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Thursday, December 27, 2007


• There will be a punk show at the Rec Center in Dunkirk tonight, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5. It's a good way to burn off some of those extra pounds acquired from eating all that holiday food with a little slam dancing. Plus you can show off the new Christmas sweater or Volcom hoodie, whichever the case may be. The following bands are scheduled to play: Maero, Sounds of Goodbye, Fallen Union, Done Deal, Wake up Dead, Lucy. The Dunkirk Rec Center is located on the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds.

• Kool & the Gang will put on a show at the Seneca Niagara Casino on Saturday and Sunday, with performances at 6 and 8 p.m. each night (Sunday's shows are sold out). They are, of course, famous for such hits as "Jungle Boogie," "Celebration" and "Get Down On It."

• BJ's hosts their annual New Year's Eve Eve Party on Sunday, Dec. 30. This ever-popular fictional holiday is just like a regular New Year's Eve event, only a day earlier and free of the amateurs who will be stumbling around Fredonia Monday night. All the good stuff that goes with a party at BJ's will be there. Ages 21 and up only, please.

• At 41 West this weekend, Side Effects performs Friday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., featuring Bill Smith and Marshall Seddon. On Sunday, there's football game watching and a fund-raiser for the Infinity Dance & Cheer Team, starting at 12:30 p.m. For $5, it's all you can eat; there will also be drink specials, raffles and half-time giveaways.

41 West will also have a New Year's Eve Party from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., with DJ Joe Gould, no cover charge, drink specials and — a very good idea — designated drivers available after midnight.

• Of course, downtown Fredonia will be chock-full of New Year's Eve festivities — many of which are still in the works as I'm writing this, but walk into a bar downtown on Monday night and I'm sure you'll find a party.

• A New Year's Eve Ball will be held at the new Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Expo Center Dec. 31 in Mayville from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., with live music by Frank Sinatra impersonator Nick Ballistella and the Babalou Band, with a cash bar, dancing and a champagne toast at midnight. Tickets are $15 per person and $25 for a couple. Call 269-STAY.

• The annual Torchlight Parade will be held at Cockaigne Ski Area in Cherry Creek at 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Skiers will ski a pattern down the slopes with lighted flares. For more information, call 287-3223.


The Ice Bowl is only a few days away, with the Sabres playing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 1 in the NHL's second-ever outdoor game, held 1 p.m. at Rich Stadium. For those Sabres fans who don't have tickets (i.e. most of us) it will also be televised on NBC. Will the weather cooperate? Will anyone be willing to pay $2,500 for two luxury box tickets, for sale on eBay? And, most importantly, will the Sabres do us proud? Only time will tell.

A big viewing party will also be held in HSBC arena (tickets are $5). Four lucky fans attending the festivities could win tickets to the game and will be taken to Rich Stadium in a limousine. Or, you could just stay home and watch the game.

I hope everyone's holidays were wonderful and that your New Year's Eve plans to have an awesome time will not be thwarted, as mine likely will be. Oh, and don't drink and drive.

April Diodato is an OBSERVER Staff Writer and can be reached at 366-3000 ext. 488 (leave a message if not there) or by e-mail at or
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Vacation Home Survival Guide

The Ins and Outs
Vacation Home Survival Guide
Andrew Beattie

The American Dream has undergone a fair amount of change over the last 50 years. Sometime after cars and televisions became a regular part of even the lowest income earner's life, it became fashionable to buy a second home--a vacation home. These are the cottages on the lakeside, the cabins in the mountains and the huts on the beach that sit empty 90% of the year while their owners are banking time for the next vacation--and footing the bill for the mortgage and property taxes.

There is, of course, an alternative to letting your cottage molder during the downtime. You can rent it out to other people looking to enjoy some time away from work.

Buying A Second Home
Keeping a primary residence is an enormous financial decision. Keeping a second home is a step up in magnitude because a second home has all the costs (often more) of your first home without the easy write-offs from the IRS. By and large, second homes are often a terrible financial burden rather than a good investment.

One of the litmus tests of whether you should have a second property is whether you can handle an all-cash purchase. This will help you to avoid passive losses because your mortgage payments will be nonexistent.

If you are set on getting a vacation home but don't have the capital for an all-cash purchase, do not take a second mortgage on your home. The IRS has closed the loophole where a person could use a second mortgage to purchase a separate investment property while still deducting his or her mortgage from taxes.

If you take a mortgage on your primary residence to buy a second home, you will not be allowed to deduct the payments as personal mortgage interest. If you intend to borrow for a second home, you will have to settle for another mortgage that is not tax-deductible. Again, it is probably best to hold off until you have enough capital to buy the property outright.

As It Stands
Current tax rules surrounding second homes, vacation homes and investment-class second homes have changed more frequently than those of primary residences. As of now, if you currently own a second home for personal use, you are allowed to rent it, or your primary residence, to another party for up to two weeks (14 nights) without reporting any of the income.

On the flip side, a second home is considered an investment property if you spend less than two weeks in it and then attempt to rent it the rest of the time. It is important to remember that, with the advent of resorts and such, the demand for a cabin in the woods may come only at the peak times--the same period of time you would probably want to use the property.

Although taxes for investment properties have been traditionally softer than for other types of investing, second homes seem to be a gray spot for the IRS. All rental losses are passive losses or hobby losses, and these can only be used against--written-off against--income from other passive activities like other rentals, a private partnership you don't help operate or an S-corporation.

Passive losses that you can't use are carried forward until you sell the vacation home. When you sell the property, the past losses can be used to offset any gains, and, if you have more passive loss write-offs afterward, you can claim them against regular income.

You can, however, deduct up to $25,000 a year, if your adjusted gross income is less than $100,000, or you actively participate in the management of the property. This tax break vanishes at $150,000 adjusted gross income. If you are between $100,000 and $150,000, you qualify for half the deduction. This seems foolish, as most of the people who can afford to buy a second home will have an adjusted gross income far above these numbers.

Still, the real challenge is in the second condition. You can use the yearly deduction if you or your spouse want to become a qualified real estate professional and actively manage the property that is posting the passive losses. Be warned, however, the IRS is not likely to believe that you hold a full-time job and moonlight as a property manager. You will need a detailed journal on why, when, where and what you are doing as a property manager in order to prove your case.
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Should I Buy a Vacation Home

Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.
Other things to consider:
Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?
The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.
Some of the tax benefits of a second home mirror those for a primary residence. Before taking the leap, however, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.
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Merry Christmas
Rick & Julia McMahon

Friday, December 21, 2007

Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail

Event Information
   Wine and Cheese Weekend
Date:  May 03, 2008 (Sat) - May 04, 2008 (Sun)
Time:  10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Cost:  $21 per person
Place:  All Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail participating wineries

Forestville, NY 14063

Phone:  888-965-4800
Email:  Email Event Organizer
Id:  #160369

* Confirm the details. is not responsible for erroneous information.
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Event Details
Join the Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail for their annual Wine and Cheese weekend being held May 3rd and 4th, 2008. Each winery will prepare a special Heluva Good cheese dish to be sampled with a complementary wine - come celebrate Mother's Day in a special way. Ticketholders choose their own itinerary and may visit the wineries in any order over the course of the two day event. One winery is designated as the pick-up point for your souvenir wine glass, recipe packet and special gift. Order your tickets on-line at or call 888-965-4800, tickets will be mailed to you with a wine trail brochure which contains a map.
More Info:  Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail

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Bemus Point Chautauqua Lake

'Non-Bar' New Offers Alternative For Young Adults
 The Flip Side
12/21/2007 - BEMUS POINT — Andy Frudd is not a typical bar owner. In fact, he's not a bar owner at all.

Frudd is the director of young adult ministry at Bemus Point United Methodist Church. He is also the brains behind the Flip Side Young Adult Center.

Frudd wanted to create a place where young adults — people between the ages of 20 and 40 — could come together, enjoy each other's company and build relationships.

To do so, he looked to the major gathering place for young adults: the bar.

''There are some big similarities between a church and a bar,'' Frudd said. ''The bartender acts like the pastor. The bar is like the altar. The average bar around here has eight to 10 regular customers. It's like a family.''

Frudd said churches often have a difficult time making young people feel comfortable, but the bar setting is naturally conducive to geniality, and that is the atmosphere Frudd wants to project.

''We decided to build a place that is totally non-threatening, built based on the bar setting. The only difference is it's non-alcoholic,'' Frudd said.

Located in the old Bemus Point Hardware Store at 8 Alburtus Ave., Flip Side features a large interior with two conversation areas, dining tables, a bar, a stage and a game area.

The decor is warm and attractive, and the original sign from the hardware store still hangs over the stage, distinctive but not incongruous.

There are two flat-screen TVs on which football games can be found on Sunday afternoons, a dart board, foosball and air hockey tables and a Nintendo Wii video game system.

Flip Side has been open since November, and Frudd said the response so far has been slow but positive.

''There hasn't been anybody who's walked in and hasn't been excited,'' Frudd said.

The opening of Flip Side comes at a time of overall expansion for the church, with officials looking for new ways to serve a great and growing young population.

''For too long the church has been rather passive in pursuing a healthy social environment for young adults. This is obviously a unique endeavor to see if there is a need for young people to connect in a non-bar atmosphere,'' said Dan McBride, BPUMC senior pastor.

In January, Flip Side will begin to host special events designed to draw a greater crowd, including live music and an open-ended discussion series call Uncensored, where people will gather for informal discussions on a wide range of topics including workplace, parenting and singles issues.

Although the focus of the center will remain on young adults, the church wants to cast as wide a net as possible. To that end, Flip Side plans to host monthly family or over 40s nights, a Sunday morning adult Sunday school class and a variety of small group meetings during the week.

The space will also be available to rent by community groups or individuals for private functions.

According to Frudd, his intent is not to compete with area bars and restaurants, but to offer an alternative for anyone who wants to hang out at the ''non-bar''.

''It's kind of a different philosophy. We don't have the pressure. We don't have to make money. We can just go with what God gives us,'' Frudd said. ''We just want people to come give it a check-out and see if they can use it.''

Frudd also extended an invitation to other area churches in the hopes that they can find a use for the center.

Flip Side is open Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m.

For more information, call 386-3401 or e-mail
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Happenings in Chautauqua County

Dickens Holiday' Is Saturday
 Dennis Webster's traditional reading of ''The Night Before Christmas'' will be part of ''A Dickens of a Holiday,'' on Saturday at the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
12/20/2007 - The Reg Lenna Civic Center will present ''A Dickens of a Holiday'' at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday.

''A Dickens of a Holiday'' will usher in the Christmas season with all of the grandeur and drama of the Victorian era.

It is a musical adventure encompassing the trademark elements of a Dickens tale from wealthy opulence to destitute poverty and the overwhelming power of the human heart. Act II is a variety presentation of Riverdance, Polar Express, the Reg Rockettes and the appearance of the Jolly Old Elf himself.

The large cast consists of actors between the ages of 3 to 21 who have been trained by the Drama Enrichment Program of the Reg Lenna Civic Center. A special treat is the singing trio of Scott Costantini, Sean Gritters and Eric Schwob. Other special guests include radio personality Dennis Webster, director/performer Michele Constantino, and Molly Marsh, Fiona Moore and Amy Weidert of the Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet.

Gift baskets will be auctioned in the lobby during intermission. A bag of treats including candies, boxes of crayons from Friendly's Restaurant and coupons from McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's will be given to all children in the audience.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and $5 for children under the age of 12. A special family pass of $40 is available (family constitutes parents and school-age children living in the same house). For information on the show or to purchase tickets, the box office can be reached at 484-7070.

''A Dickens of a Holiday'' is a presentation of the Drama Enrichment Program of the Reg Lenna Civic Center which is funded in part by grants from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Holliday Valley Ski Resort


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chautauqua County Snowmobilers

Not yet open
 OBSERVER Photo by Frank Besse

Pictured are snowmobile trail signs outside of Gerry. Snowmobile trails are not open until Dec. 19 at the earliest, even if there is enough snow.
12/13/2007 - Special to the OBSERVER

MAYVILLE — The recent "flurry" of lake-effect snowstorm activity across Chautauqua County has many snowmobilers optimistic about the upcoming season. In fact, after several years of below-normal snowfall, many are chomping at the bit to get out and ride. Not so fast, say leaders of the snowmobile clubs of Chautauqua County who urge snowmobilers to wait until the trails are open and ready.

"Snowmobile trails on private land in New York generally can not open until after the end of the Big Game Muzzleloader hunting season," said Ray Head, president of the Federation of Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County, adding that "even then the trails aren't opened until the local clubs complete their preseason preparations."

In Chautauqua County, that means many snowmobile trails won't be open until Dec. 19. Ray Head advises snowmobilers to check with the local clubs to make sure snowmobile trails are open before heading out to ride by calling the Chautauqua County Trail Conditions hotline at 1-800-242-4569, option 2 then 5.

Chris Jaynes, president of Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, agrees. "The trails aren't open until the clubs have removed fallen trees, cleared brush, and installed signs that direct snowmobilers safely along the route and away from hazards." Jaynes adds that with the heavy snow accumulation, snowmobilers should avoid the temptation to ride before the season officially begins.

Jim Zipp, vice president of Ellery Sno Cruisers, also emphasizes that since more than 80 percent of the 11,000-plus miles of snowmobile trails in New York are on private property, riding before the official opening of the trail is trespassing. Many of the private landowners who allow access for snowmobile trails do not want snowmobilers interfering with deer hunting.

Other landowners who have planted winter crops are concerned that early riding, before the ground has had a chance to freeze, will damage the crop and reduce yield come springtime. Respecting the wishes of landowners is critical, according to Zipp. "Landowners are the backbone of the New York snowmobile trail system," he says, adding "without them there would be no trails."

In Chautauqua County, and the rest of New York state, snowmobile trails are maintained by local clubs that use volunteer labor to perform all of the thousands of man-hours necessary to get the trails ready for the season.

Clearing trees that have fallen across the trails, cutting back overgrown brush, and installing trail signs are among the tasks that are under way all over Chautauqua County. Trails are routinely re-routed as changes to the landscape happen during the off-season. For riders thinking of a little pre-season snowmobiling, heading out before the trails open, unsigned trails might be an accident waiting to happen, and jeopardize the use of the trail system for the season.

For in part, the Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County believe that common sense should overcome the snow fever, and offers the following points to help ensure safe snowmobiling:

• All clubs in Chautauqua County do not open their trails until after the end of Muzzleloader Big Game season — that means after sunrise on Dec. 19.

• Even after the "official" start of the season, snowmobilers should always be aware of trail conditions before heading out to ride. Contact the local club where you plan to ride and make sure the trails are open.

• Take it easy while getting back in the swing of snowmobiling after a long summer's wait. Many snowmobilers are anxious to try out newly purchased sleds, and should take time to adjust to handling a new machine.

• Riding before the trails are cleared and signed is risky business.

• Always respect landowners; stay on the trail and stay home if the trail is closed.

• Make sure that youthful operators have completed the required safety classes. In fact, it is a good idea for adult riders to brush up on snowmobile safety as well. Classes are scheduled across the County.

Snowmobilers may visit the Web sites, of the Snowmobile Clubs of Chautauqua County as follows Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, Cherry Creek Sno-Goers, , Ellery Sno-Cruisers, Lake Effect Trail Breakers, and the Sunset Drifters, for more information on what you could do to help the clubs listed above get the trails ready.
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Chautauqua County Real Estate Viewpoints

Julia and I recently returned from the National Association of Realtors convention in Las Vegas the following excerpt applies to Chautauqua County Real Estate. We are asked constantly " How is the Real Estate Market "  The truth is in Chautauqua County it is the same as it always was. It never flew high so it never sinks low.  We have always had our share of foreclosure sales since we started in 1992. If you were in LV with us they were doing seminars on foreclosures. We passed, we could teach the course. It is nothing new here and nothing to be afraid of anywhere. For every foreclosure there is a buyer who generally gets a good deal. THE MEDIA doesn't tell you that.
Our second home market which is the bulk of Julia and my sales is doing very well we have had a good year and so have my associates who work in the market. Prices leveled in 2007.  Appreciation in the second home market will return and the homes will prove to be a very enjoyable investment in the years to come.
The problem with "hot areas" is that they did not understand and internalize that nothing grows to the sky.
When you think about it we welcome and celebrate price reductions in all other aspects of our lives for goods and services why not Real Estate if the prices dip or remain stable this helps many purchasers who otherwise would be out of the market get into it.
The truth about Real Estate remains the truth if you look out over a 3+ year horizon you will do just fine. If you bought it yesterday and want to sell it tomorrow for a profit best wishes with that.
Frankly the biggest problem we have run into is 2nd mortgages. Sellers are upside down because they used there homes as ATM machines.  Some have improved the home and are able to sell with a gain. Most have nothing to show for it except debt.
Your comments are welcome.
" All real estate is local, " proclaimed NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun again and again. "Some markets are up and some are down after years of sustaining record or cyclical highs," he exclaimed. Yun also pointed out that national real estate forecasts are not any more useful to local markets than a weather forecast giving the average temperature for the entire nation. He noted our U.S. economy may not be robust but is respectable and that there is pent up demand sitting on the sidelines. Yun related that Wall Street is coming clean about its less than prudent investments; good loans ARE AVAILABLE to those with jobs and good credit and that 2007 will end as the fifth best housing sales sales year on record. Other key points the economist shared included: the drop in new housing starts is not surprising after a dizzying building boom; the national delinquency rate for sub-prime is 15% while the national delinquency rate for all conventional loans is 3%; and that sub-prime loans account for less than 10% of all loans.
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Buying or Selling a Chautauqua Home:
C. Rick & Julia McMahon
Real Estate Advantage

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet

CRYB To Present 'The Nutcracker'
 The Tradition Continues

Madi Cala as Clara during last year's performance of ''The Nutcracker.'' Photo by Rob Sigler
12/11/2007 - Special to The Post-Journal

The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet will present the Nutcracker — a holiday tradition that delights children and adults alike.

The timeless story of young Clara who is given the gift of a magical Nutcracker offers the excitement of a growing Christmas Tree with more than 1,000 sparkling lights; a midnight battle between the Nutcracker and the Rat King which will have kids on the edge of their seats as they watch martial arts artist Justin Clark's interpretation of the Rat King; falling snow during the snow scene and the incredible experience of watching principal dancers from the New York City Ballet in the roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

The performances are scheduled for 8 p.m., Saturday, and 2 p.m., Sunday, at the Reg Lenna Civic Center in Jamestown.

Tickets prices are loge, $25; adults, $15; students and seniors, $10; and children 10 and under, $6. Tickets are on sale and available at the Reg Lenna Box Office at 484-7070 or online at

New York City Ballet principal dancers Megan Fairchild and Daniel Ulbricht will dance the Sugar Plum and her Cavalier.

''We are thrilled to give our young dancers the opportunity to share the stage with world-renowned soloists and also thrilled to give our community the opportunity to see two dancers from one of the world's greatest ballet companies perform right here in Jamestown,'' artistic director Monika Alch said.

Other guest performers include Paul Mockovak as Herr Drosselmeyer, Justin Clark, local martial arts artist and karate instructor as the Rat King, Sylvia Trusso as the Grandmother, Adam Trambley and Libby Nord as the host and hostess, and a special appearance by Len Barry as Mother Ginger. Also performing as a guest dancer is Zachary Hutchison from Victoria, Texas who attended CRYB's summer intensive this past August

Ms. Alch remarks that in addition to the treat of seeing Ms. Fairchild and Mr. Ulbricht dance, the audience will also be impressed by the caliber of performance presented by CRYB ballet students. Solos such as the Nutcracker Prince, Arabian and Spanish, the Snow Queen and Dew Drop will be performed by CRYB pre-professional students, and almost 70 other cast members including both CRYB students and community members will round out the cast.

In addition to the public performances, CRYB will also present two school shows as part of the Arts-In-Education program — schools interested in attending should contact the Reg Lenna Box Office.

CRYB Administrative Director Elizabeth Bush said that with the addition of our NYCB soloists, the CRYB Nutcracker is a great choice for out-of-town visitors looking for a winter get-away weekend.

Sponsors of this year's Nutcracker include M&T Bank and the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, Inc. who are funding the replacement of the Flower Scene costumes. The Chautauqua Regional Youth Ballet is a not-for-profit organization that provides classical ballet instruction to youth from Chautauqua County the surrounding areas.
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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Passing the Winter in Chautauqua

A faster winter

 Submitted photo

Skiers hit the slopes at Holiday Valley.
12/9/2007 - Special to the OBSERVER

Winter's a-coming on fast, isn't it? And it's gonna be longer than you want, and colder, and you're going to be sitting watching TV and complaining about the weather, aren't you? Then spring will come and you'll wonder how you managed to gain 10 pounds and start to worry about how to shape up before shorts and swimsuit season.

Well, what if you could avoid all that misery, have winter fly by and actually lose weight during the shut in season? 

It's really simple. Start skiing. 

Oh I know, you're too old, you'll get hurt, it's too cold outside. I've heard all the reasons people stay indoors for four months each year. But I've also found that most of those reasons will evaporate once a person actually tries the sport, so let's look at the list of why not and see if any can really hold water.

Reason 1. I'm too old. (Ha!) You might be, but age is a state of mind. One of my favorite stories involves a 73-year-old grandmother taking her first ski lesson on a snowy Saturday in January a couple of years ago. The funny part? Her instructor had just turned 85. Factor in that her son owns a ski shop and had never before taken her skiing. At least he provided her with equipment. Let me tell you my afternoon class of 20-somethings had trouble complaining after she smoothly scooted by. 

Reason 2. I'll get hurt. You might, but the most dangerous thing an American adult does is drive a car. Most people who think they'll get hurt have seen the Wide World of Sports opening where the ski jumper crashes too many times. Remember, he was jumping! You must be a few steers short of a herd to consider such a thing! Secondly, the equipment today is much better than it was even 10 years ago. The new ski bindings work so well that knee injuries are almost a thing of the past. Oh yes, you can get hurt, but your chances are pretty low. In 2005-2006, there were about 25,000 injuries out of 60,000,000 skier days. And you can lower your odds of getting hurt more if you take advantage of a lesson or two from a trained professional (that could be me).

Reason 3. It's too cold. Yep, it can get cold. I've spent days at -40 degrees, and that was cold! I was young and crazy enough to only notice that there were no lift-lines anywhere. So I tried to get extra runs in. Smart people don't do that. Add in new clothing technology, with all the high-tech materials, and I have stayed warm on days that in the past would have forced even me inside. Wicking material, gore-tex, thinsulate and all those other miracle fabrics really work. You only get cold if you don't take advantage of these materials. And there is a new problem with the temperature. Because of these new materials, often the participant will get hot. I've had to take a break and go indoors to cool down!

Now what about the advantages I listed? Are they real?

The short answer: yes. Winter will go by faster, you can lose weight, and getting outside will lift your mood. And it's all close by. We are particularly blessed in our area. Within a two-hour drive you can be at five different ski slopes. That's equivalent to living in Vermont or New Hampshire. The hills are smaller, but they're easy to get to. Cockaigne is only 25 minutes from downtown Dunkirk. It's a shorter drive than getting to the mall (For married men, a day of skiing is typically cheaper than a day of shopping. Think about it.) In fact, with this much skiing available close by, I don't understand why Western New York hasn't produced more Olympic skiers.

You can lose weight skiing. I typically drop 5 to 7 pounds after the holidays. The movements of skiing pits your own weight against gravity, producing an isometric resistance exercise. Studies are showing that resistance exercises will trim you down. It will also tone the musculature of your legs and backside. Unless you do some racing, you won't get too much aerobic exercise, but you will still burn a lot of calories just enjoying the snow.

Will winter go by faster? Yes. Remember, we live next to one of the Great Lakes, which helps moderate our temperatures. It's really only cold enough for consistent snow for 10 to 14 weeks a year. Oh yeah, we get the oddball storm in October or April, but by April, most of our local ski resorts close down for lack of snow. The really good stuff falls in late December and lasts until late February. That's about 12 to 14 weeks, max. When you have something planned every Saturday, the weeks just fly by. Trust me on this — you'll be saying, "Where did winter go?" 

And while you're out there, you'll find the reason I spend time skiing. Winter, despite its cruel temperatures, cold winds and snow, is a beautiful season. I've seen days with skies so blue and clear that your eyes can't believe such colors exist. Or when the snow frosts the trees, painting them white and sparking. Passing through the woods when it's snowing so hard, the only sound you hear are the flakes hitting the ground. Or the moon rising over a nearby hill as an owl floats silently past. The snow under your skis feeling soft as velvet, or fluffing up over your knees. 

How about riding up the lift, through a cloud and breaking out into the sun, looking back and seeing the world covered in cottony wisps, the nearby hills islands in a fluffy white sea. Faces red from the cold, but smiling to see friends and family in a warm lodge. Young kids, excited to be outside sliding down the big hill. I once had a class of inner-city teenagers whose enthusiasm and pure desire to seize the day gave me hope for the next generation. Memories of my kids first turns down the slope, falling into deep, soft powder.

The list goes on. So come on. This year, join me outside and have a short, healthy and fun winter.

Jim Pratt of Fredonia has been teaching skiing for years and is certified nationally by the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
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Friday, December 07, 2007

New Visitor Draw For Ellicottville, NY

Ellicottville will host an international bow hunting competition next year - the commmunity's initial foray into using the tourist town as a special events destination.
The International Bowhunting Organization will bring its 2008 world championships to Ellicottville for four days, beginning Aug. 20 at the Holiday Valley Ski Resort.
The competition is expected to attract more than 2,000 contestants with their families and is projected to have a $4 million economic impact while showcasing the town and region. The competition will be aired on ESPN2.
"This is our perfect opportunity to let the events industry know that we, Ellicottville, can be a host sports venue," said Brian McFadden, Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce executive director. "As it is, we attract more people than the Bills do to Ralph Wilson Stadium."
The competition had been held for many years at the Snowshoe Mountain resort in West Virginia and this past summer was held in Anderson, Ind.
The Holiday Valley selection includes options for the 2009 and 2010 competition. Holiday Valley invested more than $100,000 to attract the competition to Ellicottville. Local leaders spent a year pitching the bowhunting association. Landing the event is a critical part of a long-term strategy by Ellicottville leaders to make the picturesque town a 12-month destination.
While the bulk of the economic impact will be felt in Ellicottville, McFadden said he is working with the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau on showing off other regional highlights during the competition.
"Downtown Buffalo is important to us," McFadden said.
When bed-and-breakfasts, privately leased out townhouses and chalets are included, McFadden estimates Cattaraugus County has sleeping options for 7,000 people. He expects many competitors will stay in their own RVs. McFadden thinks hotels in southern Erie County will handle some spillover from those attending the competition.
"This is definitely going to fill a lot of hotel rooms," said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley director of marketing. "More importantly, this is going to introduce this region to a lot of people who haven't been here before."
Ken Watkins, International Bowhunting Organization, said Holiday Valley and Ellicottville were particularly attractive because of their location.
"We think having the tournament at Holiday Valley will allow more archers to attend the festival," Watkins said.
The event attracts what Watkins called the "Tiger Woods" of archers who will track 3D animals around Holiday Valley's hills and trails. Archers will compete for $200,000 in cash and prizes. No live animals are part of the competition.
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Jamestown Christmas Parade

Parade Is This Evening With Tree Lighting To Follow
By Patrick Fanelli

 Evening With Tree Lighting
12/7/2007 - The annual holiday parade has been months in the making, but it has finally arrived — the official start of the holiday season in Jamestown.

With little precipitation in the forecast and with temperatures expected just under the 32-degree freezing point, the Downtown Jamestown Development Corp. expects the event to go off without a hitch.

Roughly 100 entries are expected to participate, and the parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is expected to finish its trek to Tracy Plaza for the Christmas Tree lighting approximately one hour later.

''It's certainly one of the biggest parades in Western New York,'' said Lee Harkness, DJDC executive director. ''We have people coming from all over the county, from Bradford, Warren, Olean. It's one of the most premier activities of the holiday season.''

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, will lead the holiday host in her post as parade grand marshall, and William Daly, Chautauqua County planning and economic development director, will be the event announcer.

In addition, Ben Blood, 2007 Chautauqua Lake Idol winner, will be singing this year's National Anthem.

The floats will span a variety of Christmas films and elements. Films on which some of the floats are based include ''A Christmas Story,'' ''How the Grinch Stole Christmas'' and ''Polar Express.''

A variety of activities will take place before and after the parade. Ballerinas will be featured at 19 W. Third St. from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Pre-parade entertainment will begin at 6:15 p.m. provided by the Reg Lenna Civic Center's Drama Enrichment Program in front of Tracy Plaza on Third Street.

Candy will be handed out — not thrown, which has been prohibited for safety reasons — along the parade route, which spans all of Third Street from across the bridge all the way to Tracy Plaza.

In addition, U.S. postal carriers will be picking up letters to Santa Claus, and live reindeer have been transported to Jamestown and will be featured across the street from the Reg Lenna Civic Center.

The first-ever Snowball Drop, sponsored by the Jamestown Cycle Shop, will take place between the lighting of the Christmas tree at Tracy Plaza and the start of the fireworks display, according to Ms. Reynolds, and it will consist of dozens of ping pong balls being dropped into the street from 50 t0 75 feet up in the air.

''The lights will go on, the snowballs will drop and the fireworks will go off. At least, that's the plan,'' Ms. Reynolds said. ''There will be discounts, sales stuff, free giveaways. ... You collect them and redeem them at the specified business or restaurant.''

Participating businesses include the YMCA, Jakes Uptown Grill, Jamestown Dance Supply, Roberto's, Liscandro's, Lander's Men's Store, Suburban Blend, the Reg Lenna Civic Center and the Basket Company.

''It's really a family event,'' Ms. Reynolds said of the parade. ''We want to instill memories — long-lasting memories.''
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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bemus Point Condos Go Vertical

December 6, 2007 at 9:04 am
    A typically nice fall kept construction on schedule for Chautauqua Lake's
newest condominium development. Vertical construction of the 40 homes, half of
which have already been pre-sold, is now well underway. The project is expected
to be completed by spring of next year allowing homeowners to enjoy the
Chautauqua Lake and Chautauqua Institution summer season. (PRWeb Dec 6, 2007)
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Holiday Valley Ski Area

Holiday Valley Packed For Opening Day

Cheap lift tickets for 50th anniversary bring in the crowds

Holiday Valley Packed For Opening Day

By Jennifer Stanonis

It was a busy opening day for Holiday Valley with lines everywhere on Wednesday. Traffic was backed up almost a couple miles and hundreds of people bought lift tickets and got on the slopes.

To celebrate Holiday Valley's 50 year anniversary the first people to ride a chair lift sat in a gold painted chair. Ticket prices were lowered for about an hour Wednesday morning, from around $45 down to $4, which was the price 50 years ago. "We drove from Ohio," Julia Marijak said after buying her four dollar lift ticket. "Four dollars is probably better than you'll ever spend, we'll never ski that cheap again."

Shirley Hurtubise may've thought the same thing when she first hit the slopes there half a century ago. "I know we skied down here then, I just don't remember if we made opening day," Hurtubise said.

There have been a lot of changes since the ski resort originally opened with only three slopes back in the 1950's, now there are 56 runs. "Oh, so many more runs and the snow making is excellent," Hurtubise said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, eight of the slopes and three chair lifts at Holiday Valley are open for this year's season. The ski area is planning to open more slopes this weekend.
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club

Brocton approves snowmobile bridge

 Submitted photo

The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club built this bridge in Brocton.
12/2/2007 - OBSERVER Staff Writer

BROCTON — Snowmobilers rejoice in Brocton. A safer means of travel was approved by the Brocton Village Board when they gave permission to the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club to erect a bridge.

"We retained permission to create a snowmobile trail across the watershed property, and we have to build a bridge over the creek to make it safe, so we were looking for permission before we built it," said club Vice President Steve Smith of Brocton.

The village granted permission of snowmobilers to use the village-owned land as the group carries its own insurance. The only provisions by attorney Sam Drayo were for the village to name themselves as a secondary insurance, and to give themselves authority to take the bridge down if they see fit.

Since its approval back in November, the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club has constructed the bridge that will benefit the Secondary 45 from C4B in and out of Brocton, and the Corridor C4B -Mayville to Brocton to Stockton trails. Corridor C4B starts at an intersection with Corridor 4 approximately 1/2-mile northeast of State Route 430. The first part of Corridor C4B is essentially the old Penn Central Railroad line from Mayville to Brocton. 

The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club season starts after the end-of-season party and its annual election of officers (normally around the end of April). The new snowmobiling season starts with lots of trail maintenance, new trail development, new bridge work and maintenance, and trail signing that occurs before the snow flies.

Volunteer workers actually spend more than 1,000 man hours between spring, summer and into late fall.

The club is associated with NYSSA — New York State Snowmobile Association — and has a 100 percent membership rate to support voices across the state and in Albany. The mission is to develop new trails and maintain existing trails during the off months, groom, and ride the trails during season.

For more information on trails and the club, visit
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Holiday Valley Opens Today
By Robert Rizzuto

 Holiday Valley will open its 50th season at 9 a.m. today with a first-hour offer of $4 lift tickets.

Submitted photo
12/5/2007 - ELLICOTTVILLE — The crew at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville has been hoping for a storm which would provide the consistent cold and snow necessary to open.

Their wish has been granted.

Holiday Valley will officially begin its 50th season today at 9 a.m. with its 1957 lift ticket price of $4 available for the first hour only.

''We thought it was a great way to kick off the whole season,'' said Jane Eshbaugh, Holiday Valley marketing director. ''We will have five to seven slopes open and possibly open another black diamond.''

Steve Crowley, mountain operations director, said the resort began making snow on Nov. 17 and continued as temperatures allowed. He explained that the longer the snow 'cures' on the mountain before grooming, the deeper the base, which results in it holding up better for Holiday's skiers and riders.

''We're expecting a great run of snowmaking this week,'' he added. ''Additional lifts and slopes will be opening very soon.''

This season, Holiday Valley will be hosting events and showing off improvements made across the resort, all in celebration of its ''Golden Anniversary.''

Among the $2.9 million spent in renovations is the Spruce Lake Quad Chair Lift and service to three new slopes, according to Ms. Eshbaugh. Holiday Valley also spent $25,000 on new rails for the terrain park and renovated the guest rooms at the Slope Slide Inn.

Although some locals might not appreciate the recent burst of cold and snow, Ms. Eshbaugh said she looks forward to it.

''Keep sending all the cold and lake-effect snow to Ellicottville,'' she said. ''If you're going to live in Western New York, you might as well enjoy it.''
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Monday, December 03, 2007

Chautauqua Belle Is Back In The Water

If you have never done so in 2008 take a ride on this. Very enjoyable experience for your family and friends.

Rick McMahon

Peek'n Peak Chautauqua County

Christmas Light Display Highlights Opening Weekend At Peek'n Peak
By Robert Rizzuto

 Light Up Your Night

Peek'n Peak's ''Trail of Lights'' can be seen any day between 6 and 9 p.m. until Dec. 23. A 20-minute ride on a ski lift to view the display costs $5. P-J photo by Robert Rizzuto
12/1/2007 - FINDLEY LAKE — Peek'n Peak will officially begin its 44th season today with eight trails, two lifts and a packed-powder surface base, and of course, the colorful and unique spectacle known as the ''Trail of Lights.''

The ski slope-long animated light montage is definitely not your average display of Christmas decorations, and is the first of its kind in North America.

Standing at the bottom of the Finsbury Field ski slope next to Pizzaiolos Italian Restaurant, Christmas music fills the air. The whole hill is visible for free from the bottom, but a $5 ticket buys a ride the lift up the decorated mountain-side and back down again, experiencing the display from above as was intended through its design.

The scale of the display is best grasped through experience, but in short; it's massive.

Santa makes several appearances along the lit-up trail with his reindeer running down the hill while elves play catch and package gifts. A moose skis by below as you stare off into the nutcracker castle near the mountain top. A collage of traditional Christmas toys comes to life as the jack-in-the-box springs from its colorful base.

''The Trail of Lights gives non-skiers another reason to think of The Peek in the winter,'' said Chip Day, Peek'n Peak vice president of brand management. ''The 20-minute ride will leave riders with an everlasting memory of Peek'n Peak.''

''The ''Trail of Lights'' was a massive project,'' Day said. ''It consists of more than 80 animated LED displays and 100,000 bulbs, all of which had to be hand-screwed into the units.''

''It took a crew of about 12 people working straight for a week,'' Day added. ''It was definitely a labor of love.''

The ''Trail of Lights'' isn't the sole source of holiday spirit at Peek'n Peak. Almost the entire resort is decked out with lights in addition to a number of homes on the adjacent Canterbury Drive displaying a variety of lit-up holiday scenes. At the Inn, the Peek'n Peak crew has also finished setting up and decorating the massive 24-foot Christmas tree.

The Trail of Lights can be seen any day of the week between 6 and 9 p.m. until December 23. Day advises that people dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy footwear.

For people planning on riding the trails in the days to come, Day said they plan on making snow for the next 10 nights as the weather forecast predicts conditions will be ideal. He added that additional slopes will be open as weather permits and a $5 discount on lift tickets will be in effect until that happens.

For more information including pictures of the trail and live, streaming video of the slopes, visit The Peek's Web site at
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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chautauqua County Snowmomobiles

'Winter road trip'
 OBSERVER File Photo by Patrick Fanelli

Snowmobiles line up during the fourth annual Ride-In event in February organized by the Chautauqua County Snowmobile Federation.
12/2/2007 - An overview of snowmobiling for beginners


Staff Writer

Snow is starting to fly and for most people, that might mean rough road conditions and the approach of the holidays. But for some, it brings to mind snowmobile season.

Snowmobiling is a unique sport and activity limited to places like Western New York where snow is usually plentiful.

"It's one thing I love about winter. It's really something fun to do that gets you outdoors in the winter time," said Hanover resident Christopher Raczka, who has been snowmobiling since he was a child.

Yet for those who have never engaged in this winter amusement like Raczka, but wish to start, here is a brief guide to getting started.

Buying and maintaining a snowmobile

The fist thing a would-be snowmobiler must do is buy a machine, often called "sleds" by seasoned riders.

Dave Packler, the shop foreman at Gowanda StarCraft, which offers Arctic Cat and Yamaha snowmobiles, said the first consideration should be size and skill of the rider.

"There's a lot of different sizes. For younger kids, you'd want to go with the smallest models, like 120s. But a lot depends on your experience with riding," he said.

The sizes Packler referred to — such as 120 — are the cc, or cubic centimeters of the engine. The bigger the number, the bigger the engine. Packler said that there are two types of engines that also come into play when deciding on what kind of sled to buy.

"I would suggest for people just starting to snowmobile that they get a fan-cooled engine. They're a little cheaper and they are usually a little smaller," he related. "But, for more experienced riders, you could go with a liquid cooled sled because they have better performance and are often bigger."

Unlike other types of recreational motor-sport vehicles, such as ATVs and dirt bikes, Packler said snowmobiles are usually easier to maintain.

"Most snowmobiles are virtually maintenance free. You can get a couple thousand miles out of them with just basic maintenance like lubing," he said.

But, Packler said that beginners and experienced riders alike should check their snowmobiles out at least once a year.

"I would recommend taking it to a shop once a year before the season starts for general maintenance, unless you know how to do some of that stuff yourself, like changing the oil in a four-stroke engine," he said, referring to the two types of engines, two-stroke and four-stroke. Two-stroke engines, like those also in ATVs and dirt bikes, do not need oil changes since they run on a gas-oil mix. Four-strokes, which are like car engines, run on gas alone and need oil changes.

There is one thing that novice sled riders often do wrong, Packler said.

"The biggest thing is during the early season when there's still water and mud around, that stuff gets up in the suspension and can freeze it up. So try to keep them somewhere where they can thaw out," he recommended.

To learn more about snowmobiles and order a buyer's guide, go to the American Snowmobiler magazine Web site at

Trails and clubs

There are more than 11,000 miles of trail systems in New York state, so once you have a sled, there are plenty of places to go.

Rick Engasser, the groomer coordinator for the Cherry Creek Sno-Goers Club, is one of the many who maintain local trails. The Clarence native, who comes to Chautauqua County to snowmobile, said that the grooming of trails begins when the season starts.

"The trails typically open on Dec. 18, if there is adequate snow. We need around a foot to start grooming and riding," he said.

Engasser said that there is some work that goes on all year, such as clearing and grating trails and building bridges where necessary. Signs must also be put up in the trails to help the riders once the season gets into full swing.

During the winter, though, Engasser and his fellow groomers use grooming tractors, which he said have tracks to make them maneuver better in the snow.

"The groomer pulls a drag behind it that packs down the snow and makes the snow on the trails harder so they are easier to ride on," he said.

Before hitting the trails, there are formalities that must be taken care of, just as when getting a new car on the road. Snowmobiles have to be registered and insured.

Snowmobiles may be registered at the local Department of Transportation, where there are proper forms. However, those who join a local snowmobile club, like the one Engasser is a part of, can receive a discount on registration.

There are many snowmobile clubs available to riders all over Chautauqua County, and all welcome new members. Besides the discount on registration, there are also many other benefits to being in a club, such as having experienced people to begin riding with. To find out more about the clubs, visit the New York State Snowmobile Association's listing of Chautauqua County clubs at

The experience

Whether you choose to join a club, you still must have your sled registered and insured to ride legally. And once that is done, you can get out on the trails and start experienceing the joy this winter activity has to offer.

Raczka, who has also been an avid ATV rider for most of his life, said that snowmobiling is different than other forms of motor-sports.

"I think it's a little different because it's cold out. You're riding around all bundled up with the chilly wind all around you and gliding on the snow. It's really a great feeling," he said.

When talking about the longer trips on the area trails, Raczka said that it feels almost like taking a trip.

"I mean, you're out there all day and sometimes all night. The trails go all over the county, and into other counties. And there's resturants, bars and stores on the trail, so it's almost like a winter road trip. Except in this case, I guess you'd call it a trail trip," he related.

The proximity of trails to places of business is indeed helpful for long rides. And business owners often welcome the extra customers.

Rob Daniels, the owner of the House of Jack — a beer, liquor and food store in Bemus Point — said that he sees a definite increase in patrons during the snowmobile season.

"Our business picks up during the season. We get a lot more clientele coming in from all over — the long distance riders from Allegheny, Cherry Creek, Cassadaga and stuff," Daniels said.

Raczka said that having the businesses around the trail was particularly interesting when he was younger.

"Well, before I was 16 and could drive, it was really cool being able to drive around on the trails and go places," he said. "It was almost like I was a grownup driving around in a car."

Daniels said that the increase in business always depends on snow.

"We're right by the trail, so if we get snow, we get sleds," he said. "If we get sleds, we get customers."

Raczka said that snowfall is sometimes the only thing that can be challenging.

"If it doesn't snow enough, you can't ride. But if there's enough snow this winter, I'll be out there. And if there's enough snow, I recommend to anyone that hasn't tried it to get a sled and hit the trails. It really is a great time."

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Our first Year on Chautauqua Lake

At November 30, 2007 7:42 PM, Stephen said...
November 30, 2007

Hi! We're just completing our first year of owning a cottage on Chautauqua Lake and would love to share with you some thoughts about our first year on the lake. And, since Rick and Julia McMahon were so helpful in our search for lakefront property, we're glad to contribute to the blog….which is bookmarked on my computer!.

We have really enjoyed our waterfront cottage located near the village of Bemus Point. Our first year has been a busy one, with lots of cottage improvements, but it has also been a great adventure. As retirees, we were able to spend about six months of 2007 on Chautauqua Lake, and the time just flew by. We've been able to enjoy the unique beauty of each season on the water, from the snow and ice of January, to the greening of the hillsides in spring, the beautiful breezy summer days boating on the lake and finally, the yellow, orange and brown colors of fall. We haven't even had time to begin to take in all the recreational activities around the lake, which makes the Chautauqua Lake community a great place to live. We can enjoy the peaceful and relaxing surroundings of our cottage, or within minutes, take advantage of nearby restaurants, retail shops, movie theaters, the Chautauqua Institute or nearby parks. There is always something interesting or fun to explore and enjoy!

As a cottage owner, I can't say enough about how helpful local people and businesses have been. Everyone seems genuinely pleased to help you and take care of your needs. Some great local businessmen have been so easy to work with when we needed to get our docks in the water, a new natural gas line installed, and some carpentry work done on the cottage. We even received "Welcome Back" notes from our mailman! And our special neighbors, who are longtime residents, have been so helpful in learning about our cottage and many aspects of cottage ownership and maintenance.

Another great experience has been meeting our new neighbors. Our cottage is located on a nice street with properties owned by some wonderful people. Having a summer cottage provides such a great place for enjoying old friends as well as new ones, and when you say your goodbyes at the end of the summer, you are already looking forward to the next vacation season.

If you haven't spent some time on Chautauqua Lake…….plan to do it soon!

Stephen Brasure
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