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Lewis fair board seeking donations for new stage

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Agricultural Society is looking for the community’s help to purchase a new mobile stage to replace the venerable Show Wagon.

“This will last for many years,” said Douglas P. Hanno, president of the Agricultural Society, which operates the county fairgrounds. “The Show Wagon’s been around for 40 years, and this will be around for 40 years.”

While the new stage unit is expected to cost about $100,000, the goal of the capital campaign — the Agricultural Society’s first since seeking help in repairing the historic grandstand several years ago — is $15,000. The Pratt-Northam Foundation has agreed to match donations up to that amount, Mr. Hanno said.

“We’re hoping to raise $15,000 so it turns into $30,000,” he said.

The rest of the project will be covered by society funds or other means, perhaps including businesses willing to sponsor the new unit over many years, Mr. Hanno said.

Society officials sent 1,500 letters to county residents, and many donations from individuals and businesses have come in. Yet many more are needed to reach the fundraising goal.

Donations may be sent to the Lewis County Agricultural Society at P.O. Box 51, Lowville N.Y. 13367.

Built in the early 1970s by the group Arts in the Park, the Show Wagon has been used extensively as the stage for grandstand events at the annual county fair and at other community events such as the Lowville Cream Cheese Festival, Mr. Hanno said.

But it has served its time and must be retired, he said.

While the Show Wagon doesn’t have a good roof, the new stage unit will be covered for use in all kinds of weather, Mr. Hanno said.

The unit is under construction in Florida and may be available as early as the Relay for Life event in late May at the fairgrounds, he said. “We’ll make it available for not-for-profits in the county to use,” Mr. Hanno said.

Besides the age and condition of the Show Wagon, the move was prompted by the society’s decision late last year to develop an outdoor amphitheater at the Maple Ridge Center complex off East Road.

The mobile stage unit may be used at the proposed amphitheater, intended to seat up to 550 spectators, but could still be used for many other events if that project doesn’t pan out.

A preliminary design for the amphitheater site — on the hillside behind the old horse track on the 55-acre Pratt Park parcel that the society owns — has been completed through a funding partnership with the Pratt-Northam Foundation. Society officials have applied for funding to continue the project’s design work.

Pratt-Northam in 2007 turned over most of the former Kenneth Seeber horse farm on East Road to the Agricultural Society and the camping association, hoping they would further develop the site’s recreational options.

Pratt-Northam, which funds numerous youth-oriented programs from Carthage to Boonville, bought the 180-acre property between East Road and Route 26 in September 2000.

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