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...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Good (and haunted) Times At The Earlville Opera House

I just adore Halloween. As a kid I loved dressing up as a witch or a ghost on this one day a year and heading out to trick-or-treat. Maybe I should have been an actress, so much do I get into the taking on of a different persona from the one I have 364 other days. I admit, I may have carried on a bit too much in my teens without benefit of costume, running around the park throwing eggs at classmates and getting squirted with chocolate syrup. We didn't vandalize, didn't steal pumpkins, didn't really cause any trouble. I suspect adults back then peered out windows and wondered if we would misbehave in a big way. We didn't. We just had fun, after which I went home late and washed eggshells out of my hair, the only victim of my night's events being a ruined pair of Hershey's- and yolk-soaked suede shoes.

Now I'm sort of old. Not exactly old, but...you know...older. Ah, but only older chronologically. My little Halloween heart remains young: I still like dressing up, although I admit eggs and chocolate are no longer in favor. And this year I got my Halloween fix early, at The Earlville Opera House.

For those of you who don't know (and who should mark it down on your calendar for next year), the wonderful opera house sponsors an annual haunted house night, free of charge. Dodie Page, of Black Cat Antiques in Earlville, and opera house executive director Patti Lockwood-Blais, put together a delightfully haunted evening at the opera house every Halloween. Last Saturday I was invited to participate as one of the volunteer ghouls. I couldn't wait...could...not...wait...and when Saturday afternoon rolled around I was in front of my mirror, globbing on black make-up and fluffing the wonderful ghastly hilarious horrible long black wig that I reserve for such occasions. There were still plastic spiders in the wig from last year, which of course I left in place. I smeared on blood-red lipstick, donned pointed shoes, selected one of the many masks that I keep in my special Halloween trunk, and roared off to Earlville, where I spent several spook-filled hours trying my best to scare the wits out of kids and adults alike.

Dodie and Patti deserve high praise. The historic opera house -- complete with skeletal piano players and eerie organ music and graveyard scenes -- did not disappoint. I was stationed in "the wedding reception" room, where table displays included nuptial treats like severed hands and rodent hors d'oeuvres.  I drifted among ghostly manikins, freezing when kids and teens and parents arrived, causing them to wonder if I was fake or real, and ultimately reaching out to touch an arm belonging to someone who shrieked in surprise. A few children ran away, wailing and strangely delighted. One young fellow, enjoying the festivities so much, kept going round and round, finally admitting that he'd traveled from lower floor to upper 21 times. Breaking character, I asked him, "WHY are you here again??" He said, "This is fantastic! This is so much fun!! I want to volunteer as an actor next year!!!"

Good for you, kid. And good for Dodie and Patti and all the other adults who showed up in costume. This is exactly what we want, for kids to participate in good clean fun.

How many times, I wonder, have I said that I love a city life? This life, however -- this rural life -- is so much more rewarding. Putting on a black wig and shuffling off to a place where people work hard to thrill some kids on Halloween. For free. Oh sure, there was a donation box, but that wasn't really the point. The point was to open doors to a fabulous, historic building that the rest of the year features art and music, a place where people spend weeks in October setting up scary creepy scenes to thrill and delight families, to make memories for children who will look back someday and remember The Earlville Opera House and say, "Wow, that was something really special." 

Both Patti and Dodie called me today and thanked me for showing up. Ladies, it was my pleasure. And please, put me on the list of October 2014.

I'm looking forward to seeing that 21-time kid next year. He got it, like I did 40+ years ago. Halloween isn't about stealing pumpkins or causing trouble. It's about good clean (scary) fun. Is that corny? Maybe. Probably. And so what? In my book, corny is a good thing. A fine and wholesome thing. In fact, in these strange days of violence and arguing and destruction, I'll take take fine and wholesome and corny all day long.

Kudos to The Earlville Opera House, and to all its volunteers. Thank you for taking time away from your regular lives just to give our kids such a good time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sherburne Inn: One Year Down

A year ago yesterday, there was a very good chance that The Sherburne Inn, the century-old landmark located in the heart of Sherburne's downtown historic district, would be torn down and replaced by a convenience store and gas station. Twenty-four hours later -- a year ago today -- Save The Sherburne Inn Restoration Project signed a purchase agreement to buy the building.

It's been quite a year.

In just 12 months, SSIRP has:

- confirmed that The Sherburne Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places;
- incorporated as a nonprofit, and received nonprofit status, thereby allowing individuals and corporations tax deductible contributions to saving The Inn;
- formed a nine-member volunteer board of directors;
- secured legal and financial counsel;
- raised $165,000 to buy The Inn, purchase of which was finalized on April 25;
- launched a community fundraising campaign that raised more than $25,000;
- launched a website (thesherburneinn.org) and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SaveTheSherburneInnRestorationProject);
- applied for, and received, a $50,000 grant from the Howard K. Finch Memorial Fund;
- applied for other grants, both local and state, results of which are pending;
- received dozens of letters of support from local, regional, and state politicians, from area business leaders, and from individuals in the community;
- met with Senator James Seward, who toured the building and commended our vision and our progress;
- been recognized by The National Trust for Historic Preservation on its blog, Preservation Nation http://blog.preservationnation.org/2013/04/10/the-sherburne-inn-how-one-community-is-keeping-a-local-landmark-alive/; The National Trust intends to follow our progress, possibly in the nationally distributed publication, Preservation, going forward. The National Trust also advised that SSIRP is doing what The Trust encourages all citizens to do when historic treasures are threatened -- that is, rise up and take action;
- presented its vision to area businesses, service organizations, and village and town representatives;
- produced a video about the project, with the help of the Chenango County Chamber of Commerce and Krazed Kat Media;
- launched an Indiegogo Internet fundraising campaign http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-the-sherburne-inn-restoration-project/x/3945800; (the campaign ends today);
- been featured on Mohawk Valley Living http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7RNi3k7QB0&feature=youtu.be&t=11m27s

SSIRP also has a sister organization, The INNsiders, which is collecting oral and written history about The Inn, with plans to publish. If you have a special memory about The Inn and would like to have it included with other INNsider memories, please visit our website and share your story.

These are the highlights of the last year, and we hope to have some exciting announcements in the coming months with regard to fundraising, professional consultants, and potential affiliations. As I've said to many people, SSIRP may have appeared quiet; but we've been very busy behind the scenes building a solid foundation for this project. It is a step-by-step process, and the correct steps take time.

Small towns are wonderful in many ways. In other ways, however, they are...challenging. Unfounded rumors tend to circulate, and diner talk is bountiful. SSIRP board members have elected to ignore most of the rumors because, quite frankly, we're just too busy to worry about them. However, there is one rumor that requires clarification, so allow me to put it to rest once and for all: no matter what you may have heard, SSIRP is paying taxes on the building. Taxes are part of our operating budget, as are costs for insurance and utilities. Bear in mind as well that grant funding cannot be used for operating costs, making donations from businesses and individuals vital to keeping this train on the track.

To all of you who have supported us over the last year financially, as volunteers, and as our "cheerleaders," thank you! And to those who are still on the fence about our bringing back The Sherburne Inn, we hope to change your minds as work on the building begins, and the next year rolls out.

Sherburne is a wonderful community, and this is a wonderful community project. It's been a long, sometimes hard, and frequently remarkable year. We feel the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Save The Sherburne Inn Tee Shirts On Sale

2013 Save The Sherburne Inn tee shirts are still available, but as the saying goes, once December's gone, they're gone.

SSIRP will introduce the 2014 tee shirt design in January in a new color, and with 2014 printed on the back.

Please order your Preserve History tee shirt today, and begin your collection of tees with the very first one. Cost is only $15 + $3 shipping and handling. Mail your check, made payable to SSIRP, to POB 1102, Sherburne, NY 13460, and be sure to include your full mailing address and size request (S, M, L, XL, XXL).

It's never too early to start Christmas shopping! Join Rudolph in helping to preserve The Sherburne Inn!!

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum