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Four Tops to headline hospital fundraiser at casino Seneca Events Center going strong with several sellouts on tap

The Seneca Events Center debuted one year ago with Aretha Franklin performing at a New Year's Eve gala, and the venue at the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel doesn't show any signs of slowing down with several upcoming shows already sold out.

More than 2,200 people have purchased tickets for tonight's sold-out Goo Goo Dolls concert, and there's a waiting list for tickets to Premier, the third annual fundraiser for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, which will feature the Four Tops on Jan. 20.

"It's great to be able to bring the Goo Goo Dolls back to Western New York," Seneca Gaming spokesman Philip J. Pantano said Thursday. "It's going to be a great kick-start to our New Year's weekend."

Pantano said the entertainment staff worked with the band's booking agents to get a date as close to the holiday as possible. The casino will present the band Kansas at the Bear's Den on Saturday and host several private New Year's parties. Hush nightclub will be open to the public Sunday.

Besides doing well for the gaming corporation, the casino staff also has been credited by the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, a group that raises money for specific needs at the nonprofit hospital.

The first Premier in 2004 drew 325 people to the casino. Last year's event was the first formal dinner held after the New Year's Eve gala, and $80,000 was raised.

With eight major sponsors -- who each donated between $6,000 and $20,000 -- the foundation has raised nearly $200,000 this year, not including revenue from tickets.

This year's Premier lineup includes Janice Mitchell and the Jim Beishline Quartet, the Lisa Hasselback Trio and the Four Tops, then dancing to Joyryde and the Hitmen Horns. The 900 available tickets at $150 each were sold out three weeks after invitations were mailed. There is a waiting list.

Lisa Lannon, the annual appeal and special events manager for the Memorial Foundation, said she began planning this year's event with the casino's entertainment specialists early on to find the right bands.

"We couldn't have done it without them," Lannon said of the casino employees. "They bring big acts there all the time, and they know the agents and who to contact for what. It is such a draw; I think it's hard to say how many people are coming to support the hospital or just to see the Four Tops."

It's a dream come true for Mary Norton, president of the Auxiliary of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and a huge fan of the Four Tops.

"They were my idols," she said. "When I was in college, I went one weekend to Cornell University to see them."

Then they sang at Melody Fair in North Tonawanda, and she got front-row seats with her husband, who she said was never a fan.

"He got to shake hands with three of the four, and he didn't even appreciate it," she said. "It killed me!"

Norton, who has helped raise money for programs at the hospital since 1985, said she's trying to help more people get Four Tops fever by playing their music at the hospital gift shop nonstop until the show.

"I never thought I would see them again," she said. "I think it's wonderful that they were able to get them for the Premier."

Proceeds will go toward purchasing surgical equipment for the new Brain and Spine Center of Niagara.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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