Niagara Gazette

September 29, 2012

GLYNN: Leaf peepers deserve better than Niagara offers

By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Ask people in the tourist business and you'll find they often depend heavily on colorful foliage to boost their fall revenues.

Based on the weekly updates from the I Love New York program, part of the Empire State Development office, the Niagara area may not benefit that much from Mother Nature's off-season road show. 

In the initial report, Niagara was brushed off as having reached only 10 percent of its projected color change. Other areas were already in the 30 to 40 percent change as a result of cooler temperatures and advancing calendar.

Instead of visiting the Buffalo-Niagara region, tourists were being lured to the Adirondacks (Gov. Cuomo's favorite spot) or the Catskills to marvel at the peak foliage.

Again this past week, the foliage follow-up provided by a Lewiston spotter described the area scene (e.g. along the Niagara River and gorge) as still in the beginning stages with "duller than average leaves of green, yellow and some red." It's hardly the kind of outdoor display to attract those leaf peepers who generate millions of dollars every fall. 

For the record, in addition to the Adirondacks, some of the best leaf-peeping areas across the Empire State and the status of their colors: Tupper Lake in Franklin County, 90-95 percent; Old Forge in Herkimer County, 95 to 100 percent; and Lake Placid in Essex County, already at peak conditions. 

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A COVETED LIST: The War of 1812 Encampment (The Capture of Fort Niagara) has been designated by the American Bus Association as one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2013. The ABA designation is a highly sought-after list by travel professionals, motorcoach operators and the general public.

Deborah Duerr, sales director for the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., had key role in securing the nomination. The Encampment was selected by hundreds of other entries.

Bob Emerson, executive director of Old Fort Niagara, said the designation would be a vital help to building on the success of events in 2012. "And it will provide strong momentum for the additional War of 1812 bicentennial activities continuing next year," Emerson added.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Steve Stephens, a travel writer for The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, was a recent visitor to Niagara Falls but apparently spent all of his time on the Canadian side. He explained in the article why he took his family over there: "The Ontario side seems to have avoided some of the urban blight that plagues the town of Niagara Falls, N.Y." Without setting a foot here — it's a city, by the way —he opted to camp out in Canada and pass judgment on the struggling American side.

The writer did note that from the 26th floor of his hotel overlooking the Horseshoe Falls, he had an unmatched early morning view of the level of the river rising, after the power company intakes drastically reduced the flow while the tourists slept.    

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THIS JUST IN ... Jodi Johnston, a news anchor and reporter with WGRZ-TV for the past 12 years, has been named director of corporate media relations with the First Niagara Financial Group. She also will serve as first vice president responsible for managing the company's external communications strategy and execution. Johnston has anchored the "Daybreak" morning show and 5 p.m. newscast. During her time at Ch. 2, the station's news programming has moved up to No. 1 rating in the Buffalo market. 

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TOP GRADE: A veteran observer of area running events, from 5ks to marathons, said last week that the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon between Lewiston and Porter on the Lake Park in Youngstown, was one of the best organized races in which she ever participated. Paul Beatty Jr. is general chairman of the annual event that benefits Niagara Hospice.

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PLEA BARGAIN: Overheard in police court: "I may not be perfect, your honor, but parts of me are excellent" — a defendant asking the judge for a break.

Contact Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.