Tuesday, May 30, 2006

CIRQUE NIAGARA GOOD OR BAD?

BUFFALO NEWS

Horses thrill, clowns bore in Cirque Niagara's 'Avaia'


By ANNE NEVILLE
News Staff Reviewer
5/23/2006

Cirque Niagara's "Avaia" includes spectacular horses, world-class acrobats and droll clowns - how could you go wrong?

Only very slightly, it turns out, with too little of the first and way too much of the last, and an opening segment with far too many slow-paced clown skits.

Perhaps hoping to ease viewers into the magical fantasy world where anything can happen, the circus opened with a clown languidly throwing imaginary pebbles into an imaginary pool, then a second clown emerging from under a bench, setting the bench on end and climbing to the top.

It was amusing-ish, and the crowd applauded politely when the clowns finished. But there was a sharp gasp when three sets of gorgeous costumed horses thundered into the ring, each ridden Roman-style by an elaborately masked figure - standing with a foot on the back of each horse. This was what we came to see.

The equestrian spectacle was followed by a group of acrobats who flowed into indescribable (and nearly unimaginable) towering arrangements. In a three-person-tall human pyramid, the top performer might support herself by a single hand on the head of the man below, for example - and then raise her body into a handstand on that hand.

Other highlights of the first act included two performers in German wheels, two large metal hoops joined by short bars on which the acrobats not only stood, but jumped, twisted and somersaulted. A springy runway trampoline enabled tumblers to sail through the air, and one who turned so many revolutions that his body was a blur drew spontaneous applause and cheers. Three acrobatic men balanced tall metal poles on their foreheads as three women scampered to the top, where they did handstands or hung by a foot.

Unfortunately, after each breathtaking acrobatic and athletic act, the pace of the show was derailed by lengthy clown meanderings. Having them entertain while equipment was moved into place was understandable, but the clowns took up far too much time with their slow-paced, tedious buffoonery. In one unfunny, overplayed and suggestive skit, a clown used a fishing pole baited with a large dollar sign as a lure for an attractive blond woman in the audience.

The very front seats in the big top are rows of padded folding chairs set in railed-in boxes, which obstruct the view of people seated in the front rows of the bleachers behind them. Few critical things happened at floor level, but some did, and missing the action was frustrating.

Although five horses made a magnificent spectacle as they were led into the ring and paraded around by robed figures, and three ethereal light-colored horses made a couple of quick dashes around the ring, the hourlong first act was short on equines. The highlight was a massive Russian Heavy Horse named Ronald who moved gracefully around the ring at speed while agile acrobats vaulted on and off his broad back.

The pace picked up considerably after the intermission, and the short 37-minute second segment was one galloping thrill after another. An incredible display of Cossack riding, with acrobats riding every way except astride a saddle, had people whistling and cheering. And if I hadn't seen one man spring from a standing position on the floor to a standing position on the saddle of a running horse, I would not have believed it could be done. The seven horsemen drew a well deserved standing ovation.

With a few trims and some pacing changes, the entire show could maintain that level of thrills. But a shorter show might eliminate the need for an intermission and the opportunity to buy snacks and souvenirs.




Friday, May 26, 2006

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT PLANNED

Parks head tells Rotary big plan to be revealed soon

BY JENNIFER PELLEGRINI Review Staff Writer

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -The Niagara Parks Commis­sion will spend half-a-billion dollars over the next 10 years to give tourists and locals more reasons to play in Nia­gara parks - including a "major announcement" com­ing this summer.

"Obviously, I can't tell you what that is just now, but stay tuned," Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams said Tuesday, during an address to the Niagara Falls Rotary Club at the Queenston Heights Restau­rant.

Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams was the guest speaker at the Niagara Falls Rotary Club's May luncheon, held at the Queenston Heights Restaurant Tuesday.

At least part of that money will be used to restore the Toronto Power and Canadian Niagara Power buildings along the rive which the NPC will acquire in the next couple of years.

The CNP building in particular, Williams said earlier this year, is in pristine condition, and would be the ideal spot for a museum dedi­cated to Niagara's connection to the history of hydro-electric power.

The Parks will also obtain a third power station building located in the gorge, which will be destroyed to "return the gorge to its natural state," Williams said.

While those projects are in the future; there are plans in the works for at least one new attraction for the summer of 2006.

"Moonlight movies" will be shown in the Oakes Garden The­atre this July and August, with midnight screenings of popular films.

During his half-hour speech, Williams stressed the importance of revenue generation to the NPC which does not receive any govern­ment funding.

Money made by admission fees to six attractions, as well as from park­ing lots, golf courses, gift shops, restaurants and cafeterias is used for roads and infrastructure mainte­nance throughout the NPC net­work, which extends 56 kilometres along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie.

Last year alone, the NPC invested $1.9 million in Queen Victoria Park, $725,000 in public washrooms in NPC facilities, $850,000 in greenhouses and $250,000 on the floral clock, Williams said.

"(Making money to support capi­tal investments and infrastructure upgrades) is becoming more and more of a challenge," he said. "So we must find new ways to generate revenue.",



MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT PLANNED

Parks head tells Rotary big plan to be revealed soon

BY JENNIFER PELLEGRINI Review Staff Writer

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -The Niagara Parks Commis­sion will spend half-a-billion dollars over the next 10 years to give tourists and locals more reasons to play in Nia­gara parks - including a "major announcement" com­ing this summer.

"Obviously, I can't tell you what that is just now, but stay tuned," Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams said Tuesday, during an address to the Niagara Falls Rotary Club at the Queenston Heights Restau­rant.

Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams was the guest speaker at the Niagara Falls Rotary Club's May luncheon, held at the Queenston Heights Restaurant Tuesday.

At least part of that money will be used to restore the Toronto Power and Canadian Niagara Power buildings along the river which the NPC will acquire in the next couple of years.

The CNP building in particular, Williams said earlier this year, is in pristine condition, and would be the ideal spot for a museum dedi­cated to Niagara's connection to the history of hydro-electric power.

The Parks will also obtain a third power station building located in the gorge, which will be destroyed to "return the gorge to its natural state," Williams said.

While those projects are in the future; there are plans in the works for at least one new attraction for the summer of 2006.

"Moonlight movies" will be shown in the Oakes Garden The­atre this July and August, with midnight screenings of popular films.

During his half-hour speech, Williams stressed the importance of revenue generation to the NPC which does not receive any govern­ment funding.

Money made by admission fees to six attractions, as well as from park­ing lots, golf courses, gift shops, restaurants and cafeterias is used for roads and infrastructure mainte­nance throughout the NPC net­work, which extends 56 kilometres along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie.

Last year alone, the NPC invested $1.9 million in Queen Victoria Park, $725,000 in public washrooms in NPC facilities, $850,000 in greenhouses and $250,000 on the floral clock, Williams said.

"(Making money to support capi­tal investments and infrastructure upgrades) is becoming more and more of a challenge," he said. "So we must find new ways to generate revenue.",



MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT PLANNED

Parks head tells Rotary big plan to be revealed soon

BY JENNIFER PELLEGRINI Review Staff Writer

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -The Niagara Parks Commis­sion will spend half-a-billion dollars over the next 10 years to give tourists and locals more reasons to play in Nia­gara parks - including a "major announcement" com­ing this summer.

"Obviously, I can't tell you what that is just now, but stay tuned," Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams said Tuesday, during an address to the Niagara Falls Rotary Club at the Queenston Heights Restau­rant.

Niagara Parks Commission chairman Jim Williams was the guest speaker at the Niagara Falls Rotary Club's May luncheon, held at the Queenston Heights Restaurant Tuesday.

At least part of that money will be used to restore the Toronto Power and Canadian Niagara Power buildings along the rive which the NPC will acquire in the next couple of years.

The CNP building in particular, Williams said earlier this year, is in pristine condition, and would be the ideal spot for a museum dedi­cated to Niagara's connection to the history of hydro-electric power.

The Parks will also obtain a third power station building located in the gorge, which will be destroyed to "return the gorge to its natural state," Williams said.

While those projects are in the future; there are plans in the works for at least one new attraction for the summer of 2006.

"Moonlight movies" will be shown in the Oakes Garden The­atre this July and August, with midnight screenings of popular films.

During his half-hour speech, Williams stressed the importance of revenue generation to the NPC which does not receive any govern­ment funding.

Money made by admission fees to six attractions, as well as from park­ing lots, golf courses, gift shops, restaurants and cafeterias is used for roads and infrastructure mainte­nance throughout the NPC net­work, which extends 56 kilometres along the Niagara Parkway from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie.

Last year alone, the NPC invested $1.9 million in Queen Victoria Park, $725,000 in public washrooms in NPC facilities, $850,000 in greenhouses and $250,000 on the floral clock, Williams said.

"(Making money to support capi­tal investments and infrastructure upgrades) is becoming more and more of a challenge," he said. "So we must find new ways to generate revenue.",



Sunday, May 07, 2006

NO BULL MAY 2006

It's Election Time...Don’t miss out!

Our General Membership Meeting on May 18 is the most important meeting for all of us to attend. We will elect our Local Executive who will be representing us for the next two years. In addition, your negotiating team will be elected. This group will be working hard to bring you the best possible contract for your ratification. This could be a difficult round of bargaining. The contract sets your wages, benefits and working conditions. If this doesn't motivate you to get off the couch on that third Thursday in May, you must not care what you are paid or how you are treated in the workplace.

The General Manager of the Parks has indicated to

me that they would like to start negotiations early. I am

in favour of this, as an early agreement would take the

stress off of all of us. We would know that there wont

be a disruption in our pay due to a strike or lockout.

The reality of the situation is that, in order to ensure we

are treated fairly, we must be in a position to turn down

an unfair offer. It's always a good idea to put a little

money aside now as an emergency fund, then we can

vote with a clear mind.

Your Executive has taken our employer to task on several issues with policy grievances. One of our big issues is the employer's improper exlusion of workers from the Union. Although I am restricted from detailing our progress, I will say that all of the past members that come back into our local, as well as any new members will be welcomed. Our Executive will strive to represent all of our brothers and sisters to the best of our ability.

Over the past six years or so, our membership has dropped by about 250 workers. This would represent about a 33% loss of unionized jobs. One would assume that such a large drop in workers would be mirrored by an equally large drop in management, after all there are fewer workers to manage... Unfortunately, the only thing that seems to be shrinking is the Park's buying

power and the profits that the Parks are reporting.

I am in full support of the Code of Respect, and would like to thank all of the people that worked on this difficult document. These are fine ideals and I see their benefit, providing they apply to everyone. Human Resources should lead the way and perhaps rethink their position on defending some manager's tendencies to treat their workers unfairly and without respect.

Come out and have your say at the May 18 meeting. Make sure to make your vote count., .or take your chance that someone else can read your mind. I hope to see more members stand for elections as Stewards, Executive and Negotiators. We need more activists to share the responsibility of improving our workplace

In Solidarity

BillRudd

Words of wisdom! calm

Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how living remains so popular?

How can a cemetery raise its burial costs and blame it on the high cost of living?

Just remember, if the wolrd didn't suck, we'd all fall off

You can't have everything, where would you put it?

If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

The things that come to those who wait could be the same things left behind by those who got there first.

A note from our secretary.

I appreciated the opportunity this term of being a member of our
Local executive has given me. I feel that it is time to pass along the
duties of secretary to someone else. 1 will remain a steward and would
be happy to assist our new Local Secretary during the transition
period.

I was glad to see that attendance at the General Membership meetings has increased, but there is still room for improvement. It can't be said enough that there is strength in numbers. We need to stick together now more than ever.

The Executive has made some great strides and hopefully, with the support of the membership, will continue to do so. Although we still see signs of apathy in the ranks (which is disappointing) I think that times are changing and our members are starting to realize that there is no Union without yoU

In solidarity

FredHopkins

The same old song and dance

This time it will be the price of gasoline. Management has been singing a two song selection for years now, and they're getting a little stale.. .There just aren't as many visitors cominmg to the Falls, or people just aren't spending enough money at Park venues that chorus is follewed with a medley of 9-11, Sars, Mad cow, and the strong Canadian dollar eventually a new chorus will be passport requirements. I'm sure this years the favourite tune will be the high price of gas. Perhaps it is time to question the obvious. Is it time to change the way our Park is being managed?

Often, when an outside business suffers a drop in their numbers they respond with a sale, longer hours, special offers or events designed to bring in more customers. Grocery stores : refer to thi s as a lost leader. The item itself does not make any money, but while the customer is in the store, they often pick up other items and generate more revenue. The Parks goes about things a little differently, they raise their prices and cut the services. It seems that the stores are offering the same old things for sale at high prices. Value for money? This concept seems lost on our management. Peopl e are not going to spend their hard earned vacation budget on overpriced food, souveniers and attractions.

It seems that too many of management's decisions are based on saving money by chopping bargaining unit jobs and hours. Without the staff to help the visitors, or the venues being closed, how can you increase revenues? We have a double standard in our Park. s Last year many of us were required to attend customer service and image training. The message was clear: the buck stops here with us, the front line workers in the Park. The customer is number one and we shopuld strive to make them happy, be­cause happy customers spend more money. These are great concepts The problem is that we (the workers) are trying our damdest to do our jobs and serve the customer while they (the management) are making decisions that make our jobs that much harder, or in some cases impossi­ble. Management make the deci­sions and we take the hits... Shorter seasons, shorter hours and fewer bargaining unit jobs. But hey we are a team and we are in this together... we have to tighten our belts because of higher costs and fewer visitors... and the song starts again...

When is management responsi­ble? When will management take the hit? In the shoulder season fewer attractions are open and those that are have shorter hours. We are encouraged to upsell. Sell them an adventure pass at 4pm and don't ask if they will be here long enough to use the pass. At that late time workers know that the visitors will not be able to completely use all of the coupons. But hey, we got the sale...never mind that the visitor leaves the Park with a bad taste in their ' ' mouth, feeling that they have been ripped off What do you think that they will be telling their friends and family about us when they get back home?

Once we hit labour day, things start to shut down early. The weather may be great and it's still light until 7:30 but we close up shop at 5 or 6 PM but the cost of a ticket doesn't come down to reflect the decrease in service.

We have fireworks every Friday and Sunday at 10 PM all summer. The idea is to keep people in the park longer so they spend more. Great idea, .except that many of the venuse are closed. The busses stop running past the Rainbow bridge so anyone who paid $9.50 to ride our busses and are staying north of the bridge are out of luck. Our managers said that they can always catch the falls shuttle... • -for another few dol lars... How's that for customer service?

Perhaps I'll make up my own song and dance to explain our falling profits to management. I goes like this: The trouble really began in our Park when you stopped treating our customers like gold and started treating them like income

In solidarity

Barb Wilson

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

lan Mather

Recently the Niagara Parks announced a planned 28 million dollar renovation at Table Rock. Overall the idea is not a bad one, however it disturbs me that the Captains of this very unstable ship seem to see the iceberg ahead but refuse to steer the ship around it.

During the information seminars introducing the renovations it was mentioned that the NPC has continued to improve since 2003 with another profitable year. But then in the same meeting it was also mentioned the NPC was still paying off a debt that has lingered for a few years.. .perhaps from a few lean years in tourism traffic and a few poor business decisions which may turn out to be Legendary.

The parks is planning on borrowing money to pay for this new renovation that is to be completed over the next two winters. Two winters? I hope that the next two winters are mild like this past one and that there are no east winds, (can you say weather delays and blown budgets...)

On top of that, is it just me, or is borrowing 28 million dollars when you are still paying off previous debts, and starting a huge renovation something that should be put on hold until the issue of border security and passports is settled by the US and Canadian Governments. (Many tourism operators are scared about a big drop in business if the passport requirements go through in the next year or two)

During the evening seminar I asked about the new walkway that will take pedestrians from the incline railway (Falls Parking) to Table Rock. Keeping pedestrian traffic off the parkway is a great idea. The Park presentation was very informative on paper, but like some past NPC projects, the thought process stopped at the drawing board.

In attendance were the senior, oops "Executive" Directors, all giving their "go team go” talks and general answers to local residents.

For those of you that didn't see the new plans (as usual the session was held when most seasonals were still laid off.) 100 parking spots in the Falls Parking will be replaced with a gathering-entrance way to the new walkway which goes over the parkway to a new and improved second floor at Table Rock House. Along with the main walkway to get to the falls, there will be an improved walkway to the illumination building.

As 1 walked through the plans with Bob Mcllveen, I asked him how we are going to maintain these areas in the winter months? Is there going to be a roof on the walkway to protect it from the elements? Is there going to be access for service vehicles on the incline side of the walkway? Will the pathway to the illumination building be maintained year-round? His response: "well we are still working on those things and I'm not sure what the plans are for that"

The Parks tries to convince us that open communication is the key to getting along. Unfortunately there is still an 'us and them' mentality. Like so many other projects in the Parks, these types of issues wont be addressed until after the project is complete... and then: oops, we never thought of that... and the renovations of the renovations will begin...

28 million dollars, just think about how much better the Parks would look if that money was invested in repairing and maintaining buildings, walkways, walls, curbs, railings, stairs, lighting, roadways, service vehicles (unless you include the infamous 1OOG french fry truck) and most importantly, the quality of life of its employees.

One final thought, I wonder if any of our leaders have

ever considered this; Victoria Park restaurant has gone

through its second major renovation in as many years. All to

attract visitors. It seems to be working and continues to

improve profits according to the information presented to us.

People can dine enjoying a fabulous view of the Falls, unless

you are in a wheelchair or similar assisted mobility device.

With all the money and time being spent at this venue. Why

couldn't the powers that be think to put in an elevator to ensure that the building is fully accessible for all people, and wouldn't it be easier for the workers to move items from one floor to another? Maybe if there was no elevator at Oak Hall, one could appreciate the difficulties of moving from one floor to another.

June weddings

CALM

If Yoko Ono married Sonny Bono she'd be yoke Ono Bono.

If Snoop Dogg married Winnie the Pooh, he'd be Snoop Dogg Pooh.

If Sondra Locke married Elliott Ness, then divrced him to marry Herman Munster, she'd become Sondra Locke Ness Munster.

If Ivana Trump married in succession, Orson Bean, King Oscar (of Norway), LouisB mayer and Norbert Wiener (mathmatician), she would then be Ivana Bean Oscar Mayer Wiener.

Mark these dates!

General Membership Meeting

Thursday May 18

7PM

Branch 479 Legion (Spring St)

* Election of negotiating team

* Election of Stewards and executive

* Updates

Demand set meeting to be announced

Our Motto (Besides No Bull!)

The No Bulletin is published and mailed to all signed in members. The No Bulletin is your newsletter. If you have any related articles, jokes or cartoons, please give them to:

Marie Stokes (Editor)

at 6548 Dunn St. (905) 357-4219

We welcome your comments and suggestions and we reserve the right to edit for length and content.