips to bestow upon your favorite restaurants. Scoring in the top five has always been a cherished designation, but this year Andrea has a special prize for the “best in show.”

The NHL has its Stanley Cup. In that spirit, this year the top vote getter will triumphantly hoist the soon to-be-iconic “golden ladle.” Capacity: 14 ounces.

“I painted it gold myself.” Andrea notes, leaving no detail undetailed.

Everyone has different reasons to get involved. For Sal Ianni, owner of Mama Riso’s in Lake George, it’s personal.

“My 13-year-old boy is autistic, so naturally it was easy to say yes to this from the beginning. We do get asked to contribute to a lot of things as you can imagine. But what I think is admirable is how much of the proceeds get to the people who really need it,” Sal said.

Another restaurateur who will be sending soup down with his people from Warrensburg is Tom Grace, owner of Lizzie Keays. “We go every year and I’m happy Andrea asked us to participate. It’s nice to help out at such a worthy event. It’s a great opportunity for my people to network with our colleagues in the region, since we’re way up North most of the year.”

I asked Tom if he had a goal in mind for the event. I was anticipating an answer like a top five vote, or perhaps a dream about bringing the cherished “big spoon” back to Warrensburg for a parade down Main Street but he took it out another door.

“Honestly,” Tom said, “I’d just like to go once. We have a small staff and they love this event so much that they practically leave me by myself here.”

Well, you of course have no such restrictions. Time to go—soup’s on!





Friday, 11 October 2013 10:44

Gimme Glendale!

Ballston Board Shuts Down County Water; Public Never in Danger

BALLSTON – The Ballston Town Board voted at its Tuesday, October 8 meeting to suspend taking in water from the Saratoga County Water Authority. As of Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. the county water was shut off pursuant to that vote.

The town is now receiving water from the Town of Glenville in Schenectady County until further notice. Prior to this board action, Ballston had already been purchasing about 25-30 percent of its water from Glenville, or about 100,000 gallons per day, according to town Water Superintendent Joseph Whalen.


Whalen wanted to assure the public that they were never in any danger at any time.


“We take samples of all our water, all the time.” He said. “We always act well on the side of caution in the public interest.”


His department was aware of a contaminant problem at the county and was monitoring quarterly sample results.


“When the average levels of contaminants exceeded, even slightly, recommended levels, as they did for chlorination by-products and lead, my department has the authority to act proactively before a town board vote, and we did just that.”


The shutdown of county water at the town of Ballston was actually a two-stage process. Whalen, upon reviewing those latest testing levels, immediately reversed the proportions of water that Ballston procured—a 75/25 percentage of water in favor of the county became a 75/25 percent mix with the majority coming from Glenville in advance of the town board vote. Because the levels were above the recommended standards, even a small amount for a brief period of time, that is considered a violation that requires a public notification.


The town board voted subsequently to make it 100 percent from Glenville.


“The town board acted appropriately, given the parameters they work with and the time frame involved,” Whalen said. “But I believe that there has been a lot of misinformation put out in the media and elsewhere.”


“I understand this can sound scary—resident’s turn on their tap and they expect a certain result, as they have a right to—but the situation has been made to sound worse than it ever was, or ever will be for that matter. Again, I want to emphasize that my department and the town board acted several steps on the side of caution, and the public was never close to being in any peril.”


When asked what it would take to get the Town of Ballston to resume purchasing water from the county authority, Whalen said succinctly, “A lot of testing.” Over the period of the next few weeks, however, he expects that the county water will test much better. “They have certainly been aware that they have a problem, and I know they are working on it.” 


Thursday, 10 October 2013 15:44

A Broader, Brighter Beekman

Arts District Expansion Plan Clears One Important Hurdle

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Beekman Street Arts District, which brought life and energy to a once-blighted neighborhood, is in the midst of a movement to spread its wings and soar once more.

A plan to expand the boundaries of the Arts District to about three times its current size has passed a significant step in the process. During the October 1 Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, a measure sponsored by Commissioner of Accounts John Franck was approved unanimously. This measure merited for review the district’s expansion plan (see map) to both the city planning board and design review commission for recommendations to the council.


Though significant, this is but one step in the process. Should the aforementioned boards rule favorably, at least one public hearing on the plan (and their modifications, if any) will have to be scheduled before the city council can vote on a final expansion.


Nonetheless, with the October 1 vote behind them, some of the principals behind this movement are optimistic that if there are no unforeseen roadblocks, final approval might occur before the end of this year.


The process of expanding began in March of 2012, when a large public meeting was held at the Principessa Elena Society at 13 Oak Street.


“A preliminary plan was presented to our neighbors for input by our zoning committee,” said Jon Haynes, a project manager at Phinney Design Group and a partner with Michael Phinney at The Local Pub and Teahouse. That committee was composed of Haynes, Amejo Amyot and former city planner Geoff Bornemann.


“Based on that public input, we removed certain proposed permitted uses for properties. A youth hostel was eliminated, for instance.” Haynes said. “We also sought out opinions from everyone we could, including Mayor Scott Johnson.”


Based on these conversations, the original proposed expansion area was actually contracted.


“There were some strictly residential neighborhoods, areas east of Grand Avenue, for instance, which were supportive of what we wanted to do, but wanted to keep their strictly single family residential character.” Haynes explained.


So once the plan is in place, and let’s say it passes essentially ‘as is’. What happens?


In a short phrase: increased options. On several levels.


The first set of increased options would be a broadening of what is considered “permitted use”. For example, a single or two-family residence that becomes incorporated into a wider arts district could be modified by the owner in certain ways with just a site plan review and not need a special use permit.


Some of these potential permitted uses include:


            - An artist studio or neighborhood art gallery (under 2,000 square-feet)

            - A coffee shop or neighborhood eating/drinking establishment with 40 seats or less. For those concerned that this might bring a second coming of Caroline Street to the neighborhood, note that the closing time of these establishments would remain the same. For instance, The Local closes at midnight.

            - Office space on the second floor of a building or above–less than 2,000 square-feet.

Additionally, with both a site plan review and special use permit, other options for the same property owner include a day care facility, neighborhood bed and breakfast or a first floor office.


Increased options for “accessory” structures, such as detached garages would include smaller, less than 1,200-square-foot, art studios and galleries among other uses.


Built into all this are provisions for streamlining approval processes as well. The complete detail of the zoning proposal and changes is available to anyone. Interested parties may contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy.


The second important set of options stems from basic supply and demand principles.


“I personally know three professionals that would love to be on Beekman Street,” said Phinney. “They would have their office upstairs, with a gallery or studio below. But there’s no suitable place for them in our three-block district.”


Furthermore, the economy has, according to Phinney, caused some people to reappraise their philosophical approach to what constitutes “art”.


“It may be hard to believe, but when we were putting up our building [in 2006], there were those ‘art purists’ who had a hard time seeing architecture as a form of art.” Mike said. “And yes, we had an artist’s gallery on the second floor. After the recession, folks have taken a broader view of things.”


Cecilia Frittelli and Richard Lockwood, owners of the Textile Studio, see the same result, but from a different perspective.


There has been a shortage of working and living spaces for artists of limited means for several years. The recent economic downturn has worsened that situation, forcing some artists to shut their doors, abandon rented spaces and operate in isolation elsewhere,” Lockwood said. “Also, some landlords do not share an arts district vision, preferring to rent to the highest bidder. Adding buildings and new landlords to the district can only strengthen a struggling arts community here.”

The Textile Studio is in a unique situation. Technically outside the arts district—across Grand Avenue currently—the couple also had not been able to find suitable space for their studio/retail vision.

But with a special use permit, and a bright banner outside their shop, to the strolling art lover they are “in.” So for them, the expansion of the district will not change anything per se’, except make them “official,” but they too take a broader view.

“An expanded Beekman Street Arts District will not only benefit artists, but all residents, visitors and the city's cultural life.” Richard said.    


There is a school of thought that says that even a great idea must build up to a critical mass, offering the proper mix of goods and services, in order to maximize its success. Like a fine artist mixing maturity with raw talent, perhaps the Beekman Street Arts District’s greatest masterpiece is still to come in the not-so-distant future.




Thursday, 10 October 2013 15:36

Point of Difference?

Few Disagreements among Rivals at Malta Candidate Forum

MALTA – The League of Women Voters (LWV) candidate forum for the Town of Malta’s upcoming local races took place at the Malta Community Center on Tuesday, October 8.

The questions from the audience centered on issues that appeared to potentially be fertile ground for candidates to stress their point(s) of difference. Surprisingly, there was near-universal agreement between all, save for some minor nuance. In some cases, this left many questioners and audience members unsatisfied.


Moderator Francine Rodger began by explaining the ground rules, after which those candidates who were unopposed (Highway Superintendent Roger Crandall and Town Clerk Florence Sickels) made short statements.


Two Town Justice candidates, Steve Gottman (R, I) and Ellwood Sloat, Jr. (C) made statements to the audience. Because of judicial decorum, the two candidates did not engage each other or take questions from the audience.  


Gottman’s background includes 15 years as an attorney and is the president of the Malta Business and Professional Association.  Sloat’s background is in law enforcement, reaching the rank of major for the New York State Police Department before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60.


Complete biographies, links of websites and other information on every candidate can be accessed at the LWV website. Visit www.LWVsaratoga.org.


The three candidates for town council (two of which will be elected) are incumbents John Hartzell and Maggi Ruisi (both R, C, I) and Carol Henry (D). The two candidates for the town/county supervisor seat are incumbent Paul Sausville (R, I) and challenger Cynthia Young (D, WF).


As noted above, Ellwood Sloat, Jr. is a town justice candidate. Yet, it his capacity of long-time town resident (‘Woody’ Sloat) he felt compelled to ask both the town council and supervisor candidates what their position was to stimulate retail occupancy at the Ellsworth Commons  complex (an issue that he as town justice would not be ruling on incidentally).


While Ruisi did express optimism about the recent prospects for a yogurt shop and doctor’s office, she and the other candidates, while saying that the town’s role is to be supportive, believed that it was the developer’s obligation to fill vacancies. None of them put forth any concrete ideas.


These responses did not please Sloat at all. “We have a healthy and vibrant town, but unfortunately Ellsworth Commons is an eyesore reminiscent of a ghost town,” he said. “This unsightly condition should not be ignored as it doesn't represent the true vitality of Malta.”         

“I feel economic development does fall within the responsibilities of the town supervisor and town council,” Sloat continued. “The questions I posed to these candidates regarding plans to correct this situation were answered without any substance.  It left me with a feeling that this situation was not a priority.”


Another issue of concern among questioners was the Round Lake corridor and the possibility that roundabouts would be part of a traffic solution. The candidates for town council acknowledged that the concerns of residents should be taken into account. Hartzell said that he was continuing to ask hard questions about the subject before deciding; Ruisi said she stood behind the original engineering study on traffic safety. She was awaiting the results of a more detailed study and reminded the audience that the roundabouts contemplated were smaller than the double lane ones that are on routes 9 and 67. Henry said she was keeping an open mind and that driver education and traffic safety were important considerations to balance against Round Lake residents’ concerns.


This did not come close to satisfying Murray Eitzmann, who lives on Round Lake Road.


“I’m afraid that the primary concern will be to provide the quickest access to the Northway without delay.” Eitzmann said.  “Round Lake is a thriving hamlet. This area and around exit 11 have residences, senior housing, an elementary school and a great mix of thriving businesses. Why would they even think of anything that might compromise this?”


“A petition of almost 300 citizen signatures was submitted to the town board that opposed the roundabouts.” Eitzmann stated. “The candidate that takes a courageous stand against some engineer’s Cadillac solution is whom I’m voting for. I’m not sure I saw that person tonight.”


Indeed, the Malta candidate forum deserves high marks for the civility all candidates showed towards each other. But afterwards many in the audience were heard to express surprise that the candidates, particularly challengers, did not go to any length to lay out bold distinctions between themselves and their opponents. It remains to be seen if these points of difference emerge between now and November 5.




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