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‘When are they going to fix these buildings?” was a question often heard whenever there was an event at the Fairgrounds on Route 55 in Grahamsville.
The question referred to a set of three buildings utilized by craft and food vendors during the Little World’s Fair, the Giant Pumpkin Party, the Neversink- Rondout Antique Machinery Assn. Old Time Fall Festival and other events.
So last September, Lori Schmitz got busy. In a unique position of being both the transportation director at Sullivan County BOCES and the general superintendent of the Neversink Agricultural Society (NAS), Schmitz decided it was time to bring the ag community together with the educational element.
“We needed new buildings, and because we’re non-profit, there’s not a lot of money to go around.”
Schmitz got together with Bill Drasher, who teaches the Construction Technology Program at BOCES’ Career & Tech Center, and asked, “What do you think? Is this something that you could do?”
The pair talked during the summer, and after coming up with some ideas, met with Town of Neversink Highway Superintendent Preston Kelly, who presented “a piece of paper with two squares as a blueprint,” said Schmitz.
“We were all in agreement that it was the perfect way to do that so you could walk around the entire building. It gave us the same amount of booths. The town said they would level it off and get it ready for the new buildings.”
And so they did. Schmitz reports that everyone from the town was exceedingly helpful, and gave a great deal of credit to former Town Supervisor Mark McCarthy.
Paying for the project was a challenge, but Schmitz got a $1,500 state grant for agricultural projects, since some of the booths sell food and other things to do with farming – “… and a lot of it was just hard work year after year, just putting money in the bank.”
Then the students got to work. Under Drasher’s direction, they drew blueprints and put together a material and price list.
“They presented that to the board of the NAS, the town and its building department,” said Drasher. “They actually came out and gave speeches on the project, and once it was all approved, we started ordering materials and building them at our shop at the Career and Tech Center … and transported over here. And the boys came over here as soon as the weather got nice, and we started putting them together.”
The project has taken a good part of the school year, and on June 10 – their last day working at the fairgrounds – the NAS was giving the students a thank-you barbecue, as a well as complimentary tickets to the Little World’s Fair being held this year on August 19, 20, 21, with Carload Night on Thursday, August 18.
Schmitz is understandably proud of the 14 students, who hail from various school districts in both Sullivan and Orange counties.
“These kids – oh, the best kids ever. They’re attentive, they listen. You know how much heart went into this? They had to really take pride in what they’ve done. … And they all work well together. It kind of shows them that when you get into the outside world, you’re going to deal with other people. Not everyone is from your local town, so it gives you the camaraderie you’re going to need in life.”
Drasher is happy as well. “This is an excellent opportunity. These guys got to see a project right from the ground up. There was nothing here … They planned the electric and plumbing, but we are running close on time, so it may be an opportunity that we come back and do some work, possibly for the next school year.”
Hopefully, the project will lead to jobs for some of the students, as the NAS’ electrician met the students and handed out business cards (he’s looking for apprentices).
So when next you visit the Grahamsville Fairgrounds, be sure to look at the two new craft and food vendor buildings.
You can’t miss them – they will be adorned with plaques listing the names of the people who built them from the ground up.