Thursday, February 27, 2014

Honor Flights from Binghamton airport pay tribute to veterans


World War II veteran Gus Nicholas, of Glendale Heights, Ill., is pushed by Navy Petty Officer First Class Lee Hoffman as they visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2. Nicholas came to Washington on an honor flight. The first Twin Tiers Honor Flight is scheduled to take veterans from Binghamton to Washington in April.
World War II veteran Gus Nicholas, of Glendale Heights, Ill., is pushed by Navy Petty Officer First Class Lee Hoffman as they visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 2. Nicholas came to Washington on an honor flight. The first Twin Tiers Honor Flight is scheduled to take veterans from Binghamton to Washington in April. / Associated Press

An Elmira woman’s dream of establishing a local hub for Honor Flights as a way to pay tribute to her father and all military veterans is close to becoming a reality.
DeAnna Deneen said a $100,000 donation by Jeff Gural, the owner of Tioga Downs Casino in Nichols, will cover at least all the costsassociated with the first Twin Tiers Honor Flight. That flight is scheduled for April 5 out of Binghamton.
The plane, a charter Boeing 737, will fly dozens of veterans and their companions from the Greater Binghamton Airport to Washington, D.C., for a tour of military monuments and memorials. The flight will return later that day.
“This has become my way of giving tribute to my father and to all veterans,” Deneen said. “If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t speak English today. We’d be occupied, and we would not be the country we are.”
The local organization is part of the nonprofit National Honor Flight Network, which was formed in 2005. Through 2012, the flights had served more than 98,500 veterans from 127 hubs in 41 states, according to the
Honor Flights are for all veterans of World War II and terminally ill veterans of other eras. Some hubs, such as the one Deneen is organizing, include all Korean War veterans.
Deneen, a native of Louisville, Ky., moved to Elmira two years ago. Before that, she traveled back and forth for several years after her husband, Jeffrey, was transferred to the Elmira area by his employer in 2006. She is a substitute teacher and the mother of three. Deneen speaks with a Southern accent that helped her land the starring role as Sugar Lee in the recent Elmira Little Theatre production of “The Hallelujah Girls.”
About a year and a half before she relocated, Deneen began formulating a plan to start a local Honor Flight. She knew that most veterans from this region who have taken such flights had to stay overnight in Rochester.
Deneen said she hoped to fly out of the Elmira Corning Regional Airport, but she found more interest at the Binghamton airport. She hopes to eventually add flights out of Big Flats, with a goal of two or three flights a year from the region.
Linn Redder, vice president of marketing at Tioga Downs Casino, said she and Gural hope his donation will encourage other businesses in the region to contribute to future flights. As for Tioga Downs, she said, “If this is a huge success, I’m sure it’s something that we would absolutely do again.”
Deneen praised Gural for embracing the project “when we had a great deal of difficulty finding believers.” She said that “without the generous support of citizens like Mr. Gural, this mission could not be accomplished.”
Redder said Gural plans to go on the first local Honor Flight with his wife, Paula.
Eligible veterans fly for free. Each must be accompanied by a guardian, who pays full price. That price, typically a tax-deductible $425, will be $100 for this flight, Deneen said.
As of mid-February, Deneen had registered 30 veterans for the flight. She said she’s enlisted most of them after speaking to veterans organizations across the region and at the Bath VA Medical Center, although “I find them everywhere — at the grocery store, at thegas station, at Mass.”
Deneen, an Air National Guard veteran, said she has traced her family’s military history to the Civil and Revolutionary wars. Her late father, her uncles and two brothers served in the military, and her two sons now are in the Navy.
“In a lot of ways,” she said, “the military is my family business.”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tioga and Vernon announce 2014 stakes schedule

Tioga and Vernon announce 2014 stakes schedule
by James Witherite, Tioga Downs racing media

Nichols, NY – Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs have announced their 2014 stakes schedule, with an estimated $4.3 million in purses to attract the top horses in New York and across North America throughout the season.

Tioga Downs opens their stakes season on Sunday, June 1 with the $200,000e Roll With Joe Open Pace.  New York Sire Stakes races mark the calendar through June and July, leading up to the $350,000e Tompkins-Geers Stakes for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits.  Unlike years past, where the Tompkins-Geers Stakes have been contested throughout an entire week of racing, two-year-old pacers will have their events on Sunday, August 3, while two-year-old trotters and three-year-olds of both gaits will race on Sunday, August 17.  Between the Tompkins-Geers events, New York-sired sophomore pacers will take the spotlight on Sunday, August 10 in the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic, with separate events for each sex.  If needed, eliminations are scheduled for the week prior.

Labor Day (Monday, September 1) proves to be a banner day in the Southern Tier, with a trio of stakes events headlining the afternoon.  The $110,000e Shady Daisy for three-year-old pacing fillies and a $40,000e preliminary leg of the Miss Versatility for older trotting mares comprise the undercard features for the day, while three-year-old pacers take center stage in the $350,000e Cane Pace—the first leg of the Triple Crown for pacers.

The $125,000 Reynolds Stakes for two-year-olds closes out the stakes schedule at Tioga, with trotting divisions on Thursday, September 4, and pacing divisions on Friday, September 12.

Vernon Downs kicks off their stakes season on Sunday, June 8, with New York-sired three-year-old trotters contesting the $500,000e Empire Breeders Classic (like the pacers, separate events are held for each sex).  If eliminations are necessary, they will take place on Friday, May 30.  New York Sire Stakes events cover the early summer months, leading up to the first of two big nights at Vernon on Friday, August 29.  The $700,000e Harry Zweig Memorial Trot for three-year-olds once again serves as the centerpiece of the Vernon Downs stakes schedule, with top open trotters sharing the spotlight that night in the $200,000e Crawford Farms Trot (formerly known as the Credit Winner).

Two-year-olds of both gaits and sexes contest the $100,000e Simpson Stakes on Friday, October 24, leading up to a blockbuster Closing Night program, featuring a trio of rich events on Saturday, November 1.  Two-year-old trotters wrap up the Kindergarten Classic series with a $200,000e final, and top distaffers compete in a pair of $200,000e events as well—trotters in the Muscle Hill, and pacers in the Artiscape, which moved to Vernon after being raced at Tioga in past seasons.

Nomination forms and more information can be found at and