By Joe DeGweck


It’s July once again and once again we can look forward to all the exciting and entertaining events that bless our Western New York Community. The days spent at our beaches, the cooling breezes that caress our spirits as we sit restfully in our parks enjoying the lively sounds of our children playing.

The baseball games at Dunn Tire Park. The live concerts at Art Park and Shakespeare in the Park at Delaware Park continue to enhance the quality of life for families in our community. These are just a few of the enjoyable episodes offered to us as Western New Yorkers.

This month After50 News would like to acknowledge another such occurrence and the person responsible for its inception. This event is the 3rd Annual Custom Chopper Bike Show being held at the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, New York. The person responsible for creating and setting up this display is Dale Snyder, Executive Director of Facilities at this entertainment center. Every July we enjoy the opportunity of being able to whole-heartedly offer a different perception into that adventurous and free-spirited sport of motorcycling. Many of our readers participate in this activity and many others are intrigued by the liberated fortitude it has to offer.

This July 11-13, 2008, over 125 bikes will be on display in the Seneca Niagara Events Center. Roger Bourget of Bourget’s Bike works will be among these. These bikes seem to be a favorite of Dale’s. There will also be Redneck Choppers and a guest appearance by Eddie Trotta of Thunder Cycle Design.

Many local bike builders and dealerships will be present to share their enthusiasm and to offer a variety of new and innovative designs in this growing sport. And with the price of gas, no wonder it is growing! In the past this show has featured appearances by Mike Pugliese, an award-winning bike builder. Jim Kelly, who is also a bike enthusiast, participated in past shows; and Dale proudly states that this is a venue from which fund raisers can be promoted for special causes, such as the Hunters Hope Foundation. Dale invites everyone to come and enjoy this event and to share with him their own stories about motorcycle riding.

Dale Snyder is a humble yet prideful man, and as he graciously gave me a tour of this facility, he shared with me his vision and his hope. As a member of the “People of the Great Hill,” the “Keeper of the Western Door,” Dale’s character is probable best defined by this foresight and hopefulness for his people. He is a member of the Seneca Nations of Indians and his astuteness and detail regarding their culture was prodigious.

Dale pointed out the architectural detail and significance within this edifice of his people. The chandeliers throughout the building all signified some aspect of their heritage. The variety of Wampum belts etched into the tile walls each demonstrated a different, yet important meaning or message. The sculptures of animals, that represented his peoples’ clans, engulfed the beauty and freedom of a well-defined and secure culture.

The artwork on the walls denoted the individual creativity and traditional history of a resourceful nation. Dale also spoke of the practical attributes that this business emporium would provide for his people. The opportunity for employment was acknowledged. The financial resource that would be used to combat their fight against diabetes, which has almost reached epidemic proportions within his community, was another consideration.

Dale also shared with me his personal life. He has been married to his wife for 25 years. They meet while Dale was riding his motorcycle with a friend over 35 years ago. He told his friend, now his brother-in law, that he would “marry her some day,” and he did, 10 years later.

Dale also spoke of his difficult transition back into civilian life after serving in the 173rd Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. His resentment of having to be isolated by barriers against protestors who tried to spit on him upon his return from fighting a war he didn’t choose and a duty he responsibly served for his country. He spoke emotionally and elatedly about his reuniting with his brother, Art, after many years of separation. Dale was proud of the accomplishments of his brother Barry, who has served as President of the Seneca Nation for three terms now.

But I sensed that his real pride was for his two sons, Austyn Hawk Snyder and Wes Seneca Snyder. The oldest, Wes, is a U.S. Marine. He has served three tours of duty already in Iraq. Dale’s youngest son, Austyn, has just graduated from high school. He has acquired interest and developed skills in mechanics and is leaning toward a career in that area. Dale claims that “together they were raised on four wheelers” and when Wes returns from his duty and completes his commitment to the Marines, they will probably pursue a hobby in racing them.

As I left I couldn’t help but think about what I had just learned. I reflected back upon the bookcase in Dale’s office. The pictures of his family, friends and community adorned its shelves. The symbols of his culture ornamented its sills.

Dale’s membership plaque in the American Legion Post 1587 displayed his continued dedication. His picture alongside The Seneca Nation Veterans Memorial determined his commitment to the “freedom and democracy of the United States of America” and “so that people within the circle of life can live in peace.”

I stopped a moment and gazed upon the lighted eagle feather at the top of the hotel, only to think of how assured Dale was that his life had evolved within the circle of his people, The Seneca Nation, and all he humbly represented: their strength and character. I drove away thankful for the opportunity of having met this man and how, to me, he represented so many. He was as many of us are: a husband, a father, a brother, a friend, an attendant in service to a community. How blessed I felt to be a Western New Yorker and how anxiously I looked forward to another summer day of fun, learning about the sport of motorcycling.

Dale Snyder
Photo by Jeff Barnes
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