Journey to Idol: Part 1

The band - "Weapons of Mass Percussion"

The band – “Weapons of Mass Percussion” – l – r : Buddy Brown, me, Merle Murphy, Tony Cervella, Kathy Habat, Andy Kennedy. Absent: Brian McGill. This was taken after their performance on tryout day.

Did you know there is an American Idol style talent competition going on right here in Lake County? Again this year, the Lake County Board of Developmental Disabilities/Deepwood is holding an Idol contest in its adult workshops, Vocational Guidance Center (VGC) in Mentor and Willoughby Workshop in Willoughby. I did not know how big this contest was until I became a part of it this year.

Andy and I Get a Big Idea

Some of you know my son, Andy.  Andy is 25 years old and has Down syndrome. He works every day at VGC.  He loves his job and his supervisors and has lots of friends there. Over the past few years, Andy has been involved in several group music activities with music therapist Bonnie Hayhurst of The Groovy Garfoose. During one of these activities his group performed the song Some Nights by the group, fun. In this activity they sang and played drums.

When the VGC Idol competition was announced this year a light bulb went on in my head. What if I got a group together and did that same song? I asked Andy if he would like to perform and he said yes. He gave me some names of his friends that he thought would like to be involved. This was a good start since Andy doesn’t volunteer much information. If he was enthusiastic about the project his friends would be too.

I ran the idea past his supervisors at VGC, Denice and Dawn. They both were enthusiastic about the project and promised their support. They helped figure out who would like to be in the group. I talked to VGC’s habilitation manager, Katie, about the logistics. She made sure everybody had the correct paperwork and permissions to participate. I ended up with a solid group of five guys and one girl. With most of our ducks in a row we started to rehearse.

We Begin Rehearsals and Hit a Temporary Roadblock

Our  first project was finding drums. I thought we could make drums but I ran into all kinds of roadblocks, the main one being time. Dawn and Denice called around to try to find someone to loan us drums. Pfabes Music in Painesville answered the call with the generous loan of a full set of drums and a set of bongos.  Thank you Pfabes!

Finally with instruments in front of them, rehearsals started in earnest. The first task was to name our group and choose “rock names” for each member. The group loved the name Weapons of Mass Percussion! Their rock names were even more fun to choose. Wildman, The Pearl, Giggles, Da Man, Tom-Tom and The Ninja were ready to rock it out with drums! It would be an understatement to say this group was attentive and were also fast learners. They were enthusiastic. They were also a polite and helpful group, carrying my computer equipment, drum bag and their drums without prompting. All have varying intellectual disabilities but I will not even mention them. To me they are a serious group of musicians!

Tryout Day

Our first objective was to get past tryouts. There were 16 acts trying out with only 10 spots open. By tryout day on February 12th, I knew they were ready. However, I did not realize what a big event tryout day was! Our group was up first so I went into the tryout room early to make sure our CD was in the stack and that our drums were set up. What I saw was amazing! The judges table was covered with a white cloth. At each judges spot was a blue place mat with judging sheets and pencils. Also on the table were water bottles and snacks.  I was in awe.

When I left the room the group was gathering in the cafeteria waiting area. I was informed that one of our members, The Ninja, was on a bus that was running late.  Because of the many acts waiting to try out, the decision was made that we should go on but that he would still be able to perform in the semi-finals if we went on. The group looked great! Each of them had put their rock star on for the performance. We had a group hug and I briefly went over the opening routine. They did not seem nervous but I was! Truthfully, I was barely able to breath.

Soon they were called in to perform. Each of them took their place behind their respective drums. It fell to me to introduce the group. I turned to the judges and said, “This is the group, Weapons of Mass Percussion. You have their real names in front of you so I will introduce them by their rock names. Meet Da Man, Wildman, The Pearl, Giggles, and Tom-Tom. They will be performing the song Some Nights by fun. “ I also informed the judges about the bus problem and it was confirmed that it would not be a problem. The gentleman at the CD player put our music on. I turned to him and said, “Play it loud!”

The first chord rang out and they started the intro routine. Then they started drumming and I almost started crying – they were doing such a great job! It was a little rough but that was to be expected at this stage of the competition. They finished the song and the judges applauded! There was a definite happy vibe in the room. I was told to expect comments from the judges on how to improve or questions about the act but they asked nothing.  On cloud nine we left the room.

Another group hug and then then each member went back to their workstations. I hung out in the cafeteria for a couple of hours to listen to the other acts that were trying out. Everybody was prepared and did their best. Each participant received a certificate of achievement for trying out and each person got a gift, hats for the guys and games for girls. We were told not to expect results until afternoon. I was glad I was not one of the judges. It was going to be a tough decision.

Waiting for Results

Since February 12 was Fat Tuesday, Andy’s group had a planned luncheon at Hometown Buffet so I went with them. It helped make the time pass and take our minds off the impending announcement.

Back at VGC after lunch, no one was in the mood to work. Finally, about 2 pm, the American Idol theme music came on the intercom and Scott, the facility manager, came on and said he was ready to read the results. The group gathered together and held hands. Scott, ever the joker, pretended he had lost the list and everyone groaned. Finally he said, “This is the list in no specific order.” We were all holding hold our breath and then we hear our group name announced – Weapons of Mass Percussion was in the semi-finals! We screamed, we laughed, we cried! We didn’t even hear most of the rest of the list. Each finalist was presented with a certificate informing them they were in the semi-finals on March 14.  At the semi-finals, three acts from VGC will be chosen to perform at Great Lakes Mall on March 30th along with three acts from Willoughby Workshop.

Rehearsals Continue

Since tryout day, we have been meeting three times a week for rehearsals. The group did so well in the first round I do not want to take away their enthusiasm or make it a drag to practice. I have them practicing sections of the routine and then run we through the whole song twice. They suggested some changes and we incorporated those suggestions into the act. We laugh and have a good time. By the March 14th performance, they will be ready to put on a great show. I know the audience of their peers and family will be smiling with joy when it is over.

The band in action in our new T's!  l - r:  Brian McGill, Merle Murphy, Kathy Habat, Andy Kennedy, Tony Cervella.  Absent, Buddy Brown.

Practice session in our new T’s! l – r: Brian McGill, Merle Murphy, Kathy Habat, Andy Kennedy, Tony Cervella. Absent, Buddy Brown.

We Get A Sponsor and You Can Help Too!

I would like to thank my employer, Carlo Miceli, president of Best Truck Equipment Inc. in Willoughby for sponsoring the group by allowing me to leave work and practice with them and by donating funds to buy matching t-shirts. If you or your business would like to donate cash or gift cards for prizes please contact Katie Huth, Habilitation Manager for the Vocational Guidance Center, at 440-350-5193 or email You and your business will be recognized and thanked for your support. You will also make some hardworking, talented individuals very happy!

Will Weapons of Mass Percussion be one of the finalists to perform at Great Lakes Mall on March 30th? They have as good a chance as any other act. Even if  they are not chosen, they are still winners! Stay tuned for part 2.


Look Beyond

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The Glee Club sings “Good Time” On Video

I know you’re just sitting today around surfing the web or watching old movies (Lawrence of Arabia here).   For a “Good Time”  click the video below to see a music video produced by Bonnie Hayhurst during the recent Glee Club activity through Lake Metroparks.  If the link below doesn’t work you can also view the video at

Yes, Andy is in it but everybody did a good job.  Andy is up first!

One caution – it appears that this can only be viewed on the web, not on YouTube mobile, due to song rights.  Enjoy!

PS.  There’s still time to donate to summer music camp and be entered into a drawing for an IPad 4!  Click over to “Give Your Regards to Broadway”  for details.

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Spring Break in Lake County

El Rodeo

El Rodeo

Spring can’t come fast enough for me!  I  have definitely had enough snow, wind and ice.  Slush covers every street and parking lot, salt is encrusted on my car.  I no sooner get it washed than the cycle starts again.  I’m ready for spring break but I can’t get out of town.  If you can’t either, click over to the Lake County Visitors Bureau for my story about where you can celebrate spring break right here in Northeastern Ohio!   

Posted in Food, Ohio, photography, Restaurant, Review, Seasons, Spring, Travel, winter | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Valentine’s Day!



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Kentucky Belle – A Civil War Poem set in Ohio

Garfield House

Today I went to a Civil War themed program at the the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, Ohio.   We heard a trio from Hiram College sing songs and read poetry inspired by writings about the Civil War.  This beautiful poem about the war and a beloved horse by Constance Fenimore Woolson was read and there was not a dry eye in the house by the time it was done.

Kentucky Belle

Summer of ‘sixty-three, sir, and Conrad was gone away-
Gone to the country town, sir, to sell our first load of hay.
We lived in the log house yonder, poor as ever you’ve seen;
Roschen there was a baby, and I was only nineteen.

Conrad, he took the oxen, but he left Kentucky Belle;
How much we thought of Kentuck, I couldn’t begin to tell-
Came from the Bluegrass country; my father gave her to me
When I rode north with Conrad, away from the Tennessee.

Conrad lived in Ohio-a German he is, you know-
The house stood in broad cornfields, stretching on, row after row;
The old folks made me welcome; they were kind as kind could be;
But I kept longing, longing, for the hills of Tennessee.

O, for a sight of water, the shadowed slope of a hill!
Clouds that hang on the summit, a wind that is never still!
But the level land went stretching away to meet the sky-
Never a rise, from north to south, to rest the weary eye!

From east to west, no river to shine out under the moon,
Nothing to make a shadow in the yellow afternoon;
Only the breathless sunshine, as I looked out, all forlorn,
Only the ‘rustle, rustle,’ as I walked among the corn.

When I fell sick with pining we didn’t wait any more,
But moved away from the cornlands out to this river shore-
The Tuscarawas it’s called, sir-off there’s a hill, you see-
And now I’ve grown to like it next best to the Tennessee.

I was at work that morning. Someone came riding like mad
Over the bridge and up the road-Farmer Rouf’s little lad.
Bareback he rode; he had no hat; he hardly stopped to say,
‘Morgan’s men are coming, Frau, they’re galloping on this way.

‘I’m sent to warn the neighbors. He isn’t a mile behind;
He sweeps up all the horses-every horse that he can find;
Morgan, Morgan the raider, and Morgan’s terrible men,
With bowie knives and pistols, are galloping up the glen.’

The lad rode down the valley, and I stood still at the door-
The baby laughed and prattled, playing with spools on the floor;
Kentuck was out in the pasture; Conrad, my man, was gone;
Near, near Morgan’s men were galloping, galloping on!

Sudden I picked up baby and ran to the pasture bar:
‘Kentuck!’ I called; ‘Kentucky!’ She knew me ever so far!
I led her down the gully that turns off there to the right,
And tied her to the bushes; her head was just out of sight.

As I ran back to the log house at once there came a sound-
The ring of hoofs, galloping hoofs, trembling over the ground,
Coming into the turnpike out from the White-Woman Glen-
Morgan, Morgan the raider, and Morgan’s terrible men.

As near they drew and nearer my heart beat fast in alarm;
But still I stood in the doorway, with baby on my arm.
They came; they passed; with spur and whip in haste they sped along;
Morgan, Morgan the raider, and his band six hundred strong.

Weary they looked and jaded, riding through night and through day;
Pushing on east to the river, many long miles away,
To the border strip where Virginia runs up into the west,
And for the Upper Ohio before they could stop to rest.

On like the wind they hurried, and Morgan rode in advance;
Bright were his eyes like live coals, as he gave me a sideways glance;
And I was just breathing freely, after my choking pain,
When the last one of the troopers suddenly drew his rein.

Frightened I was to death, sir; I scarce dared look in his face,
As he asked for a drink of water and glanced around the place;
I gave him a cup, and he smiled-’twas only a boy, you see,
Faint and worn, with dim blue eyes, and he’d sailed on the Tennessee.

Only sixteen he was, sir-a fond mother’s only son-
Off and away with Morgan before his life had begun!
The damp drops stood on his temples; drawn was the boyish mouth;
And I thought me of the mother waiting down in the South!

O, pluck was he to the backbone and clear grit through and through;
Boasted and bragged like a trooper, but the big words wouldn’t do;
The boy was dying, sir, dying, as plain as plain could be,
Worn out by his ride with Morgan up from the Tennessee.

But, when I told the laddie that I too was from the South,
Water came in his dim blue eyes and quivers around his mouth.
‘Do you know the Bluegrass country?’ he wistful began to say,
Then swayed like a willow sapling and fainted dead away.

I had him into the log house, and worked and brought him to;
I fed him and coaxed him, as I thought his mother’d do;
And, when the lad got better, and the noise in his head was gone,
Morgan’s men were miles away, galloping, galloping on.

‘O, I must go,’ he muttered; ‘I must be up and away!
Morgan, Morgan is waiting for me! O, what will Morgan say?’
But I heard a sound of tramping and kept him back from the door-
The ringing sound of horses’ hoofs that I had heard before.

And on, on came the soldiers-the Michigan cavalry-
And fast they rode, and black they looked galloping rapidly;
They had followed hard on Morgan’s track; they had followed day and night;
But of Morgan and Morgan’s raiders they had never caught a sight.

And rich Ohio sat startled through all those summer days,
For strange, wild men were galloping over her broad highways;
Now here, now there, now seen, now gone, now north, now east, now west,
Through river valleys and corn-land farms, sweeping away her best.

A bold ride and a long ride! But they were taken at last.
They almost reached the river by galloping hard and fast;
But the boys in blue were upon them ere ever they gained the ford,
And Morgan, Morgan the raider, laid down his terrible sword.

Well, I kept the boy till evening-kept him against his will-
But he was too weak to follow, and sat there pale and still;
When it was cool and dusky-you’ll wonder to hear me tell-
But I stole down to that gully and brought up Kentucky Belle.

I kissed the star on her forehead-my pretty, gentle lass-
But I knew that she’d be happy back in the old Bluegrass;
A suit of clothes of Conrad’s, with all the money I had,
And Kentuck, pretty Kentuck, I gave to the worn-out lad.

I guided him to the southward as well as I knew how;
The boy rode off with many thanks, and many a backward bow;
And then the glow it faded, and my heart began to swell,
As down the glen away she went, my lost Kentucky Belle!

When Conrad came home in the evening the moon was shining high;
Baby and I were both crying-I couldn’t tell him why-
But a battered suit of rebel gray was hanging on the wall,
And a thin old horse with a drooping head stood in Kentucky’s stall.

Well, he was kind, and never once said a hard word to me;
He knew I couldn’t help it-’twas all for the Tennessee;
But, after the war was over, just think what came to pass-
A letter, sir; and the two were safe back in the old Bluegrass.

The lad had got across the border, riding Kentucky Belle;
And Kentuck, she was thriving, and fat, and hearty, and well;
He cared for her, and kept her, nor touched her with whip or spur;
Ah! we’ve had many horses, but never a horse like her!

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Help make this summer Groovy and win an IPad 4!


Do you have an extra $25 just lying around gathering dust?  Put it toward a good cause and   be entered in a drawing to win an IPad 4!  Each summer Bonnie Hayhurst, Amanda Burchfiel and Kellie Dziemianzuk put together an amazing music/dance/art/drama experience for teens and adults with disabilities.  Andy has participated in this camp every year and he has a wonderful time.  Last year camp was made available at no charge to individuals with special needs due to the generous donations of people who believe that music/dance/art/drama should be accessible to all.  Won’t you be a part of this worthy cause?  Bonnie has given me permission to reproduce the camp announcement from her blog, The Groovy Garfoose,  in it’s entirety below.  Please follow the links to donate or contact Bonnie with any questions you may have.

Andy and I thank you in advance for helping to make this camp possible.  If you know or are an individual who could benefit from this camp don’t hesitate, sign up now!  Bonnie, Amanda and Kellie are therapists and special educators.  Camp is held at a convenient location in Mentor, Ohio, the last week of June.  Click over to the camp flyer for dates and times.

PS – did I mention that Bonnie is married to former Kent State Flash, major league pitcher (ret.), sports broadcaster and author Dirk Hayhurst?  Two up runners-up in the drawing will receive an autographed Dirk Hayhurst (the Garfoose!) baseball card AND an autographed copy of Dirk’s NY Times Best Selling book, Out of My League.  You won’t be able to put this book down!

Reblogged from The Groovy Garfoose:

Won’t you “Give Your Regards To Broadway”?

by BONNIE on FEBRUARY 1, 2013

Today it’s snowy and a balmy 26 degrees in Ohio; the perfect day to talk about the GG Summer camp! Yes, my collaborators, Amanda and Kellie and I, have been planning and scheming another GROOOVY camp for teens and adults with special needs and we are so happy to announce all the official details today!

Without further adieu, The GG is proud to sponsor the “Give Your Regards to Broadway” Camp: A music, dance, art and drama camp for teens and adults with special needs for a week full of fun that’s sure to warrant a standing ovation June 24, 28, 2013 from 3:00-5:30pm daily.  Click the camp flyer to get the full scoop or read the excerpt below to get a glimpse of the fun that’s in store:

write-up pic

Interested families and campers can learn more AND pre-register for camp by filling out the registration form here.

We are SO excited to offer the GYR2B camp to the special needs community that we hope to offer it tuition FREE!  Last Summer we were able to offer the Under The Sea camp tuition FREE with small $25 donations from readers like YOU! This year, our goal is to raise $2,000 by April 30, 2013.  Your financial support will not only help defer costs for families that have teens or adults with special needs but it will ensure that any family of a child with special needs can access this camp.  Now that’s a good feeling!  We believe that your donation will do so much good, that we want to reciprocate that feeling with the chance to win some amazing prizes!!!

For every $25 donation (or more!) that helps us meet our goal of $2,000 by April 30, 2013, donors will be entered to win one of three GROOOOVY prizes (contest rules apply*):

  • grand prize (1): the runners-up prizes PLUS a brand new iPad 4!

Yes, you read that right!  We are SO excited and passionate about providing FREE camps to special needs, The Garfoose and we are giving away an iPad 4!!!  We hope you will consider supporting the GG “Give Your Regards to Broadway” camp today and help us make an impact with teens and adults this Summer!  Thank you and keep it Groovy! =)



*Contest Rules: 1) To qualify for entry into the contest, your donations must total $25 or more and you must include your mailing address when redirected to the Paypal donation page.  2) Paypal donations are the only accepted form of donation for this contest. 3) Only one donation per family will be entered to win the prizes. Please be honest! 4) Winners will be drawn at random via taped GG video that will be posted on the GG blog on April 30,2012.  5) The iPad 4 is a brand new, black, 16GB wifi enabled retina display device.

**We are not a charity.  We appreciate all donations even though current tax code does not consider them deductible.

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“discARTed” Recycled Art Exhibition – West Woods Nature Center

discARTed-LOGO2Last weekend Dana and I stopped at the West Woods Nature Center in Geauga County to view the art on display in their annual “discArted” Recycled Art Exhibition.  Each piece was made from cast 0ffs recycled into beautiful and whimsical items.  Below is just a small sample – there are over 200 items.  Each one is unique and the show includes entries in the categories of artistic, functional and youth.  We found ourselves exclaiming “Wow” more than once!   The  show runs through March 30.

The nature center itself is a work of art.  From the viewing window, you can watch and hear the many birds flitting and feeding from the feeders outside.

Find the West Woods at:
9465 Kinsman Road (Route 87)
Russell, OH 44072 USA

Dragon rigged with torch so it !actually breath fire

Dragon rigged with torch so it !actually breath fire

P1140498 P1140490 P1140515

Costume made from cans and shells

Costume made from cans and shells

Can you tell what these are?  Bar coasters!

Can you tell what these are? Bar coasters!

Pond under glass table

Pond under glass table

P1140508 P1140507 P1140500

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February Lake Erie East Coastal Gazette

Quilts 2013 at Lake Farmpark, Feb 16 thru March 27

Quilts 2013 at Lake Farmpark, Feb 16 thru March 27 – photo Lake County Visitors Bureau

Wondering what to do in Lake County in February?  The February issue of the Lake Erie Coastal Gazette has the scoop on art shows, restaurants and Valentine’s day ideas.  Oh yeah, my review of Bistro 70 is in there too!

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Frozen Water and Jeni’s Sorbet

After seeing all the hype in the media about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams seasonal flavor, Influenza Sorbet, Dana and I decided to take a Sunday drive to Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  This quaint town in Northeastern Ohio has the closest Jeni’s store to us.   It is approximately 45 minutes away so we decided to make a day of it, have brunch and take photos of the frozen falls on the Chagrin River.


After a very snowy and scenic drive south on Route 306 we came into the heart of Chagrin Falls.  There were not very many people on the street on this cold day and we found a parking place right in front of our brunch destination, the Fresh Start Diner.  There was a full house at 11:00 AM but we found two open seats at the counter.  Service was fast and friendly.  We quickly had our buckwheat pancakes, fruit and sausage before us.   We ordered the short stack but these pancakes were plate size!


The waitress told me, with a smile, that if we didn’t eat them all we had to wash dishes.  I said you might as well give me an apron right now.  They were delicious but half came home in a box.  Buckwheat pancakes are denser than white flour pancakes and absorb syrup like a sponge.   Next time I’ll try the buckwheat waffle, but only one.

We moved our car further down the street and parked on the bridge over the Chagrin River.  It was beautiful, completely frozen in the middle with cascading water on both ends.   Although the air temperature was 22 degrees, it felt much colder standing over that icy water.

The Jeni’s store was right across the street.  We were the only patrons in the place and when we told the sales girls what we were looking for they shook their head apologetically.  One told us, “We had to pull that flavor off the shelves for repackaging.  Some people might think it was an actual cure for the flu.”  Really.   You may remember that this flavor is made with cayenne pepper, ginger, Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey, orange and lemon juices.  Word is that it is a tasty mix that makes your tongue tingle.  Some of you have already found out that it is being repackaged as “Hot Toddy Sorbet.”   She told us they would probably have it Monday or Tuesday and encouraged us to try anything or everything else they had.  We were disappointed but any time you go looking for “seasonal” or “limited” you might not find it.  Having never had any Jeni’s flavors before, we cheerfully plunged right in and tried several.


A very unusual one was the Queen City Cayenne.  A nod to Cincinnati Chili, it was very hot!  Even with a creamy chocolate surrounding the cayenne it was too much for me.   I also tasted Goat Cheese with Red Cherries and found that I do not like the taste of goat cheese in ice cream either.


After tasting about half the flavors in the case, we each made a choice.  Dana’s favorite was Cherry Lambic Sorbet, made with dark cherries and Lambic Beer.   It did have a faintly beery head, light like a wheat beer, with cherries mixed in.  Since I am not a beer drinker, it was not my favorite.  I instead chose Whiskey and Pecans, made with Oyo Whisky (distilled in Columbus).  It tasted just like you would expect, a heady oak barrel-aged flavor combined with nutty sweet pecans.

The sales girls were so nice to us, and felt so bad that we had driven all the way from Mentor (!) that they gave us a coupon for a free scoop.  We decided to save it for a future visit since we had already sampled what probably was the equivalent of a scoop apiece.

Jeni’s ice creams and sorbets are somewhat pricey at $10/pint.  But like craft beers, Jeni’s ice creams are made in small batches with premium ingredients.  For us it will be a sometime treat.  We might even, sometime, get to taste the elusive Hot Toddy Sorbet!

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Guest Blog at the Lake County Visitors Bureau – Bistro 70 Review

This week I am guest blogging over on the Lake County Visitors Bureau web site.  You can read my review of Painesville’s Bistro 70 here.

I will be writing about Lake County’s food scene each month.  Restaurants, food trucks, seasonal eateries, farm markets – I’ll give you the scoop on where to find all the good food in Lake County!

I am not able to post my usual photo galleries over there but here are some photos I took at the Bistro. Click on over to read all about them!

Posted in Food, Ohio, photography, Restaurant, Review, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments