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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

A pig's life

County Executive Chris Collins and Legislator John Mills are giving pork-barrel politics a whole new meaning.

The two Republican officeholders paid $2,385 to buy a pig at last Sunday's 4-H Youth Market Auction at the Erie County Fair, saving her from the slaughterhouse.

They acted after a 4-H participant, Racheal Smith, wrote a letter to Mills seeking more attention for the agricultural program.

The 15-year-old Collins resident had raised Shirley, who was born in February, since late April or early May.

Mills went to Collins, and the two men agreed to split the cost of the 265-pound pig out of their own pockets, said Tracey McNerney, an aide to Legislature Republicans.

Collins and Mills also officially "pardoned" the not-so-little porker and named last Sunday "Racheal Smith Day" in Erie County.

Instead of ending up as bacon, pork chops or ham, Shirley will live out her life at the Hidden Valley Animal Adventure preserve in Varysburg.

"I think that's pretty neat, and more people will be able to enjoy her company. She's a pretty awesome pig," Racheal told Off Main Street.


Holy growth spurt

The Rev. Ross Syracuse is known for the corny comments he sprinkles into his homilies, so it's no surprise he's been so successful in growing one particular crop in the friary garden.

Father Ross, who took over as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Athol Springs last fall, resurrected the parish garden this spring.

He planted cucumbers, carrots, beets and lettuce, but it's the corn that's getting the most attention.

Most of his corn stalks are just under 10 feet tall now, but one stalk that started growing on its own among the tomatoes has reached nearly 11 feet.

"I'm going to just let it grow," said Father Ross, who wrote an email with the subject line, "The power of prayer, work and miracle (grow)."

He said parishioners get a kick out of seeing the corn, and he enjoys giving away his veggies to family members, church employees "and anybody who happens to be walking by."


Thank November

We don't think about snow in August, but the National Weather Service does.

The service released its new "climate normals" this month, and if you thought it seems we've gotten less snow in recent winters you were right.

Every decade or so, the weather service adjusts its annual normals in temperature and precipitation after taking into account the past 30 years of weather data.

Based on the old statistics, from 1971 to 2000, Buffalo's average yearly snowfall was 97 inches.

After looking at data from 1981 to 2010, however, the service set a new average of 94.7 inches -- a 2.3-inch annual decline, driven mostly by a 3.1-inch drop in the month of November.

The average snowfall tripled in October, from 0.3 inches to 0.9 inches, the service reported.

But, is that really a surprise?


Beanbag bankers

First Niagara Financial Group workers are moving into the newly restored Larkin "U" Building, and each one is getting a reminder of the building's quirky history.

Larkin Development Group is handing out beanbag cellphone holders to employees of First Niagara, which is leasing the 60,000-square-foot building in the Larkin District.

The gifts are a nod to a previous tenant of the building, McDonald Products, best known as the inventor of the "iconic" beanbag ashtray, said Donna L. Kostrzewski, Larkin Development Group vice president.

They look like the world's smallest beanbag chairs but they're designed to sit up on a desk, cradling a cellphone, and come in blue, red or green.

Why didn't the Larkin group go all out and order up some retro beanbag ashtrays?

"We didn't want people to think they could smoke in the building," Kostrzewski said with a laugh.

Written by Stephen T. Watson with a contribution from T.J. Pignataro.


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