Niagara Gazette — Even President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle suddenly turned around in their seats at the head table for a better view.
The nation's chief executive and the first lady wanted to see what the 200 guests in the National Statuary Hall had been awing about, seconds after the luncheon master of ceremonies called attention to the famous oil painting displayed directly behind the president.
The center of attention was the 1856 work of Danish-American artist Frederick Richardt, who produced more than 100 canvases of Niagara Falls, the Mississippi River, Mammoth River Cave and a number of major tourist destinations Rickhardt's breathtaking panorama of the falls captured international interest the same year that Frederic Edwin Church completed his classic "Niagara," a sweeping view of the Horseshoe Falls from the landmark Table Rock on the Ontario side.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, selected the painting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had agreed to lend from the State Department collection for the historic event.
The oil painting was made possible through Wlliam K. Vanderbilt, heir to the New York Central Railroad fortune. He reportedly paid the artist a hefty $14,000 to paint "Niagara Falls." That money enabled Richardt to produce many diverse landscapes during his mid-19th century sojourn in America.
Less than a year after "Niagara" was unveiled, Richardt exhibited at New York's Stuyvesant Institute in 1857 and later at the National Academy of Design. He also did a show at the Buffalo Academy of Arts in 1874. Today his works are held by the White House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, among other sites.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Clearly Inauguration Day belonged to Sen. Schumer, according to the Huffington Post. One staff writer reported, "The senator put a New York stamp on the event, from the selection of the painting to the entertainment and the food.
What you probably didn't hear, however, is that Schumer made the luncheon chef visibly angry over a last-minute change in the carefully planned menu. The chef had fully intended to serve Long Island duck following the swearing-in ceremony.
Schumer, known to rub people the wrong way on occasion, told a reporter: "We were going to have Long Island duck. The duck was very good, but the preparation wasn't great. So we settled on South Dakota bison. When New York gets good bison, we'll have that."
Some Native Americans were surely delighted to hear that. Others probably prefer the senator eat crow the next time around.
TIME LINE: In the newly-designed Thunder Falls Buffet at the Seneca Niagara Casino, the food and beverage managers now estimate more than 80 persons can be served every 15 minutes during the peak periods. I've been in some restaurants lately where it seemed to take 80 minutes just to be seated.
OUT OF THE PAST: They built the Great Pyramids in Egypt in less time than it's taking to decide on the future of the Robert Moses Parkway. With New York facing a $1-billion budget deficit, it's unlikely the state will find any funds for such a low-priority project — removing the parkway.Contact Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2259.