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Heritage panel meets Wednesday

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Commission will hold a public workshop on Wednesday night in Earl W. Brydges Public Library, 1711 Main St., Niagara Falls.

The commission will also hold a regular business meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, 5777 Lewiston Road, Lewiston. This meeting also is open to the public.

The federal commission is tasked with drawing up a plan for a heritage area, aimed at boosting regional tourism.

Here's a recent Q&A my colleague Emma Sapong did with the panel's chairman, Thomas Chambers.

Here's a story I wrote in January about the commission's work.

4:14 p.m. update: Check out this newsletter from the commission.

--Aaron Besecker

Free Henry! wins local Hard Rock battle of the bands

Free Henry! on Thursday night won the Hard Rock Cafe USA 2011 Battle of the Bands, and won the right to compete to perform in a London concert later this year.

Colors in the Air came in second and Ransomville was third.

Free Henry!'s videotaped performance will be sent to the Hard Rock International Corporate Offices for final judging. The top 10 bands from the participating North American cafes will be posted at HardRock.com on or around April 12 and the online voting portion will begin.

The band with the most Internet votes will win a trip to Hard Rock Calling 2011 to perform along with international Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart and Bon Jovi.

 Last year, Hard Rock Niagara Falls winners More Than Me went on to win nationally and opened for Paul McCartney.

Will musical lightning strike twice in the Falls?

The final round of the local fight in the Hard Rock Cafe's 2011 Battle of the Bands takes place at 8 p.m. today in the Hard Rock Niagara Falls USA.

The winner will be videotaped, and the tape sent to corporate headquarters for a chance to perform later this year at Hard Rock Calling 2011 in London, England. So far, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks have been cofirmed as part of the show.

Last year, the winners from the Niagara Falls, USA competition, the band More Than Me, went on to open for Paul McCartney at Hard Rock Calling 2010.

The bands competing tonight are Colors in the Air, Ransomville, and Free Henry!

A special performance by More Than Me will begin after the battle.

Troops leaving for second deployment to Iraq

TOWN OF NIAGARA -- More than 100 members of a Buffalo-based New York Army National Guard unit will be saying goodbye to loved ones this morning at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station as they prepare for another deployment to Iraq.

The 105th Military Police Company will be heading for more training in Texas before they're sent to northern Iraq, where they spent a previous one-year tour from April 2003 to April 2004.

This time, they'll have various missions, including providing security for convoys and dignitaries; area and route security; and training Iraqi police, according to the state Division of Military & Naval Affairs.

Members of the unit have been training for this deployment specifically since last May, according to the Army.

Check back for more from today's departure.

12:08 p.m. update: I've written more from this morning's ceremony here.

--Aaron Besecker

Bus trip planned to "Lucytown'

Everyone who loves Lucy is invited by the Niagara County History Center to take a spring trip to Jamestown, birthplace of Lucille Ball.

The center's annual spring bus trip will be step into television history, as tour guide Shirley Frombgen will lead the excursion May 21 which includes stops at the "I Love Lucy Museum," "Desilu Playhouse," "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Gift Shop" and lunch in the "Tropicana Room." Frombgen promises that this trip is a totally new experience because the Lucy Museum has been completely redone and enlarged in recent years.

The tour leaves the History Center in Lockport at 8 a.m. and will return about 5 p.m.

Ample time will be allotted for last-minute shopping in gift shop, with the largest selection of Lucy and Desi items anywhere.

Reservations, on a first-come, first-served basis, cost $70 for Historical Society members and $75 for all others. For reservations or more information, call 434-7433.

 

Fiscal watchdogs lurk in lots of places these days

A local gentleman recently e-mailed The News and demanded to know why the taxpayers' money was
being wasted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had parked 11 pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles outside a rented office in a Town of Lockport strip plaza.

Filled with 21st Century America's distrust and fear of government, which, we now take for granted, is no longer "of the people, by the people and for the people," the man demanded we not use his name because he was afraid of retaliation.

The pickup trucks were buried in the snow for weeks outside the USDA plum pox office in Towne Square on Dysinger Road. Greg Rosenthal of the USDA said they were assigned to the seasonal staff of that office, who are assigned to investigate the spread of a disease which can kill trees that produce plums and other types of fruit with large pits or stones in the center.

Rosenthal said most of the vehicles originally were assigned to USDA offices in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and when those states were declared plum pox-free, they were transferred here, as the nearest location that actually had some active plum pox. Some cases were found in Newfane last year, although in Lewiston and Porter it has been declared eradicated, Rosenthal said.

The trucks were supposed to be moved every once in a while within the parking lot, but bad weather in January and part of February prevented that. Interestingly, as soon as The News inquired, the vehicles were plowed out and moved to other parking spaces at Towne Square. Two have more than 90,000 miles on them and are to be auctioned off, Rosenthal said, while the others will be at the ready when the plum pox crew gets back to work in April.

-- News Niagara Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska

 

"Canal Stories" offer a glimpse of the state's famed waterway

Nine video stories featuring people who lived or work on the Erie and Champlain Canals from 1900 to the present are available online at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor website.

The short video stories include a mix of first-person and historical accounts, photographs and videotaped interviews.

"These colorful stories are valuable part of the "people's history' of New York, and they would simply be lost if not recorded and shared," said Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Executive Director Beth Scuimeca. "We are so pleased to be able to make them available to the public."

"Canal Stories" was produced by City Lore and the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, in
collaboration with the Canalway Corridor Commission and the New York State Museum.

Steve Zeitlin, director of City Lore, said in a statement: "When the canal opened in 1825, the Erie opened the way west, helped to create the cities of Syracuse, Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester, and made New York a world city. But even in the 20th and 21st centuries, the canal continues to shape the lives of men and women who live and work on and around it and contribute to the American experience."

One of the videos features Robert Coles, of Buffalo, an architect who remembers some of the racial barriers in his city when the Erie Canal was active.

As you take a look at the videos, let us know if there are faces or places you recognize.

-- News Niagara Editor Scott Scanlon