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John Purcell

Stories by John

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Helping out, one muffin at a time

‘Muffin Man’ expands fundraising efforts to breakfast in bed service

A basket of muffins might not change the world, but one man is proving it’s a good place to start.

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Altamont Fair a summer tradition

Old favorites and new attractions showcased at weeklong event

Alongside fair food favorites, the Altamont Fair is offering up something new to taste with some local flavor.

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The buzz at Farnsworth Middle School garden [video]

Local beekeepers looking to spur interest in honey hobby, offer guidance

Jennifer Ford and Keith Freeman conducted their first beehive inspection Friday morning, July 18, at Farnsworth Middle School’s Organic Garden. The couple has kept beehives at their home since 2008 and started maintaining one at the garden this summer.

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Drama outside theater walls

Eighth annual Helderberg Theater Festival features twist on classic, youth directors

The Classic Theater Guild Inc. and Indian Ladder Farms are teaming up again for The 2014 Helderberg Theater Festival, which will be held outdoors at the farm from July 17 to 27.

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Stable hands

Albany Therapeutic Riding Center seeking volunteers

Finding a sense of peace within the quiet, rural landscape below the Helderberg Escarpment likely is not difficult for most people. For more than 30 years, a local nonprofit has tapped into it to provide therapy for mentally and physically disabled individuals.

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Living history, one last time

Guilderland students hold 11th annual Living Museum; program to be cut next year

The likes of Thomas Edison, Davy Crockett and Helen Keller will probably not be seen again in Guilderland High School.

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Wildflower is no wallflower

Pine Bush Preserve to hold annual Lupine Fest, with recreation opportunities

There are 3,200 acres of gently rolling sand dunes in Albany County providing a thriving home for a globally rare ecosystem. The recreational opportunities are rather extensive, too.

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Fundraising for a friend helps the birds

Guilderland girl’s bluebird nesting houses supporting Tour de Cure team

Many have taken part in fundraisers before, but one local sixth-grade girl is going the extra mile and helping two causes with each birdhouse.

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The stage is set

School plays offer entertainment, showcase talent

This weekend, prepare to take a journey with a mischievous cat, cheer for a take on America’s favorite pastime, witness a man’s morally questionable rise in business, and groove to a royal exploration of popular music.

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Educators demand end of GEA

Forum focuses on effects of lost state aid to schools, rallies for funds to be returned

The regional forum, “NY Schools Still in Fiscal Peril: Our Kids Can’t Wait Another Year,” drew around 1,000 people to South Colonie High School on Thursday, Jan. 30, with a gym opened as an overflow room to broadcast it.

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Guilderland school district urges civility

Panel talks about interacting positively online and off

Guilderland Central School District, which recently dealt with an incident of cyberbullying, held a community conversation on how to use technology in a safe and responsible way.

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Chef’s cuisine drawing lines after school

New take-out program generating additional revenue for district

Balancing the books of a school’s food service program amid more strict federal lunch guidelines has led some districts to opt out of the new requirements and lose the funding tied to those guidelines. Voorheesville Central School District though is coming closer to getting out of the red without the federal funds with meal options for students and families.

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Altamont a holiday hot spot

Community group to host annual Victorian celebration

The village will be transformed into a festive hot spot during Altamont Community Tradition’s 12th annual Victorian Holidays Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 15, from noon to 6 p.m.

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One for the books

Colleagues praise retiring Voorheesville Library Youth Services director’s passion and creativity

Connecting with young readers of all ages is what attracted Joyce Laoisa to Voorheesville Public Library around 16 years ago. Although a library’s role has changed over time, her mission to inspire children remained steadfast.

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Burn off that bird

Local events let people run, walk or dance away those Thanksgiving calories

With Thanksgiving a few days away, some people are looking for ways to keep themselves off the couch and the calories at bay.

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Thanks comes naturally

Thacher Nature Center holds annual celebration connecting families to natural gifts

Fast approaching is the mad dash to retail stores for once-a-year deals on the hottest merchandise, but there’s one event coming up that allows people to slow down and connect with nature before the big feast that kicks off the holiday season.

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All the trimmings close to home

Give thanks to area farmers, businesses by buying local ingredients

A bounty of area businesses and markets make shopping local for all the ingredients of a customary Thanksgiving dinner a relatively easy task.

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Leashing in school safety

District plans to bring in K9 for locker searches; prior school shooting almost attempted

Guilderland school officials are implementing several measures to address safety issues, but the one attracting the most attention involves man’s best friend.

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Festival for the minds

MiSci to hold Super Science Weekend, Dudley Observatory kicks off activities

Realizing the richness of the area’s science offerings will be a simple calculation at an upcoming inaugural science festival.

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Paint is dry at new artistic haven

Albany Art Room reopens at new location, owner committed to staying in city

Finding a permanent home for a local business catering to artists of all ages ended up taking much longer than watching paint dry.

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Rail Trail expansion underway

Three-mile section in New Scotland to open this fall, Albany portion eyed for 2015

Enhancements to two bridges along the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail are progressing, and a three-mile section of the trail through New Scotland is expected to open next month.

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District helps plug into possibilities

Guilderland schools librarians help parents and students become cyber savvy

Guilderland Central School District librarians hosted on Thursday, Oct. 17, a program titled “Cyber Smart: Succeeding in a Digital World,” a series of workshops featuring interactive presentations containing tips for using online tools and accessing district resources.

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Frightfully friendly

Guilderland’s Trick-or-Treat Street offers festive indoor activities for local families

Guilderland High School is preparing to host its 10th annual Trick-or-Treat Street Saturday, Oct. 26. The event will see the school’s halls, cafeteria and gymnasium transformed into a Halloween haven.

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Screen time troubles

Time in front of computers and digital devices could lead to vision problems in children

For teens and tweens, it might seem like the world revolves around the glowing screen of a smartphone. But even younger children are spending more time with computers and other digital devices these days, and health professionals are worried about what the effects might be.

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Families at the finish line

Colonie Youth Center holds 10th annual 5K and kids runs promoting health and wellness

The Colonie Youth Center will mark a decade of hosting its annual Crossings 5K Challenge and Kids Runs on Sunday, Sept. 29, in The Crossings Park at the Rudy A. Ciccotti Family Recreation Center located at 30 Aviation Road in Colonie. There is race-day registration available.

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D&B advertised as the ‘epicenter for fun’

Dave & Buster’s opens in Crossgates Mall featuring food, drinks, sports and a lot of games

As you walk towards the flashing lights beaming from the “Million Dollar Midway” at Dave & Buster’s, it’s hard not to feel like a kid again.

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A day at the races

A Spotlight reporter spends time behind the wheel sizing up some high-speed go-karts

Fastrax Raceway, located in Crossgates Commons, features go-karts that go beyond traditional speeds associated with open-air racing machines, and the media was invited to see just how fast that meant on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

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Tradition gets its own recognition

Altamont Fair’s museums are the star attraction for volunteers, history lovers

Every year, the Altamont Fair draws thousands of people with its flashier facets, from the newest rides to a destructive demolition derby. But for a slew of volunteers, the main attraction is one that flings you back in time.

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The apples are on

Growers say it’s back to business after last year’s poor apple crop

The New York State Apple Association is expecting the upcoming yield of the state’s official fruit to be strong given “near-perfect” growing conditions bolstered production to typical levels.

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All’s fair in Altamont

Three-county event marks 120th year, offers more than thrill rides and good eats

The Altamont Fair is opening its gates and welcoming patrons for its 120th year on Tuesday, Aug. 13, featuring many of the popular attractions people look forward to every year, with some new ones mixed into the three-county celebration as well.

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Fitness and fun reach new heights

Guilderland reopens rock-climbing wall housed in historic barn to public

The Guilderland Rock Adventure Barn, or GRAB, reopened to the public last month after closing its doors several years ago following waning interest. Public use of GRAB is limited to Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of August.

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Guilderland PD to host a ‘night out’

National event marks 30th anniversary connecting police to community

The Guilderland Police Department Community Service Unit is hosting the local Night Out, which is the nationwide event’s 30th anniversary, on Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 6 to 10 p.m., at Tawasentha Park.

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Photo Gallery: Good times on the Rail Trail

Second "Fireflies and Fairy Tales: A Solstice Celebration"

The second “Fireflies and Fairy Tales: A Solstice Celebration” on Thursday, June 20, which was held along a one-mile portion of the Albany County Rail Trail.

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Old Songs plucking on

Acoustic roots music festival welcomes families, keeps traditions alive

Traditional acoustic music will once again be played at the 33rd annual Old Songs Music Festival, which kicks off Friday, June 28, at 3 p.m. and ends Sunday night at the Altamont Fairgrounds.

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Going outside the lines

Modern technology offers children a bounty of interactive experiences, but those familiar with Harold (of Purple Crayon fame) know true creativity doesn’t take much more than a few lines and a crayon.

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Students float on recycling

RCS students build floating creations for second Recyclable Boat Regatta

Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School students in Scott Peck’s Design and Drawing for Production course constructed boats complete with oars or paddles capable of powering an operator 75 yards across Lawson Lake for the district's Recyclable Boat Regatta.

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Trash to treasure

Guilderland students helping to expand Pine Bush habitat

Students from Farnsworth Middle School are helping to monitor an area near the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. Guilderland seventh-grade students were brought just past the City of Albany’s Rapp Road Landfill, where they looked for signs of life native to the Pine Bush at restored portions of land.

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A brief history of the natural world [photo gallery]

Environmental Fair at Five Rivers explores the present and past

Five Rivers Environmental Education Center hosted more than 600 students from around 10 Capital District elementary schools during the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s three-day Environmental Fair.

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[Photo Gallery] Taking a peek at farm life

Indian Ladder Farms showcases baby animals and activities

Baby animals returned to Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont on Saturday, May 4, with children clamoring to chicks, ducklings, bunnies, lambs, pigs and goats.

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Growing green habits

Family-friendly Go Green Day to feature recycling, demos, good eats

Go Green Day 2013 will be held Saturday, April 27, at Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland. Several area groups worked together to create the educational event and recycling drop off, along with opportunities to donate a variety of items to local causes and organizations.

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Stress test

New standardized tests have parents, educators worried about effects on students

On Tuesday, April 16, students in third to eighth grade across New York will sit down for the first day of standardized tests that adhere to the Common Core Standards. But it has been months now that parents and educators have worried pupils are being pushed too far with the sudden shift to more rigorous standards.

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Cracking the Common Core

New York’s students will start taking new standardized tests this year in the name of improving performance. So why are kids expected to fail?

Students in third to eighth grade will face English language arts and math tests adhering to Common Core Standards, national standards that were developed by looking at what students should achieve to be prepared for college.

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Ramping up wellness

Voorheesville holds Wellness Day to encourage an active, healthy lifestyle

Voorheesville Central School District’s Wellness Committee held its second Wellness Day at the high school and middle school Thursday, March 21, which was kicked off with BMX riders soaring into the air off a ramp in the gymnasium.

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Comic timing

Voorheesville workshop takes a graphic approach to storytelling

Elementary students were creating their own characters instead of reading about them Friday, March 15, at Voorheesville Public Library Friday, during a workshop hosted by Matthew Laiosa.

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Pedaling with a purpose

Two Guilderland 
‘Red Riders’ prepare
 for Tour de Cure

Pedaling for 50 miles on a bicycle would be an accomplishment for most, but for an 11-year-old with Type 1 diabetes, it is about more than just the ride.

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NYSUT calls out tax cap

Area legislators ask for increased state aid to schools

Public schools are in the budget limelight as local lawmakers call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to modify aid distributions guidelines, while at the same time the state’s largest teachers union is suing to challenge the constitutionality of the state tax cap law.

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Lasting legacy

Niskayuna Boy Scout collecting flags at drop boxes for proper disposal

After several years of dedication to Boy Scout Troop 34, Brandon Fine is collecting old, worn American flags for his Eagle Scout project, which was inspired by his late grandfather.

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Outside the box

Unique chocolate treats offer break from Valentine’s Day tradition

While chocolate is often seen as a can’t-fail Valentines gift, the traditional heart-shaped box of sweets might strike some as clichéd. But for those looking to stray from convention will be met with a sweet surprise at Capital District candy shops.

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Robotics power mental sports

Niskayuna and Mohonasen students compete at FIRST Tech Challenge

Niskayuna and Mohonasen students recently competed at the regional FIRST Tech Challenge Championship Tournament at Pace University in Pleasantville, and were among 36 teams of high school students bringing robots they spent months creating into the limelight.

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Niskayuna schools drop federal lunch regulations

District: Students balk at meals; participation down as food waste up

The Niskayuna Board of Education unanimously approved terminating the district’s participation in the National School Lunch Program effective April 1. The district’s lunch program is at a net operating loss of almost $70,500 from the start of this school year through December.

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