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Batavia celebrates its centennial on New Year’s Eve

BATAVIA – Just as those before them did on Dec. 31, 1914, to mark the incorporation of Batavia as New York’s 54th city, residents of this Genesee County seat Wednesday night gathered to celebrate its 100th birthday.

The city of Batavia’s centennial festival went off without a hitch, despite 19-degree weather and a steady and swirling snow that surely reduced the number of participants.

Still, about 50 brave souls stood outside watching the musical performances (and taking a moment to enjoy the heat from a fire department-supervised bonfire) and another 150 or so who took part in the events in the basement of St. Mary’s Church on Ellicott Street.

“When I heard about (the celebration), I thought it was a great idea, and I must say that everything was done in the correct way to make this an extravaganza,” said lifelong Batavian Paul Spiotta, who was part of a quintet that performed a medley of hits from the musical, Jersey Boys, to kick off the evening’s activities.

“I realize the weather kept the crowd down, but now that I’m here and I see the big stage that has been set up and the great sound system, I’m very excited about it.”

Other performers included singers Patrick Burk and Wendy Williams of Batavia, and Pembroke’s Clarisse Birkby, who sang hits from Broadway musicals, and the Batavia High School brass ensemble.

Organized by Vibrant Batavia, a community network of volunteers dedicated to fostering collaboration among city neighborhoods, the event featured musical acts, a petting zoo, pony rides, children’s games, and face painting.

Charlene Grimm, a Batavia resident for 12 years, said she and her husband, their son and their son’s friend came for the free skate and to let the kids have some good, clean fun.

“The boys play hockey so they wanted to take part in the free skating (at the nearby Falleti Ice Arena), and they wanted to get their faces painted,” she said. “Even with the weather the way it is, it’s awesome … a great way to bring the community together.”

Later on, the party moved to the City Centre on Main Street where about 200 people who paid $50 each gathered for a night of New Year’s Eve dining and dancing until the midnight ball drop that would usher in 2015.

The City Centre, Batavia’s City Hall, was transformed into a Century Club atmosphere, with a purple and gold theme. Attendees were encouraged to “Dress the Decades” and celebrate the City turning 100.

Jazz music was provided by the John Canale Trio, and Frank Gioia served as the DJ. The “heavy” hors d’oeuvres were catered by Dibble Family Center. All of the party-goers topped off the night with a complimentary champagne toast in a commemorative glass.

“The committee spent many, many hours of planning; we actually started eight months ago,” said Leanna DiRisio, Vibrant Batavia coordinator. “It’s really nice to see it all come together for the community.”