They Started in Erie
By Ginny Tonkin GoErie.com staff blogger
They Started in Erie celebrates those successful stars who've lived and started out in our big, little town.   Read more about this blog.
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Archive for the ‘They Started in Erie’ category
Posted: September 14th, 2010

Truly getting her start in Erie, this city icon was built in Erie’s harbor nearly two centuries ago.

In her fourth reincarnation, this Erie starlet spends her summers touring the Great Lakes and the greater ocean blue, making appearances at docks and various Tall Ships festivals. She threw her biggest party of the year at the Erie Maritime Museum this past weekend.

Flagship Niagara during the Parade of Sail Thursday at Tall Ships Erie

Flagship Niagara during the Parade of Sail Thursday at Tall Ships Erie

Who’s who: The Flagship Niagara

Why care: The original brig was decisive in 1813 at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

Erie link: Today, the ship docks at the Erie Maritime Museum as a piece of “living history.”

Landmark: Flagship Niagara stands as Erie’s city symbol.

Living History: The Niagara serves as non-profit educational program, offering sail training programs, designed to teach skills in leadership, communication, discipline, and teamwork. Programs run from day sails to full four-week programs aboard this tall ship.

Meet the crew: The brig sails with about 17 paid crewmembers and 20-24 volunteers at a time during the summer season.

A future for preserving history: Tall Ships festivals generally run every three years, perfect timing for Erie’s next festival: September 10, 2013 commemorates the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie.

Kind of a big deal: The Niagara sailed as the longest vessel in the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge 2010 with a sparred (overall) length of 198 feet.

Tall Ships Challenge: The Flagship sailed in the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge this summer, a race series organized by the American Sail Training Association. In Race 4, a stretch reaching from Sturgeon Bay Canal to Wind Point, Wisconsin, Niagara took first place in the Class A Division.

The Niagara also received special recognition with a Seamanship Award for helping German brig Roald Amundsen, presented “in the true spirit of seamanship.”

Race to Save the Lakes: This summer with Great Lakes United, the challenge series turned its focus to the environment in their Race to Save the Lakes. This challenge highlighted the importance of preserving both water quality and Great Lakes ecosystems, the world’s largest fresh water ecosystem.

Look at a photo gallery of members from Tall Ships Erie’s Green Zone watering a tree designated for the ceremonious combining of waters gathered for all five Great Lakes during the challenge this summer.

Tall Ships Erie: See photo galleries, watch videos, find your photo booth picture, and read more about Tall Ships Erie at GoErie’s Tall Ships Erie coverage.

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Goodbye for now: This past week was my last at GoErie: I’ll be leaving the country soon to pursue a year of teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) abroad. I’ll be keeping a blog of my travels and experiences; check back for a link to my updates.

Posted: September 8th, 2010

Butler, PA is not Erie, Pennsylvania, that’s a fact. But this congressional candidate says the issues facing northwestern Pennsylvanians are not zip code specific.

Taking a place in his father’s business the day after his college graduation, this Pennsylvania businessman believes putting good business sense first will help stabilize our nation’s spending problems.

Congressional candidate Mike Kelly

Congressional candidate Mike Kelly

Who’s who: Mike Kelly

Why care: This newcomer to the political process faces one term incumbent Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper, a race tagged as one of the state’s top midterm elections to watch by national observers.

Erie link: This automotive dealer was born and raised in western PA, although Kelly’s parents relocated to raise the family in Butler after his birth in Pittsburgh. A congressional candidate for the state’s third district, Kelly has been actively campaigning in Erie and around the region to gather support.

He and his wife, Victoria, have four children, George, Brendan, Charlotte, and Colin. He is the proud grandfather of four, three girls and a boy.

Previous experience: An active member of the Butler community, Kelly has served on the board of the Butler Area School District and currently serves as Councilman for Butler City Council.

Defensive tackle turned businessman: After a football injury put his dreams of playing pro to rest as a college freshman at the University of Norte Dame, Kelly found new motivation in his studies. “A maturing point” for Kelly, this injury turned him from “a boy with a dream to a man who realized there was a lot more to life.”

All in the family: Kelly started working for his father’s dealership at 14, and helped to build the current building, including digging trenches for the concrete. In 1967, he started as a Service Advisor, moving on to excel in sales the next year. He purchased the dealership from his father in the mid-90s.

Congressional motivation: “I couldn’t stomach that this would be the first time in America’s history that our children and grandchildren would be less well off than we were.”

Kelly’s plan: “Taxes, fines, and fees,” are three things that Kelly feels holds businesses—and the economy—back. Kelly looks to cut spending to end the deficit and help businesses succeed. He also looks to reduce corporate and wage taxes. He feels a simplified tax code would also curtail the government’s “ability to overreach.”

Side projects: Kelly serves as Secretary and Treasurer of Hyundai’s “Hope on Wheels,” a group that has raised $14 million to combat pediatric cancer.

Success: “…is a moving target,” said Kelly, who says it depends on his daily objectives.

Get educated: Learn more about Mike Kelly on his campaign website. Find out more about his Democratic competitor, Kathy Dahlkemper, on her site. Track campaign coverage on GoErie’s Campaign 10 blog. Find unbiased information on America’s elected officials at Project Vote Smart.

Who do you want to see? Let me know who you want to see next in They Started in Erie at gtonkin@goerie.com.

Posted: August 3rd, 2010

With too many lucky breaks, it gets hard to pass off your success as plain old good fortune.

You must have talent.

Landing her own recurring segment on the local nightly news at the age of 11, this Erieite scooped interviews from Michael Jordan to Jim Kelly until the allure of a normal high school life pulled her away from the small screen.

But lightning struck twice, and as a college student, she was on-air again, picked to co-host Live! With Regis and Kelly while Ms.Ripa was on maternity leave.

Now a successful TV personality, she can’t be just lucky. You can’t deny: This woman has talent.

Sansone is an avid dog lover, pioneering a doggie adoption segment on LX NY

Maria and Ralphie. Sansone pioneered a dog adoption segment on LX NY.

Who’s who: Maria Sansone

Why care: Sansone packs a résumé longer than veteran broadcasters, having her own show, “Down to Size,” on WJET-TV24 as a tween and co-hosting with Regis Philbin as a junior at Syracuse University.

Now a New York resident, she currently a works as a correspondent for LX New York, a lifestyle program broadcast daily for NYC locals on NBC.

Erie link: Sansone grew up in Erie, attending Villa Maria Academy for high school.

Lucky break: Mike Gallagher of WJET spotted Sansone during a slam dunk contest of Erie’s then basketball team, the Wave, as she wowed the crowd with her ham routine.

Turned down Oprah: Wanting to send the message to both her parents and her producers that she wanted to slow down to be a normal kid, Sansone turned down an opportunity to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Validation: Sansone didn’t do much with TV until college when she became one of 10 finalists out of 10,000 to be on Live! With Regis and Kelly. “That validated me for me,” said Sansone, who did not just want to ride the coattails of her “Down to Size” fame.

Erie’s big role: To get the final spot, finalists had to win online—one vote only from each computer. “I have to credit the people of Erie for getting me on the show, they really rallied around me,” says Sansone, thanking everyone who voted in one of the first-ever internet voting contests for her spot on Live!

After college: “I had the time of my life—this is what I knew I wanted to do,” the TV personality said of her time on Live! She has since been an MTV VJ, hosted MTV’s The Freshmen, Yahoo’s The 9, and YouTube’s PopTub.

Advice: “Everywhere I am, I try to put my own spin on it, make it my own,” said Sansone, who has pioneered a doggie adoption segment on LX NY.

Visits Erie: About four or five times a year, especially the holidays. A confirmation sponsor for her high school senior younger brother, she wants to make sure she’s in town to see those special events, especially his basketball games. And this summer, “Instead of picking some exotic place,” Sansone and her husband will be “kicking back in Erie.”

Sansone’s own “Taste of Erie:” Sansone brought her friends home for her wedding, showcasing Erie’s finest in a “week of festivities.” The bridal party celebrated at Waldameer Park, and guests were treated to a mini “Taste of Erie” at a Yacht Club rehearsal dinner, complete with Smith’s hotdogs, pepperoni balls, perch, and pizza from International Bakery.

Who do you want to see? Let me know at gtonkin@goerie.com.

Posted: July 13th, 2010

Remarkable people doing remarkable things. That’s who I get to talk to each and every week with this blog. The best part—they’re just like you and me. These guys started in Erie, following their passions to take them where they are today.

This week’s profile is a true Erie enthusiast, who I first caught visiting Waldameer Park with his family and then later at the Erie Yacht Club, celebrating with friends. You might have seen him, too, returning to wow hometown crowds at Saturday’s Party at the Plaza at West 8th Street’s Colony Plaza.

Bobby Borgia, international performer and magician

Bobby Borgia, international performer and magician

Who’s Who: Bobby Borgia

Why care: This international performer is a master illusionist and magician, and his résumé boasts a Renaissance man’s list capabilities of for hire. Borgia blends magic with acting, he currently resides in LA, bringing his magical instincts to everything he touches.

Erie Link: Born and raised in Erie. Mom, Dad, brother, cousins, and Nana of 90, all still hail from the area. Borgia went to St.Luke’s, and remains “best friends” with high school friends.

I <3 Erie: “I have the weirdest connection with Erie,” the L.A. transplant said. “I love it so much even my friends think I’m crazy.” Borgia hopes to buy a place in Erie soon, to refresh in between acts in L.A. Real estate requisites? A view of the sunset.

Street smarts: Performing on Erie streets, at festivals, and at local eateries gave Borgia the practice he needed to solidify his passion. As young as five-years-old, Borgia was performing slight-of-hand tricks in front of patrons at places like the Smuggler’s Wharf.

Big break: Hired as a magic consultant, Borgia broke into acting while standing on set and the director told the crew, “Put this guy in front of a camera.” Today, in addition to numerous magic specials, his acting bio includes appearances on TV shows Lois and Clark and The Pretender.

Around the world: Host of his own Carnival Cruise Line act for seven years, Borgia honed his craft while traveling from Singapore to the Caribbean.

Jack of all trades: An active creative and design consultant, Borgia has designed illusions for big-name music acts, such as Usher, Destiny’s Child, Boyz II Men, and Brian McKnight, making them appear out of nowhere in front of a dazzled crowd.

Next steps: A new show called “Intimate Phenomenon” is in the works. He also hopes to bring the show to Erie to film an episode.

Can’t get enough? Check out Bobby’s promotional reel from Westside Web, or see all Borgia’s magical stunts on his website.

Who do you want to see? Tell me  at gtonkin@goerie.com who you want to see next in They Started in Erie.

Posted: June 29th, 2010
Caryn Kadavy, oylmpic figure skater

Caryn Kadavy, oylmpic figure skater

Who’s Who: Caryn Kadavy

Why care: Olympic competitor in the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, Kadavy is an internationally acclaimed figure skater, winning numerous awards throughout her career, both as an amateur and professional.

Erie Link: Born and (mostly) raised in Erie. She’s the only member of her family born in Erie—most hail from Pittsburgh. Caryn currently lives and works in Erie, teaching skating locally and in Jamestown.

Bling-bling: Her most noted accomplishments include  finishing as a top competitor in the World Figure Skating Championships three times, making the top three in the U.S. Skating Championships four years in a row, and taking first place in the Moscow Cup, Skate Canada International, and the U.S. Olympic Festival.

She’s a natural: Kadavy took to the ice easily, progressing rapidly after her father first plopped on the ice in a pair of double blade skates at the age of two.

Practice, practice, practice: Stranded from the ice during the summer months, Kadavy lived in Pittsburgh with her grandparents to train while the rinks in Erie were closed.

Climb to the top: When she needed more ice time and more consistent coaching to progress, Kadavy and her mother moved to Rockford, Illinois, following her coach Charlene Guarino. From Rockford, mother and daughter moved to Chicago to train with Debbie Stoery.

“She sacrificed her career for me,” said Kadavy of her mother during her early training years, “so it was hard when I didn’t make it to nationals.”

Big break: Training with Carlo Fassi at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Frustrated at a mediocre showings, Kadavy and her family nearly gave up the dream. However when Fassi spotted her at a competition, he saw her potential. Progressing rapidly under Fassi’s instruction, she made it to Nationals within the first year, and in four years, she was at the Olympic Games.

Simply couldn’t do it alone: Although Kadavy’s work ethic and passion fueled her success, she credits her family, friends, coaches, and sponsors for helping her get to—and stay—at the top.

“I am very lucky that I had such a strong family that helped and sacrificed so much for me,” said Kadavy.

Success is: “Having goals and achieving them under a certain amount of pressure,” said Kadavy, “Success comes in so many different levels, in so many different ways.”

In 2010: Kadavy teaches skating in Erie, Jamestown, and also teaches clinics across the country, including Lake Placid. “When I teach a new element, it can take [the students] a while, but it’s very rewarding to see them get it.”

Always a home in Erie: Kadavy will always love Erie. Even if she and her husband moved away, she says they would keep a condo locally—and know that they always have a home in the Erie community.

“Erie is a wonderful town—it’s simple. It’s big enough, but also intimate, being by the lake. It’s easy to live here.”

Have a famous friend? Let us know whom else you want us to feature from the biggest small town on They Started in Erie at gtonkin@goerie.com.

Posted: June 23rd, 2010
Eric Williams

Eric Williams, Erie native, restaurant owner

Who’s Who: Eric Williams

Why care: Celebrated owner and head chef of two of the hottest restaurants on Cleveland scene, Momocho and Happy Dog, and is just getting started making his mark on Cleveland’s palate.

Erie Link: Born in Erie, Williams and his parents moved when he was four. Aside from this Ohioan transplant and “a few Kansas City stragglers,” the majority of Williams’ family still lives in Erie.

15 Minutes of fame: Williams’ restaurant Momocho was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Momocho, named for his son in Mexican slang meaning “hellion little boy,” is much more than a diner, drive-in, or dive: Williams’ signature “mod mex” flavor adds a kick to the sleepy Midwest imitation of Mexican cuisine, converting newbies to regulars who return to Ohio City for more of his Oaxacan oasis.

Driven: A high school dropout, Williams wanted to prove to his dad he could become more than just a short-order cook. Always drawn to the kitchen and the “flavors of the sun,” Williams worked his way from grill boy to sous-chef to manager, traveling cross-country, choosing to work in restaurants pushing the envelope on creative Latin cuisine.

With his desire for independence and vision of bringing “mod Mex” to the table, opened Momocho, his first restaurant in March of 2006. Following a business plan he wrote between jobs, he transformed a locally beloved but tired bar and grill into a hot spot on restaurant row.

Why this bright star isn’t soon to fade: His love for his craft: giving people good food and a good time. “Owning a restaurant is like going out every night of the week for me,” said Williams, who loves the instant gratification of a customer’s reaction to the food or ambiance. “The return on your work in seen all the time.”

But Williams also downplays the power of personality, explaining the success of his first restaurant  is “a testament to Momocho itself.” He also co-owns Happy Dog, a corner bar whose innovative one-item menu celebrates the hot dog, but with your choice of endless topping options, including “alien” pickle relish, fried egg, and Oaxacan black chile mole.

Who says you can’t go home: Although the hustle and bustle of running two restaurants keeps Williams busy, Erie serves as his escape. He relaxes with family at his aunt’s place with ATVs and horses and plenty of space.

Favorite Erie food: Grandma’s oxtail sandwiches. Good home cooking always awaits this foodie when he returns to Erie. “My grandma really cooks every time I come home. Why go out?”

Want a taste? Visit Momocho in Cleveland’s historic Ohio City neighborhood, or head on over to Gordon Square to enjoy live music at Happy Dog with a hot dog in hand.

Have a famous friend? Let us know whom else you want us to feature from the biggest small town on They Started in Erie at gtonkin@goerie.com.