News of Otsego County

Daddy Al

Daddy Al’s Christmas Adventure

Daddy Al’s Christmas Adventure

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Daddy Al” and Susan Dick pose in front of their West Oneonta spruce as it was lit up at Rockefeller Center.

When Sue Dick moved into the home here where she and “Daddy Al” raised their family, she often wondered about the Norway Spruce in the front yard.

“I always wanted to decorate that tree,” she said. “But it was always too big and I didn’t have the stuff to do it. But now I’ve finally seen it decorated, and it was beautiful.”

With performances by Kelly Clarkson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Dolly Parton and Earth, Wind & Fire, the Dick family’s 75-foot Norway Spruce was lit as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree during the 88th annual celebration on Wednesday, Dec 2.

“We knew that tree was beautiful,” said his daughter Paula. “It was a magical night.”

“This year, we just feel the tree is vital,” said Rob Speyer, president/CEO of Tishman Speyer, which owns Rockefeller Center. “The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree always represents the holiday season, but it has also stood tall as a symbol of hope, resilience, and New York’s enduring spirit, from the Great Depression to 9/11, Superstorm Sandy through today.”

Speaking during the lighting ceremony, he continued, “2020 has been a difficult year, but New Yorkers have persevered, and we are determined to come back better and stronger. We are particularly proud to continue the joyous tradition this year.”

As it happens, the huge spruce was the second from Oneonta: The first, from the Country Club Road yard of Graig and Angela Eichler, adorned Rockefeller Center in 2016.

Following the delivery of this tree to Rockefeller Center Saturday, Nov. 14, “Daddy Al” reported emails, letters, Christmas cards and gifts began to show up at his deli and grocery on Oneonta’s West End.

“I’ve been answering emails all day,” he said. “They come from England, Haiti, Miami, Geneseo. People say I’m inspiring, but I didn’t know that!”

One person sent even a hardcover book about the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. “They told me they thought I should have it,” he said. “Another person who donated a tree sent me a little book about the tree, and I read it to my grandkids.”

But he had a fair share of detractors too, some who called the tree – it may have arrived in Manhattan after a two-day journey looking a little worse for wear – “the embodiment of 2020” and “The Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

“The New York Times called me up and asked if I could guarantee the tree would look good,” Al said. “I told them of course it would look good!”

But with the reveal a diminutive Saw-whet owl found among the branches after the 170-mile journey, softer hearts prevailed.

Rocky, as she became known, was rehabilitated and released by the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties. Her image adorned merchandise, memes, a painting by Cooperstown’s May Britt Joyce, a bobble-head and, most recently, the tail of a Frontier Airlines jet.

“We hear owls all the time,” said Al. “But I’ve never seen that one! I don’t know how she got in there.”

Before the tree lighting, the Dicks were taken to dinner and on a tour of the sights, including Top of the Rock and to see the famed Saks Fifth Avenue light display.

“I’d seen it on YouTube, but to see it in person was phenomenal,” said Susan.

And when word got around who they were, they had fans approaching them throughout the evening. “One woman came up to us and said that she had moved to Oneonta in 1982 and now lived in Rhode Island,” said Susan. “She asked if we knew some people that she remembered, and we did!”

The Oneonta tree was covered with more than 50,000 multi-colored, energy-efficient LED lights, and is on display through early January 2021, with COVID regulations, including social distancing, digital queuing, time limits and mask requirements, in place. The lit tree will also will be live-streamed each day from 8 a.m. – midnight.

“It was perfect,” said Al. “Just like we knew it would be.”

Gardeners from Rockefeller Center have already returned to West Oneonta for one round of landscaping and plan to return in the spring to build a new fence and plant apple trees.

And while they were there, they found a small sapling near the site of the former towering tree, likely one of the original pinecones taking root.

Rocky Honored With Frontier Airlines Tail

Rocky Honored With

Frontier Airlines Tail

Rocky, the Saw-whet owl found hiding out in “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, will be honored as the tail design of the Frontier Airlines new Airbus A320neo aircraft tail, Frontier Airlines announced last week. The airlines features animals on 100 of the company’s planes. “Each of our animal tails has a back story and Rocky’s is extra-special,” said  Tyri Squyres, VP of marketing for the airlines.  “She will be remembered for years to come and her story enjoyed by thousands of travelers who fly on ‘Rocky the Owl.’”
Daddy Al’s Tree Lights Up Rockefeller Center

Daddy Al’s Tree

Brings Christmas To

Rockefeller Center

The family of “Daddy Al” Dick, third from left, were some of the few people allowed into Rockefeller Center to see their Christmas Tree light up the night Manhattan sky tonight during the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, which was aired this evening on NBC. The event went virtual this year, and included performances by Dolly Parton, the Goo Goo Dolls, Gwen Stefani and others. With him, from left, is daughter Paula, wife Susan, granddaughter Autumn Edison and friends Shyann Bowman and Kevin Scheller.  The tree will remain on view – with COVID regulations, including mask requirements, digital queues and time limitations – until early January 2021, after which it will be milled for lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity. Though this is the second Oneonta tree to grace the famed plaza, rumor has it that there could be a third such spruce eyed in the area to become the coveted Christmas centerpiece. (Photo Credit, Brady Littlefield/
Rockefeller Owl To Fly Free Tonight


After Wild Ride,

Rockefeller Owl 

To Fly Free Tonight

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Rocky will continue her migration south when she is released this evening near Saugerties. (photo credit, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.)

ONEONTA – Rocky, the Saw-whet owl found inside “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, will be released this evening into a conifer forest near Saugerties, where she has spent the last week rehabilitating after her three-day, 170 mile journey from Oneonta to Manhattan.

When we picked Rocky up she was struggling,” said Ellen Kalish, Ravensbeard Wildlife Center Director and Founder. “We believe it had been about three days since she ate or drank anything. The first order of business was to give her fluids and feed her all the mice she could eat.”

During her recovery, Kalish was also surprised to discover that Rocky was actually female.

Rockefeller Owl Inspires Commemorative Bobblehead

Rockefeller Owl Inspires

Commemorative Bobblehead

Rockefeller, in bobblehead form

ONEONTA – Rockefeller, the diminutive Saw-whet owl found inside “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller-bound Norway Spruce, has been immortalized as a limited-edition bobblehead figure from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame.

The figure, available for pre-order, will ship in Feb. 2021, and $5 will be donated to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.

Though earlier reports stated that Rockefeller would be released in Oneonta over the weekend, a statement from the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center says that they are still deciding when and where to release him.

Oneonta Owl Hitches A Ride On Rockefeller-Bound Tree

Oneonta Owl Hitches Ride

On Rockefeller-Bound Tree

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Rockefeller,” the Sw-whet owl, hitched a ride to NYC in Oneonta’s Christmas tree.

ONEONTA – A Saw-whet owl who nested in “Daddy Al” Dick’s 75-foot Norway Spruce was rescued when workers tasked with transporting the tree to Rockefeller Center found the hitchhiker while putting up the tree in New York City.

According to a Facebook post, the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties received a phone call that the owl had been rescued from the tree after it arrived in Manhattan.

“I received a phone call from someone who asked if we take in owls for rehabilitation,” the post read. “I replied, ‘yes we do,’ there was silence for a moment and she said ‘OK, I’ll call back when my husband
comes home, he’s got the baby owl in a box tucked in for the long ride.’”

Thar She Goes!


Thar She Goes!

As more than 50 people look on, “Daddy Al” and Susan Dick’s huge Norway Spruce is lowered onto the flatbed that will carry it to Rockefeller Center, where it will be the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations that begin in early December.  Inset, two woodsmen from  Lynn Warren Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping, Newburgh, attach the harness to the spruce – midway up and at the bottom.  Once cut, the crane lifted the harness, and the tree swung – to “ooohs!” from the crowd, and some applause – and laid in on the flatbed.  The rig will be parked outside New York City until Saturday, when the lighter weekend traffic will enable it to be placed alongside the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, 22 acres that stretch between  48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues, about a three-minute walk from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  This tree, on Route 23 in West Oneonta, is the second Town of Oneonta fir tapped for the Big Apple festivities in four years; in 2016, Graig and Angela Eichler, Country Club Road, provided a record-tall 96-foot tree.  (Ian Austin/

Eyes On The Prize


Eyes On The Prize

Awaiting the arrival of state Ag & Markets Commissioner Richard Ball before the felling begins, “Daddy Al” Dick, who runs a West End deli of that name, admires his Norway Spruce for one of the last times.   His wife, Susan, is next to him and, behind her, longtime friends Bill and Karen O’Mara. (Ian Austin/
Only Oneonta Has 2 Trees Chosen By Rockefeller Center


Only Oneonta Has

2 Trees Chosen By

Rockefeller Center

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Daddy Al’s” Norway Spruce on Route 23 is due to be cut down at 8 a.m. Thursday. (Ian Austin/

WEST ONEONTA – Supervisor Bob Wood doesn’t want to brag, but there really is something special about the Town of Oneonta.

Bob Wood

“From my understanding, it’s the first time they’ve selected two trees from one community,” said Wood. “The rumor is they wanted it four years ago, but it wasn’t quite big enough.”

With the 75-foot-tall Norway Spruce on “Daddy Al” Dick’s Route 23 property due to be cut down at 8 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday), Oneonta is now home to not one, but two Rockefeller Center Christmas trees, centerpiece of a world-famous  holiday celebration spanning the Great Depression, World War II and now, COVID-19.

“We’re very honored to have been selected twice,” said Wood.

Chickens a la Oneonta?

Chickens a la Oneonta? Common Council

Considers Putting Recipe On Books


Edition of Friday, Oct. 3, 2014

“Daddy Al” Dicka helps his grandaughters, Jade Dicka and little Adara Martinoli feed his flock of chickens
“Daddy Al” Dicka helps his grandaughters, Jade Dicka and little Adara Martinoli feed his flock of chickens

It’s not a matter of which came first – the chickens or the ordinance. It’s about which one will go on the chopping block.

“There’s a lot of concern about where our food comes from,” said City Council member Bob Brzozowski. “People want to know that their chickens are cared for, what they’re fed and the quality of their lives. It’s the obvious solution.”

Under the proposed amendment to municipal code Section 1, Chapter 68:

• Up to 10 chickens would be allowed within city limits.

• Roosters, the outdoor slaughtering of chickens and the sale of the eggs are prohibited.

• Chickens must be kept in an appropriate-sized pen 25 feet from another dwelling, not in a front yard or allowed to free-range unsupervised.

The movement was started by Howard Lichtman, who wanted to add chickens to his River Street garden. “We have fruit trees. We grow our own vegetables. We thought it would be nice to have our own eggs from our own flock of hens.”

The laws preventing fowl from being raised in city limits have been on the books since at least 1975, according to Robert Chiappisi, code enforcement officer. “It’s hard to imagine it wasn’t allowed at some point in the city’s history.”

Lichtman and Chiappisi worked together to draft the ordinance. “It’s an extension of the urban farming movement,” said Lichtman. “What you can get out of your own backyard is so much healthier than what you can buy at the store, and it cuts down on carbon emissions and energy use.”

However, City Council member Dave Rissberger said he will vote against the proposed ordinance. “There’s nothing in this amendment that says someone can’t buy 20 chickens and throw them in the back yard without proper shelter,” he said at his ward meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24. “This ordinance doesn’t have any teeth for code enforcement.”

Citizens who have spoken up at Common Council meetings are worried that chickens will bring foxes into Center City, that chickens will run loose like feral cats and get hit by cars, or that the noise from the chickens will disturb the peace.

“My neighbors hardly know I have chickens,” said Al Dicka, owner of Daddy Al’s deli in the West End, just over the city line in the Town of Oneonta.

He raises 30 chickens in a coop on his West Oneonta property and sells the fresh eggs at his store. “At night, they don’t make a sound.”

And although they do occasionally make a break for it, his neighbors don’t really mind. “They eat the grubs in their gardens,” said Dicka. “And they don’t make hardly any noise.”

“It’s such a benign amount of noise,” said Brzozowski. “I don’t believe it will have a negative impact on the quality of life.”

“It’s good for me,” said Dicka. “Instead of sitting on my couch watching TV, I get up, go out and take care of them.”

The ordinance will be voted on at the regular meeting of Common Council, at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Oct. 7.

“They allow chickens in all five boroughs of New York City,” said Brzozwski. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to raise them here as well.”


Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103