[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Altamont Fair Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 12, 2010

Old ways will be celebrated in the 1890s village

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

ALTAMONT — Strolling through the 1890s Village and Carriage Museum at the Altamont Fair is like walking back in time. Storefronts line a typical Main Street of more than a century ago — a harness shop, a wheelwright, a hardware store, a machine shop.

Throughout are parked various kinds of carriages and sleighs.

“They’re how people moved about, how they went from home to market to schools and funerals,” says Superintendent Pat Canaday who is helping this year to increase the focus on entertainment and live demonstrations in the building. “They’re an important part of our American history,” she says of the antique vehicles.

She credits Joseph Merli, a long-time superintendent of the building whose profession is building meticulous replicas of antique carriages.

“He’s the key guy,” she said. “He has donated an untold number of hours to make this building what it is. My goal is to get people in to see it all.”

To that end, Canaday has scheduled entertainment in the building for every day of the fair. Many of the performers will play from the front porch of the hotel, which serves as a stage. Others will stroll among the fairgoers.

On Tuesday evening, a swing jam will be followed by the Capitaland Chorus singing acapella. “They sing wonderful four-part harmony,” said Canaday.

On Wednesday, during the day and in the early evening, cowboy songs will reverberate in the 1890s village, as listeners are encouraged to sing along. Later in the evening, Irish songs will be heard. Both of these performances, and others, were arranged through Old Songs, Inc., which holds an annual festival at the fairgrounds.

On Thursday, a jug band will perform old-time blues early in the evening followed by a doo-wop group, bringing 1950s’ songs to life.

On Friday, the Loosely Wound String Band will hold an old-fashioned jam session followed by an all-night-long pub sing. Asked if beer would be served, Canaday said, “We’re right across from the beer concession.”

A Sing Thing by an acapella quartet followed by another appearance of the Loosely Wound String Band mid-day on Sunday rounds out the week.

In addition to music, demonstrations — from leather-crafting to bird-carving — will also draw fairgoers to the 1890s Village and Carriage Museum. From noon to 3 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday of Fair Week, members of the New York Capital District Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America will be demonstrating and helping visitors to learn their craft.

“Some people like to watch; some people like to do,” said Canaday.  “I have plenty of undone projects. I think we all do.”

Anyone who wants to can complete a small embroidery project right at the fair in a “Make It and Take It” session, she said.  “It’s small enough someone can do it right there,” Canaday said of the planned projects.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, members of the Woodturners’ Club will be on hand with a gas-engine powered lathe. They’ll be making everything from pencil holders to bowls as fairgoers watch.

On Wednesday, Altamont woodcarver Walt Leclair will demonstrate his art. Leclair, who has been a hunter all of his life, credits his love of hunting and the outdoors for his artistic inspiration.  He carves realistic birds, often using guidebooks and magazines. After exacting the shape, he uses a tiny burning tool to etch out every feather before painting the finished creation.

Members of the Northeast Woodworkers’ Association will reward children who have completed summer reading programs at local libraries with handmade pencil holders.

“The woodworkers started coming to the fair last year,” said Jane Lyman, who helped organize the “Read to Win” program; the First Niagara Bank is helping to sponsor the program, she said. Last year, the woodworkers made Harry Potter wands to give to children.

 This year’s pencil holders will be “a true memento for the children,” she said.

Lyman went on about the woodworkers, “They love what they’re doing and they’ll do it there and give them away.”

“I’m just so proud to host that in our building,” said Canaday. “Read to Win” prizes will also be handed out at the Blue Ribbon Cooking Center.

“We’re doing lots of different kinds of things to appeal to a broad group,” said Canaday.

A steady draw over the years has been the lumberjack show put on by Dana Sherman and his family. The Shermans, with their precision ax-throwing and knowledgeable explanation of post-and-beam building, will be back in the 1890s building again this year.

“We’re excited to have people and activity in the building,” said Canaday, “not just a static museum display.”

Canaday herself will be on hand along with fair volunteers to talk to people about the carriages and sleds on display, she said, “to answer their questions and spark some interest.”

[Return to Home Page]