Editorial: Mud Ball good tonic for season

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Over 175 people here came out Saturday evening to support the new arts and entertainment organization in town and to shake off the late winter blues. What resulted was a big party and just the right tonic after a far too long winter here.  
Spring dragged its feet this year until that Saturday, when the sun reappeared after a two-week long absence.  After weeks this month when the mercury didn't peek its nose much above 40 degrees F., and folks woke up to new snow most mornings,  it hit the fifties for party day.
Tupper Arts' first Mud Ball  drew its clever name, at least we thought it was clever, from the season which has traditionally marked close for the winter work of the loggers and lumberjacks here, and a time  too wet and muddy in the woods to go back cutting and hauling.
In our early years it was the time when lumberjacks came out of the woods with their pockets full of winter earnings, eager to spend much of it on wine, women and song.  Early bar owners and innkeepers welcomed the bounty, and often grew fat on it.
 The first time event at the train station was heralded by organizers as a big success.
Tupper Arts was initiated by Louise McNally over the winter and she has been helped by a small group of volunteers including  David Tomberlin, Russ Cronin, Paul Chartier, Wayne Davison, Liz  Cordes and the hometown publisher, who created Tupper's first Summer Sunset Series at the soon to be built bandshell and organized Saturday's Mud Ball.
Tupper Arts organizers modeled their new event after the ARISE Snow Balls in support Big Tupper, which were year after year  here earlier this decade.
Who turned out Saturday evening was an interesting cross-section from the community- from 20 somethings to well beyond social security eligibility.  Our   mother, Joyce, who is a trooper when it comes to arts and entertainment endeavors,  was the oldest in attendance.  She was in town to visit great grand baby Remi and see her two grandsons perform as part of a week long celebration  birthday later this week. Nana Joyce, who turns 92 tomorrow,  stayed for the whole show and loved it!
Guests arrived at the front of the station and entered along a walk framed with giant tires, highlighted by ornamental lights.  The massive old tires- some of them still muddy- were on loan from the county transfer station, with the blessing  of Manager Nelson Landry.
To move them to the site, and stack them in chest-high piles required the services of Jay Merrihew's and Adam Boudreau's Northern Diesel division of Kentile Excavating.
Mike Price, the company's talented mechanical guy and staffer Kody Churco used a company boom and trailer to move the giant tires, some of which apparently weighed a thousand pounds.  Consequently there were no takers among the volunteer decorators  to rearrange them later.  The tires are headed back to the transfer station this week. The Kentile Excavating owners and crew are a giving bunch!
Bales of hay also lined the entrance as well as creating islands inside to show off the baskets of thousands and thousands of pansies- always the hardiest and one of the first flowers of spring.  The yellow color was everywhere inside.
A truck load of hay and straw was donated by Moody Farms.
When the town crew moved the flowers in baskets from Lydia Kriwox's Usher Farms Friday afternoon aboard small dump trucks, we wondered if they would weather the ride, given the near-freezing temperatures that afternoon.  They wilted a little, but rebounded in the warmth inside.
In recent weeks the colorful baskets were prepared by Lydia Kriwox with the help of Louise, Ed and Donna Donnelly and their daughter, Jessie.
The Mud Ball was a brief stop for the thousands of pansies. On Monday they were headed to Park Street to the hangers of business owners who purchased them with the village as part of the village's beautification program, which Louise  directed starting last summer.
The pansies will be replaced with summer flowers in mid-June by the village and Louise's volunteers and then converted to winter arrangements in late fall.
About 20 flower baskets have been ordered for the Junction business district this week.
The Mud Ball hors d'oeuvres were prepared with skill by David Tomberlin and his staff at Well Dressed  Food.  Chefs Mary and Mitch outdid themselves.  They hung around late into the event to make sure the food kept flowing. The owners of the popular eatery on Park Street catered the affair at or below their costs.
David and his team received a big assist from seven high school students, who served the culinary treats from trays they circulated. They included Jacob Stradley, Noah Cordes, Kate Harriman, Stephanie Fortune, Alyssah Martinez, Lily St.Onge and  Sandra Kwasniak. Each was  very courteous, diligent and eager to please those in attendance.  Remarkable young people, all!
Jacob and Noah also peddled 50-50 tickets throughout the evening.
The evening's band, Ben, Jay and Ian were terrific, although we freely admit to our bias.  The crowd loved their music from the sixties and seventies, such old folk we are and many of the mud ballers stayed until the music finished at the strike of midnight.  Ben McClelland, our son, Ian Roantree, our nephew and new arrival at the hometown weekly and Ben's good friend Jay Martin, son of Ray and Laurie, donated their talent and their musical efforts to the inaugural event to support Tupper Arts and its future cultural endeavors ahead.  Incidentally the band is opening the Tupper Arts Summer Sunset Series, which begins on the eve of Independence Day, so plan to  catch them at the bandshell.
The lads really enjoyed the fact so many people danced and the applause to their tunes was robust.  Performers apparently enjoy playing more when people clap their approval and dance to their music.
The Mud Ball generated thousands of dollars for performances Tupper Arts will sponsor this year at the bandshell and other venues here.  The exact take wasn't known at this writing.
Contributing in a large way to the first time event's financial success were three local businesses whose owners are very community-minded.  Each made large donations to the Mud Ball.  Donations of kegs of delicious craft beer came from Mark Jessie and Joe Hockey at Raquette River Brewing.  Mark was also helpful in setting up their  station that evening, which was manned by a smiling Wayne Davison.  He liked that job, it seems. Mango wheat was the clear crowd favorite there.  
Across the room at another popular beer station were the products of Jim LaValley and his partners at Big Tupper Brewing.  The Touk and  the new summer ale were favorites there among the Mud Ball beer drinkers. Thanks, Jim, Rickey Dattola  and partners.
The Barbara Meade ticket counter at the station doubled Saturday as the wine station and board members Liz and George Cordes kept it flowing.  The wine came in many flavors and there were two sources.  Neil and Linda Pickering, who own Boulevard Wine and Spirits donated cases of wine to the party as their gift to local arts.  The Pickerings are very generous in support of all good things here.
Bill Merritt, the father of music teachers Liz and Laura, continued his very supportive ways of Tupper events and donated four cases of his Merritt Estate Winery products to help the event raise money.  His plan worked. Bill also had 300 wine glasses inscribed with the new Tupper Arts logo and his winery's logo as a keepsake of the fun evening. Those glasses were sold, some with wine in them, and will be at future Tupper Arts events this summer.   Bill's an incredibly generous guy whose done a lot for  the hometown of his children and his grandchildren.
Another highlight of the evening were the many door prizes, donated by a number of local and area firms, which included Laura Davison's Norwex products, Earth Girl Jewelry, Jessica's Cuts and Colors, Larkins' Deli, Park Street Nails, Mary Chapman at Ray's Wine and Liquor, Usher Farms, Well Dressed Food, Tupper Lake Supply, Christine Marquis and her ADK Bloody Mary Tonic, Cory and Lilian at Amado Restaurant and Cafe, Aubuchon Hardware, Raquette River Brewing, Merritt Estate Winery,  P-2's Irish Pub, Cabin Fever and Floral, local artist Ed Donnelly, Homenergy, Sevey's Point, Shaheen's IGA, Faith and Andrew McClelland's Spruce and Hemlock store, Stacked Graphics, the Village of Tupper Lake and Casagrain Gallery.
The door prize winners that evening were Erin Safford, Jackie Beattie, Sellin, Anne Churco, Liz Cordes, P.J. Kavanagh, boB and Sioux Collier, Cory Whitman, Shannon Surdyk, Rodney Bashant, Dianne and Jim Lanthier, David Naone, who also won the $150 50-50, Katie, Shawn and Joni Stuart (wow...three prizes in one family) and Tim Merrihew.
Other local firms like Day Wholesale and the Tupper Lake Free Press covered event expenses to help fatten revenues.  A regional food wholesale, U.S. Foods, donated a substantial portion of the food products that went into the  Well Dressed Food servings.
The fledgling Tupper Arts group also received help with on-line ticket sales from Adirondack Foundation, the tri-lakes not for profit organization that promotes Adirondack giving in a variety of meaningful ways and in robust fashion.
The broad base of support from the local and area businesses was a major factor in the success of the event, organizers said this week.
-And those who came to celebrate the changing season Saturday all seemed to enjoy themselves.  That was another mark of success for the event.
The best comment about the evening we heard came from a guest that evening who said “there was a really good feeling in the room Saturday...lots of good energy!”
Will there be a second Mud Ball next spring?  We suspect so!
-Dan McClelland

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Decorative concrete sections to be replaced like new

by Dan McClelland
Several pieces of missing decorative concrete in the uptown area which saw the extensive highway redo by the state two summers ago will be replaced like new this summer, a local resident was assured last week when the village board convened.
One block of the salmon-colored concrete with its decorative markings was removed in front of the Chinese restaurant on Park Street last summer and another section is missing near the corner of Wawbeek Ave. and Broad Street.
Jim Lanthier, well known local photographer, asked the village board Wednesday about any plans to repair them, adding: “-And will they be repaired to their original state?”
Mayor Paul Maroun said they would be.
Water and Sewer Superintendent Mark Robillard explained his crew was “mapping out” the water connections along the improved state corridor last summer to update his department's records  but several of the water shut offs couldn't be found.
The crew was successful finding a shut off under the sidewalk in front the Tupper Lake Free Press office with its metal detecter  without having to tear up the sidewalk.
But another in front of the Chinese restaurant was more difficult to locate.
Mr. Robillard said they were getting “hits” with their device there and so excavated the one concrete section.
When it couldn't be found, the general contractor on the state job, Kubricky, was summoned to help and that crew also excavated a plot with a tree planted in it next to the concrete piece where the shut-off device was found.
Mr. Robillard assured Mr. Lanthier that any and all repairs would return those sections to their original state.
Trustee Ron LaScala echoed that, noting the concrete color would be matched, as would the shallow nature markings.  The village apparently was given the decorative concrete stamp used to make those markings.
“-And the corner of Wawbeek and Broad?” Mr. Lanthier pressed.
“Like original,” the trustee assured him, noting the damage had been done by the Verizon company's contractor, Morrisonville Electric,  in order to complete the installation of  the cellular  company's   new infrastructure there.
Mr. Lanthier said he appreciated the village's attention to his concerns.

Shake mud off your boots and welcome spring at Saturday's Mud Ball

by Dan McClelland
Saturday evening's the time to kick the mud off your mudders and come inside the train station  to  party at Tupper Arts' first Mud Ball.  The goal of the benefit is to generate money to pay the performers in the group's Friday evening Summer Sunset Series at the new Lions band shell announced this week (see separate story this week).
The fundraising event to help bring more arts and entertainment to Tip Top Town marks the official start of spring in the North Country.
The dress that evening will be “Tupper Lake formal”-  pressed wool pants, cleanest plaid shirt and sturdiest, but practical  footwear.  Fox hats are optional. One of the organizers, Tall Paul Chartier, promises to wear his!
Come by yourself or with  your beau or favorite gal.
The Mud Ball has been mirrored after the Snowball, which raised thousands of dollars each year for about six years  in support of the ARISE volunteer operation of Big Tupper in recent years.  
“Despite the abundance of mud and even snow outside right now in this far too long winter, inside the train station there'll be spring on Saturday night,” explains an enthusiastic Tupper Arts organizer Louise McNally this week.
To help the fledgling group raise money for culture and arts endeavors, beginning this summer, the musical trio of Ben McClelland, Jay Martin and Ian Roantree have donated their time and talent to perform popular music  from the 1960s and  1970s that evening.  The musicians do a great job with the music of the Beatles, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan  and other signature artists of that era.  Dancing is encouraged.
The kitchen elves at David Tomberlin's Well Dressed Food  started working today on preparations for the   platefuls of delicious hors d'oeuvres that will be served to the Mud Ball guests.  Several of the popular eatery's wholesale suppliers have made big donations of products to help with the event's fundraising.
A number of high school students have volunteered to serve the goodies from trays.
The price of the admission ticket (see advertisement this week for details) will include the entertainment, the food served and a complimentary glass of wine or craft beer.  Saturday's guests will also qualify for a host of valuable door prizes donated by local merchants and can also try their luck at winning the pot from which is expected to be a robust 50-50 sale.
The event will feature some of the best craft beer in the North Country- and perhaps the state- from stations featuring the products of Raquette River Brewing and Big Tupper Brewing, which are both donating generously to the event.
A variety of delicious wines will come from the shelves of Linda and Neal Pickering's Boulevard Wine and Spirits and from the vineyard of Bill Merritt's Merritt Estate Winery  in Forestport, N.Y.  Both companies and their owners are making substantial donations to the event to boost arts endeavors here for the enrichment of the local population and its visitors.
Tickets have been on sale all month from at a variety of places around town including Larkin's Deli, Well Dressed Food, Tupper Lake Supply, Tupper Lake Free Press, Boulevard Wine and Spirits, the village office, Cabin Fever Floral and Gifts and Jessica's Cuts and Colors and from individuals Joni Stuart, Lynn Quinn, Liz Cordes, Louise McNally, Shannon Bradley, Donna Sloan, Katie Stuart at the ROOST office and Donna Donnelly.  Those places and people will have tickets available through Saturday and tickets will also be available at the door of the train station that evening, so there's no reason not to go.
In order for ticket purchases to be tax deductible, checks should be made out to ARISE.
Tickets can also be purchased online at tupperarts.com and hitting the “donate” button.
The Adirondack Foundation, and its benevolent arm, Adirondack Gives...is also working with Tupper Arts these days to direct funds into entertaining and meaningful events here in coming months.

Tupper Arts to present Summer Sunset Series Fridays at band shell

Tupper Arts, the new hometown arts and cultural organization which was formed over the winter, this week announced the entertainment line-up for what its calling its Summer Sunset Series Friday evenings this summer at the Lions Club band shell.
The successor to the now defunct Tupper Lake Arts Council aims to introduce entertainment and arts endeavors to the band shell and other local venues, starting this summer.
It's been the intention of the new group this first summer  to showcase local talent or performers with a tie to Tip Top Town.  Each concert will be early Friday evening, beginning about 6p.m. or so and finishing well before dark.
Another key focus of the series is to bring local and visiting music lovers to a place each Friday evening that features  some of the greatest sunsets in the Adirondacks, when the suns drops behind Raquette Pond.
All performances are free to the public and entire families are encouraged to attend.  A donation basket will be circulated at all performances.  Funding for the series comes from the Village of Tupper Lake and from the fundraising of Tupper Arts, which begins this Saturday at the Mud Ball.
The Friday night series at the Flanders' Park band shell begins with a patriotic celebration on the eve of July 4th where local musicians George and Liz Cordes and Wayne and Laura Davison and others will offer many well known America favorites.  The aim is to get community residents singing along with them and in the spirit of the national holiday.
The performance will precede Tupper Lake's annual fireworks display- produced by the town and village through the chamber of commerce and always on the eve of the Fourth.
Beginning at 5p.m. or so on July 3 the local trio of Ben, Jay and Ian will open in the Lions new band shell before the patriotic performance, with popular tunes from the 1970s.
Three nights later on the first Friday in July, Crackin' Foxy, will entertain visitors to Flanders' Park.  The area group, featuring saxophonist Wayne Davison, will offer 1920s to 1940s jazz numbers as well as traditional Hawaiian musical fare.
On Friday July 13 Evan Bujold's Syracuse-based band, Late Earth is booked to perform at the Lions band shell.  The group, which has recently enjoyed some city-wide acclaim in Syracuse, performs alternative rock, blues and what it calls “antifolk.”
The entertainment of the early evening changes dramatically on July 20 when Tupper Arts volunteers booked The Guild of Thespian Puppets, a children-oriented puppet play based on popular folk tales.
On Friday, July 28 the Adirondack Arts Center at Blue Mountain, again under the direction this summer of George Cordes of Tupper Lake, will bring back Shakespeare to the park venue with the center's performance of Much Ado About Nothing.
The musical performers on stage August 3 will be the tri-lakes-based Springstreet Band, which offers popular rock.
The music turns to country and western the next Friday, when Ronnie Jones and his band offer some of the genre's favorites.  Tupper Lake's Brock Gonyea, who last year was an internet sensation with an early country and western classic he performed, has also been invited to appear on stage that evening.
On August 17, the area jazz group Moment's Notice, featuring Dan and Sadie Spada, are booked for the Lions band shell.
The musical mood moves to folk and traditional Adirondack music on August 24 when Rustic Riders and Joe Dockery will entertain park-goers.
The final performance of the Friday night summer sunset series will be the area rock and jazz group, Crowfeather, featuring ROOST staff Shawn Kittle.
See 'ya at the band shell Friday nights this summer.

More State aid good news for Tupper school district

by Dan McClelland
For the first time in recent years the Tupper Lake Central School District will receive what Superintendent of Schools Seth McGowan Monday called “a sizable bump in state aid.”
The board of education met in special session Monday for a budget briefing by Mr. McGowan and Business Manager Dan Bower, in the wake of the recently adopted New York State budget.
The new state financial plan for the 2018-19 school year adopted by the state legislature over the April 1 weekend saw substantial increases in aid for education.
The two administrators said they would have final figures worked out this week for board members in time for consideration of the new Tupper Lake school budget at a regular board meeting Monday.
At a budget forum several months ago administrators didn't have any realistic projections of state aid revenues to share with the board or the public, other than the figures in the Governor's January executive budget proposal.
Mr. McGowan said Tupper Lake's share of state aid next year turned out to be about $300,000 more than the Governor had proposed in the final budget adopted by legislators over the April 1 weekend.
“State aid worked for us this budget,” a very pleased superintendent told board members Monday.  In recent years the local school district has seen decreases in all the various aid categories- Foundation aid, building aid, transportation aid, etc.
This year all those categories saw increases, Mr. McGowan noted.
He said building aid for this coming year was a big factor in the overall increase, given the district's  participation in the current building project that will wrap up this year in all school buildings.
Overall, he said, state aid is up about 12% over the current year.  When the robust building aid isn't factored in, the education aid in the remaining categories will increase by 4.21%.
One of the reasons for Tupper Lake state aid increase was a decrease in local property values in the district three years ago.  Education aid is always keyed to three year old property values in a school district.
Mr. McGowan said he and Mr. Bower believe there will be no reason to exceed the  state tax cap in the district's tax levy next year.
Although the tax cap adopted by the state several years ago is universally referred to as the two percent tax cap, the two percent figure rarely comes into play.
The town and village here for example in recent years have seen tax caps far below two percent, when everything is factored into what has been called a very complex formula.
Many exemptions also come in to play which help school districts like Tupper Lake's.  Consequently, this school district has seen tax caps as high as 3.5% in recent years.
Unlike past years in the district when positions have been eliminated and retiring employees not replaced, that won't be the case this year, according to Superintendent McGowan.  “Retiring positions will be refilled and there will be no staff reductions!”
In last year's budget, provisions were made to hire an additional school librarian and a district psychologist, but candidates for those positions were never found.  Mr. McGowan said those figures would stay in the new budget, with the hope good candidates could be found to take those positions.
“It feels good this year,” after years of reductions, the school chief admitted that evening.
Mr. McGowan said his sources in Albany and the district's financial planners figure  that with this year being an election year, state aid figures should stay consistent for the next two school years through 2020.  “After that it's crazy to speculate!”
Dan Bower confirmed this year's budget would be under the state imposed tax cap.  The question for the district, right now however, is how much the district will be able to increase its levy on property owners and still stay under the cap.
A good part of any exemptions this year will involve expenses and revenues associated with the current building program.
Right now, according to Mr. Bower, the district is paying for the renovations done this first year of the program with bond anticipation notes, which involve short-term borrowing.  Within several years, however, those anticipation notes have to be rolled into actual bonds, financed over 15 or so years.  How all that financing figures out will determine the amount of building aid the district will get and exactly in what future year.
“But I don't see any scenario that we won't be under the tax cap this year...and that's very good news for the district!”
Mr. McGowan told the board members that his long-range goal for the district and its financing- if state aid holds in future years- is to be able to someday soon hire more faculty members at the high school to offer more elective for students like many neighboring school districts do.
“It would be nice to enrich (our curriculum) again!”
More faculty members would also help the district better address the academic needs of younger children coming into the school system each year, he told the elected school leaders.
Increasing the ratio of teachers to students in each primary grade classroom is one effective way to help students learn, he added.
“Maybe not this budget or the next one, but eventually,” he said of the need for more teachers here.
Board member Wayne Davison asked about school enrollment projections for this coming year and was told student numbers will be up slightly this coming year.
Mr. Bower called that fact “more good news” for the district.

Finger Lakes winery donates wines, wine glasses for April 21 Mud Ball

Bill Merritt, the owner of Merritt Estate Winery in the Finger Lakes, continues his very generous ways when it comes to Tupper Lake community projects.
Bill, the father of Tupper Lake music teachers Liz Cordes and Laura Davison, this week donated four cases of four varieties of his wine to this month's Mud Ball, the first fundraiser of the new Tupper Arts organization at the train station. Bill has been a generous supporter of many Tupper Lake benefits in the past including the Snowball.
Not only will Bill's wines be showcased and served at the April 21 event, he has donated nearly 300 souvenir wine glasses imprinted with the new logo of Tupper Arts, so almost everyone who attends the charity Mud Ball will have a keepsake of the evening.
Tickets to the event will go on sale later this week at a number of local venues including Well Dressed Food, Larkins' Deli, Tupper Lake Supply, Tupper Lake Free Press, Boulevard Wine and Spirits, the village office and Cabin Fever Floral and Gifts.  There are expected to be a  number of people around town selling tickets for Tupper Arts.  Some of those folks include Joni Stuart, Lynn Quinn, Liz Cordes, Shannon Bradley, Donna Sloan, Katie Stuart and Donna Donnelly. Tickets will also be available at the door that evening.  Jill Trudeau at the Adirondack Club and Resort is helping to coordinate the ticket sales.
Tickets may also be purchased in advance at the new web site launched by the new arts organization, tupperarts.com and hit the “donate” button.
In last week's issue an advertisement put the ticket price at $50.  They are, in fact, only $25 per person.

New “Tupper Arts” group founded on work of two previous groups here

By Dan McClelland
Publisher's note: Two weeks ago we carried a story about the creation of a new arts and cultural organization in Tupper Lake which is called Tupper Arts.  The key promoter of the group is Louise McNally, who has directed the Tupper Lake Art Show for the past two years and who organized last summer's Street Festival in the uptown business district.  The new group comes on the heels of a rich legacy of the promotion of the arts here with at least two different organizations.  Donna Sloan, who was instrumental in the work of the Tupper Lake Arts Council for decades, this week put together something of a brief history of those groups from old scrapbooks kept, from the minutes of meetings she kept as the council secretary and with conversations with key people who still live here.  We offer our thanks to Donna for that work.
On February 6, 1979 “Tupper Lake Presents...,” a new arts group in town was formed.  It was incorporated as a federal not for profit organization in 1979 and the designation was renewed five years later.
Some of the instrumental people were Fran Collier, who was the principle founder,  Ray and Dickie Jenkins, Molly Sherry, Chrys Dudbridge, the name a few.
On November 1980 a new “Tupper Lake Presents...” office established above Free Press building and there was no rent charged by the newspaper company. The group remained there for several years.
In November 1982 the arts council volunteers, along with community supporters purchased the long idle State Theater along with the leaders and board of Project PRIDE, the principle mission of which was to clean-up and energize the community.  The group leased to Jeff Szot (JS Cinemas) of Canton. Theater had been abandoned since 1975.  Years later the building was later sold to Mr. Szot and many of the initial investments were repaid. Muriel Ginsberg and Mary Mercurio were part of the  driving force behind Project PRIDE (People Really Interested in Donating Energy?), as were co-chairs Bruce VanVranken and Judy McCartney, who both became involved with arts council through PRIDE.
For the arts council and the community the years 1979 to 1993 were extremely active with many concerts, plays, workshops, musical groups, movies, dances, poetry readings, storytellers, instrumental and dance classes, children’s events, etc.
The files of the arts council during the years of 1993 to a decade later are missing, so information about its work would only be found after copious research in the annals of the hometown weekly.
From conversations she had with past members Mrs. Sloan found that bother Elaine Yabroudy and Newton Greiner were very involved in leadership roles.
Julia Gagnier and Erin Dangler took over at one point. They added dance lessons and violin lessons.
Their dream was to open a community arts center, but it never became a reality. That goal remains today in the new mission of Tupper Arts, according to Mrs. McNally.
The name “Tupper Lake Presents...” was changed to Tupper Lake Arts Council in 1997.
The years 2003 to 2014 saw a resurgence of activities by the  arts council. It was at one point re-named Tupper Lake Arts Council (TLAC). Eileen Hayes and Seth McGowan were the first co-chairs.  In many ways, through the hard work of volunteers, the arts and cultural group was re-energized. Others involved in those years were Beth Johnson, Karen Greiner, Randy Jones, Dan Bower, Trish Anrig, Meredith Warwick, Elise LaBrake, Sue Svoboda and  Donna Sloan.
Events include New Years Eve galas at the Wild Center, Celebrate TL Street fairs, Big Band dinner/dances, Pendragon plays, Shakespeare in the Park, Cabin Fever Art Classes, Opera Night at Little Italy, Mystery Dinner Theater, Night at the Races, scholarships given out for dance, instrumentals, and drama study, etc., etc.,
When Eileen and Seth stepped down, Beth Gagnier took over for a short while and soon after Trish and Meredith stepped up with Donna remaining as secretary
In 2013 the Tupper Lake Arts Council leaders contributed $10,000 to theater toward about $80,000 in new digital equipment, necessary to keep up the transformation to digital films in the industry.
The next year group leaders tried to energize and regroup, but there was not enough interest from people in the community.
In 2015, a much smaller group at the arts council took over annual art show from Goff Nelson Memorial Library staffers, who had run it for nearly a half century.
Later that year the board fell apart through lack of interest in events and only a handful of people doing it all.
In 2016 Louise McNally and Susan Lawson took over art show and moved it to train station for the first time.  The number of artists increased as the organizers looked to people from across the region.
Last year Louise took over completely, and moved the show again to the former Ginsberg's Department Store building on Park Street.  It was highlighted by the creation of what was called the “Celebrate Tupper Lake Street Festival,” which marked the completion of the state refurbishment of Park Street.  That was a big Saturday last August.
“Tupper Arts” will sponsor this year's August art show and a street festival, which is expected to run down the length of Mill Street from Park to the lake.
The new group and the two before it share a common thread: the willingness of local folks to work hard and volunteer their time to bring first-class entertainment through a variety of creative endeavors to Tupper Lake, its residents and its visitors.  Watch for reports and advertisements of “Tupper Arts” activities to come in upcoming issues.

Town leaders accept new Mt. Morris road

by Dan McClelland
With the blessing of Highway Superintendent Bill Dechene, town officials at a special meeting March 19 accepted a new road recently completed by developer Nick Brunette.  
The road offer was first presented to the town board at its regular meeting on March 8 by Attorney Kirk Gagnier, but without the highway superintendent in attendance, officials were cautious to proceed. Mr. Dechene had been out plowing with his crew all night the night before.
By town law it is up to a town highway superintendent to accept any new roads.  Under town law too, any accepted road must meet town road-building standards, which include among other things adequate drainage and certain depths of gravel.
Road work by Mr. Brunette apparently started five years ago, according to comments that evening.
The 1,300 foot long road, 50 feet wide, is situated behind No. 1 fairway and near the No. 2 tee area at the Tupper Lake Golf Course.  It leaves Tamarac Drive at a point between property owned by Peter Kinzel and another owned by his neighbors, Richard and Ellen Smith.
Mr. Brunette's new road will open up a 23-acre piece of property he owns there for development with seven new lots. The new road, which shaves a piece of the corner of a third lot owned by George Ross, ends at a section of acreage owned by Jim and Rickey Dattola.
At the earlier meeting Attorney Gagnier said Mr. Dechene has been inspecting Mr. Brunette's work since it began five years ago, and last Monday the highway chief confirmed that.
At the second meeting, the attorney said Mr. Brunette's subdivision won approval from the planning board, following soil tests and other development requirements.
The road butts up to property owned by Rickey and Jim Dattola, which brought the comment from Supervisor Patti Littlefield that should they ever want to develop that parcel, the access road is now there.
Mr. Dechene said Nick's new road meets all the town's current specifications for acceptance.
It was noted in the discussion, however, that Mr. Gagnier, who is also the town attorney and Mr. Dechene have been talking of late about updating the town's road acceptance policy.  Board members have also apparently been talking about.
Referring to any new specifications, the supervisor speculated the board may want to require developers to install a binder coat or asphalt surface on any road offered to the town in the future.
She said Mr. Dechene is currently working up cost estimates for future developers to apply at least the binder coat on any new road offered.
Councilman John Quinn offered the resolution to accept the new road with the initial acceptance of the highway chief.
“I'll move it,” he told his colleagues Mrs. Littlefield and Councilwoman Mary Fontana, “but I want to ask Bill, you've been involved...does it meet our specifications?”
Mr. Dechene said it did.
“So I'll go with his recommendation, because he's the man!” stated Mr. Quinn.
The motion won all three votes at the table.
Absent that Monday afternoon at 3p.m. at the special meeting were board members Mike Dechene and Tracy Luton.
As the discussion moved to the topic of a new committee to study town road specifications and acceptance policies, Mr. Gagnier wondered if the board wanted him to ask Mr. Brunette to serve, since he has been just through the process.
Supervisor Littlefield said that while he could be asked to serve on the new group, it might be easier just to have the committee interview him about the experience.  Other developers here may also be asked to meet with the study group.
John Quinn offered to serve on the new committee, and suggested Planner Paul O'Leary, Mr. Dechene and the attorney also be asked serve as well.  A motion later in the discussion appointed those four to the committee, with a completion date of two months from now eyed.
He said there were a number of things he'd like to see in any new road specifications developed, including, among other things a paved surface and engineering plan.
“Our specifications aren't bad...we just need to improve upon them,” the councilman noted.
Mr. Gagnier said the planning board members should also be involved in the creation of any new town road specs as those requirements are found in the town's subdivision regulations.
“We always want the planners to make sure any developer is keeping their eye on the road specifications!”
In the deliberations of the planning board he said there may be times when a small subdivision doesn't need to be served by a town road and a private road will do.  A waiver from the planners can make that happen, he added.
The supervisor suggested contacting officials in nearby towns where road acceptance specifications have been recently updated, to review those policies.
Bill Dechene noted that there should be a provision in any new set of road rules, calling for acceptance by the town to only occur between May and October- as unusual things can happen to roads in the winter and spring months.
He added that Mr. Brunette's new road had been completed and inspected by him in September.  “He completed everything I asked him to!”
He said turnarounds should also be required at the end of all future town roads, as it is often difficult for town snowplows and other large vehicles to safely turn around.  Mr. Dechene gave as an example a recent mishap where a school bus got stuck in Walter Zurawski's yard at the end of River Road, when it tried to turn around.
“Most times we have to use private driveways to turn around, and there's always the chance someone might shut us out!”
“I look forward to the construction of new homes in Mr. Brunette's subdivision,” was the supervisor's comment that afternoon on the issue.

New Lewis in charge now at Tip Top Electric

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by Dan McClelland
There's a new Lewis in charge at Tupper Lake's Tip Top Electric on Cliff Ave.
He's Nate Lewis, the son of Robert N. and Cindy Lewis of this village, and like his dad  before him Nate has been working for the family-owned business since he was a teenager. He's the third generation of the family to own and operate the well-known and well-respected Tupper Lake business.
Nate purchased the business from Bob at the first of the year, and while the name is the same, he's operating under a new limited liability corporation, Tip Top Enterprises.
After graduating from high school here, he studied electricity at Canton ATC  before joining the Tip Top Electric staff in 1999.  He worked summers there during high school and college.
The firm was started in 1953 when two local electricians- Bob Lewis, Nate's grandfather, and Darwin “Tony” Gensel, then both employed by King's Electric, went out on their own and jointly formed Tip Top Electric.  Their first headquarters was a garage on Arden Street, owned by Mr. Lewis' mother.
From the start the business was popular, catering to many local residents and their electrical needs and eventually winning more and more commercial accounts including the Altamont Milk Company and the Draper Corp. plant.
Over the years it gained many more commercial jobs including the electrical work on the original Big Tupper Ski Center lodge, O.W.D. Inc., Major Rod, Elliott Hardwood and renovations to Mercy Hospital.
Servicing the repairs of many area camps, including those at Big Wolf Lake and Whitney Park was also part of the successful business plan.
In 1955 the partners moved their business to Wawbeek Ave., across from Wawbeek Quick Stop and  1959 the partners purchased the company's present quarters at 15 Cliff Ave.
For years the partners did electrical repairs, some refrigeration work and the installation of electric systems.  For years too, beginning in 1957,  the place was the local headquarters of General Electric appliances and household goods.
For years the firm boasted three full-time employees, aside from the partners.  Shaheen Shaheen worked for the firm for many years.
The partners and their wives, Lu and Marie,  celebrated 25 years in business with an anniversary dinner with family and staff in February 1979.
In 1974 the younger Bob Lewis joined the firm on a full-time basis, after working there summers since he has 14 years old and after completing study in electrical technology at Canton ATC.
In September, 1982 the senior Bob Lewis died prematurely and the ownership of the partnership went to Mr. Gensel under a buy-sell insurance agreement the partners had forged years earlier.
In 1983 Bob Lewis purchased his father's half of the business from Mr. Gensel.
Leading up to that purchase Bob also started Lewis Insulators, working weekends and evenings installing insulation in a number of residences and businesses here in the early 1980s.  That company was eventually folded into the new partnership with Mr. Gensel.
Bob and Tony ran the business for several years together  until Bob eventually bought out his partner in 1986.
From that time on he ran the business as the president of his company, with valuable bookkeeping assistance from his wife, Cindy.
For a time too Tip Top Electric was a Skidoo dealership here.
In the late 1980s Bob introduced a heating and plumbing division to the company, which continues to thrive today.
Under Bob's direction the firm over the years grew its customer base in size and geographical area across the Northern New York and Vermont.
For many years Tip Top Electric has been aligned with large area contractors like Cascade Builders  and together they have tackled a number of large projects in Lake Placid, St. Regis Lake and across the area.  Locally they have also worked closely with contractors Bob Becker, Jim Frenette and others.
According to Bob, Nate has been running one of their crews for a number of years.
One of the firm's mainstays over the years has been plumber and electrician Chris Gallagher who has been with Tip Top for 25 years.
Other employees include Steve Gagnon, Ian Gillis and Zach Smith.
Bob will continue to work for his son, whenever he's needed.  He admitted this week it is satisfying to be able to turn over the business to his son.
When the Free Press interviewed Nate last week he promised to dedicate himself to the family business like his father and grandfather did before him.
“Tip Top Electric has a reputation of good work and good service.  We're known for honesty, hard work and doing right by our customers.  Those things are all priorities for me!” he told the hometown newspaper.
He said in addition to tackling various residential and commercial projects across the North Country, he is looking forward to more jobs at home what with the coming of the Adirondack Club and Resort.

Bandshell work to commence May 1; July 4 opening planned

 Contractor and clerk of the works Tom LaMere reviews construction plans with some of the people who will be involved with the building of the  new bandshell in Flanders Park at a construction meeting in the village office early last week.  From left standing are Excavating Contractor Mark “Chip” Lemieux, Trustee Ron LaScala, Electric Superintendent Marc Save, and Excavating Contractor Adam Boudreau.  Sitting at the board table were Trustee Clint Hollingsworth, Code Enforcement Officer Pete Edward and Engineer Kurt Bedore. (Photo by Katie Stuart)

Contractor and clerk of the works Tom LaMere reviews construction plans with some of the people who will be involved with the building of the  new bandshell in Flanders Park at a construction meeting in the village office early last week.  From left standing are Excavating Contractor Mark “Chip” Lemieux, Trustee Ron LaScala, Electric Superintendent Marc Save, and Excavating Contractor Adam Boudreau.  Sitting at the board table were Trustee Clint Hollingsworth, Code Enforcement Officer Pete Edward and Engineer Kurt Bedore. (Photo by Katie Stuart)

by Dan McClelland
The pouring of the foundation of the new bandshell in the Flanders section of the Tupper Lake Municipal is expected to take place on or about May 1, with the arrival of the timber peg framework and such about May 15.
The foundation will be poured by Moore's Flatworks and Foundations LLC, which was the lone bidder on recent village bids for the project. The firm bid $20,933 for all labor and construction  of forms for the foundation pour.
The village last fall awarded the contract for constructing the post and beam style frame to New Energy Works of Farmington, N.Y. for $76,890. The bid amount includes $70,960 for the construction of the framework, constructed of Douglas Fir and $5,930 for tongue and groove roof decking of the same wood.
With the wooden beams of the new performing arts structure will come a crane and crew from the timber frame contractor.
Once the skeleton is in place, the Lions Club volunteers and supporters in the community will devote a number of  days to roofing the bandshell, and installing the glass sides and storage-room rear area.  That work is expected to take place in the final weeks of May.
The construction schedule is, of course, based on the weather.
The excavation of the foundation area will be tackled by the village crew prior to the May 1 start and the electric crew will run new electric lines to the site to provide both temporary power for the building crews and for the electrical system that will be installed.
The crew will also install the 200-amp service in the structure and the on-site lighting planned, much of which will be at ground level.
Final details for the construction of the new building on the Raquette Pond shoreline at the base of Mill Street came together last Monday at a construction meeting of the various players, hosted by Community Developer Melissa McManus at the village.  Those who attended or who connected via conference call included Trustees Clint Hollingsworth and Ron LaScala,  General Contractor Tom LaMere,  Electric Department Superintendent Marc Staves, Adam Boudreau of Kentile Excavating, Mark “Chip” Lemieux of Lemieux Excavating, Engineer Kurt Bedore, Code Enforcement Officer Pete Edwards, Village Clerk Mary Casagrain, Lions Club President Dan McClelland,  Meaghan Lynch   from Terrain, a landscape architectural firm from New York City and bandshell designer Andrew Chary.
The plan is to have the transformation of the park area below Martin St. completed, for the most part, for an Independence Day opening of the new performance venue.
Contractor Tom LaMere has offered to oversee the bandshell construction. Tom is an active member of the Tupper Lake Lions Club that led the successful $40,000 fundraising campaign this past year that is part of the local share of the state grant won by the village from the state department of state to build the new performance park  with wide seating tiers down  from the Martin St. area to the shoreline area where the bandshell will be situated.
In front of the shell will be a 1,050 square foot dance area constructed of two-inch thick stone from Champlain Stone of Fort Ann. Engineer Kurt Bedore, who did much of the site work for the project and soil testing,  was able to secure the stone for the project at a fraction of the normal cost.
Mike Donah  has donated the services of  his Adirondack Fireplace company to lay the stone. The rectangular pieces will be floated in what is called “polymer sand.”  
The meeting last Monday began with a briefing by Mrs. McManus and Village Clerk Mary Casagrain of the village's procurement policies and bidding requirements. Also reviewed was the department of state's change order policy.
Andrew Chary was assigned to contact Phil Moore of Moore's Flatworks to insure everything was on track for the early May pour.
In the event the firm cannot fulfill its bid commitment, Mr. Chary was empowered by the group to contact a new concrete finisher that is currently working in the area.
Tupper Lake excavators Adam Boudreau and Mark Lemieux have both agreed to donate their talents and their firms' machinery to a major part of the project- the reshaping of the landscape there and new drainage.
It was noted there may not be enough fill on site to create the tiered seating areas in front of the bandshell and so arrangements will be needed by the village to bring in extra fill.  It will be trucked there in village trucks with village operators.
Mrs. Casagrain reported  the village currently has contracts with Paul Mitchell Stone Products and with Upstone Materials,  the company that last year purchased the Graymont Material company for sand and stone materials.
Engineer Bedore reported that his five foot deep boring tests at the bandshell site revealed nine inches of topsoil, twenty inches of loam and clay at 30 inches.  They hit ground water at 32 inches, he reported.
Pete Edwards said the site is both solid and well-drained so there should be a problem with heaving from the frost.
Mrs. McManus urged all those involved in the community project to keep close track of their hours, machinery hours and material purchases as all qualify as local contributions in the overall state grant funding of the major share of the project.



Brewski, Fire & Ice successful even without snow

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by Dan McClelland
This weekend's Brewski and Fire and Ice Golf tournament at the Tupper Lake Golf Course saw almost the exact same weather conditions as a year ago when the two events were first paired.  The lack of snow didn't hurt the fun, nor the turn-out.
Both this year and last year ample snow cover for both outdoor events in early February was wiped away in   repeated days of rain and unseasonably mild winter temperatures leading up to the combined event.
But despite the atypical February conditions,  the driving range area of the golf course was rocking with good times all afternoon!
The Brewski, sponsored by the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Tupper Lake Lions Club's Fire & Ice golf tournament drew a crowd of well over 200 as people came to compete at winter golf or to sample the craft beer products of eight regional breweries or both.
This year's crowd came from all across the North Country and southern Ontario.
Like last year John Gillis and his volunteer crew of trail groomers had the golf course trails flat and well maintained- all ready for the Brewski, until the rains and thaw came.
In years past skiers and snowshoers have navigated the trails in the  woods at the golf course where they encountered craft beer purveyors along the way.  
Without snow last year the   four or so beer vendors were moved over to the Fire & Ice site on the driving range, as they were again this past Saturday.  With eight vendors and one distributor present they ringed the five-hole course.
The companies represented were Tupper Lake's Raquette River Brewing and Big Tupper Brewing, Valcour Brewing Company of Plattsburgh, Township 7 Brewing of Dickinson Center, Oval Brewing of Plattsburgh, Lake Placid Pub and Brewing, Big Slide Brewery of Lake Placid, Blueline Brewing and High Peaks Distribution,  which brought along products from Livingood's Restaurant and Brewery and Saranac Beer.
The town's tracked trail groomer and trailer, stewarded by Eric Lanthier, with help from Jim Frenette and others, came in handy moving kegs across the driving range to the vendors' booths.
Saturday brought an overcast day with no rain, with the mercury rising to the low 30s.  It made for a great day to be outdoors.  Last year saw a torrential downpour of rain at about 4p.m. and high winds during the day, but this year the day was calm and dry.
The Lions outdoor tourney, while only attracting seven teams of three, drew a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from both the competitors and the dozens and dozens of beer-drinkers who cheered them on.
After twin five-hole rounds the team captained by Vickie Pickering and her two minions- husband Ricky and Bob Beaudette, emerged as the champs with a best round of 19.  Vickie's team was the loudest of the tournament, spectators noticed. Vickie also routinely posed for passing photographers  throughout their rounds.
Second best Fire & Ice golfers were Bob Lewis and Hayden and Paul LaMere.  The good-looking trio boasted some big drives but inconsistent green play.
Our money was on the trio of Cindy Lewis, and Jim and Debbie Gaudet- but one never knows the intricacies of winter golf without snow, does one?
Competitive couple Pam and Scott Edwards, supported generously by the talent of Spencer Lanthier, claimed to be last year's best.  This year was a different story, apparently.
Mayor Paul Maroun, who has teamed up with Bill Maroun and Carol Fuller for a great degree of success at past tourneys, was conspicuous by his absence this year, a victim of the flu.  
No matter how the golfers finished every player seemed to enjoy this year's snow-free play.
Throughout the afternoon crowds of as many as 30 beer samplers moved from vendor station to vendor station to try out the products.  There were many excellent beer recipes shared including some impressive stouts which boasted alcohol contents approaching 11 percent.
Another popular spot that afternoon was around the Lions fire next to the cook shack, where there were often 40 or more folks gathered.   The freshly bucked-up wet pine donated by Gary Drasye and Lions Club President Dan McClelland's dry stuff underneath made for a nice afternoon fire the was enjoyed by many of the visitors.  The club president didn't singe his hair this year.
The Lions club organizers were happy Joe Salamy didn't ignite himself, as he kindled the fire initially.
The crew in the Lions cook shack was like a well-oiled machine, serving up Lions favorites all afternoon.  In addition to the usual Lions fare dogs and burgs, a big favorite that day were Shaheen's Supermarket sweet sausages, smothered in green peppers and onions. Working the grills with appreciated skill Saturday were Lions Chris Zaidan, Rob Drasye and Joe Salamy.  Helping too was Danielle Gagnier.
Free pickles from John and Patty Gillis'  till-less garden above Moody were a bonus each serving, thanks to the local couple who always help out at the winter event.  The few patches of ice which were present again got a coating of sawdust from the John's wood-working shop at the base of the mountain.
A number of other volunteers worked the registration booths inside the pro shop.  Chamber leaders Hayley McCottery and Sue Fitzpatrick stayed busy selling $20 Brewski tickets to well over 190 beer drinkers.
Selling 50-50 tickets and golfer registrations for the Lions there too were members Gerry and Mary Sojda, Bob and Sioux Collier and Tall Paul Chartier.
Chamber officials said this week the 2018 Brewski was the biggest yet in the half dozen years it has been run at the golf course.
An interesting and welcome addition this year was the availability of eight balloon-tired bikes brought by Zander Connor of the staff of Lake Placid's High Peaks Cyclery.
The business was apparently prepared to donated the use of cross-country ski equipment and snowshoes for participants, had the snow cover stayed.
Zander told chamber officials, the fat-tired bikes were very popular at Saturday's event, and more so than at other events he's taken them to around the region this winter.  People were riding them all over the driving range area and up and down the Big Tupper access road Saturday.
The office the chamber shares with ROOST on Park Street was very busy with calls in recent weeks from people all over who were eager to ski or snowshoe the Brewski.
The chamber's events director, Miss McCottery, told someone over the weekend she figured the crowd might have reached 500, had the snow cover held.  There were also apparently a number of other beer vendors who called to find out more about the Brewski and about coming in the future.
After three or four hours of winter golf and beer-drinking, many people in the crowd wandered off the mountain down to Lakeview Lanes, where the local bar was eventually  packed.
There it was announced that the winner of the Lions Club 50-50 drawing of $2,020 was Piercefield's Linda Pickering.  She may take Neil on a well-deserved vacation.
In all the Lions netted about $3,000 in proceeds from the Fire & Ice, which included the golf registration fees and the sale of signs advertising local businesses, which this year were posted prominently on the side of the cook shack in the absence of snow to stick them in.  All that money will be re-invested in Tupper Lake in the Lions community-service projects.
Spearheading the Fire & Ice team again this year were Lions Tom LaMere and Stuart Nichols.  More than a handful of Lions including Paul LaMere, Mark LaVigne, Gerry Sojda, Joe Salamy, Rob Drasye met with Miss McCottery, John Gillis and others most Tuesdays from Christmas on  at Tom LaMere's shop to plan the big February event- and their planning paid off, despite  an uncooperative Mother Nature!

Village board considering “discontinuation” of Balsam Ave.

by Dan McClelland
The village board is considering selling Balsam Ave. to the owners of Raquette River Brewing  to allow them access to a lot behind and above their popular brewery where they'd like to build a production brewery.
At last week's village board meeting Mayor Paul Maroun distributed a letter from the brewery owners, Mark Jessie and Joe Hockey, regarding the discontinuation of Balsam Ave. as a village street and set March 21 at 6p.m. as a public hearing on the issue.
A year ago this month the brewery owners asked the village to extend Balsam to access the lot currently owned by the Sarazen family and the undeveloped corner of Balsam and Berkley.  Village leaders sent the request to their attorney, Nathan Race, for his consideration.
Speaking to the village board a year ago Joe Hockey said “Balsam Street would need to be extended approximately 150 feet to provide access to the property. The extension would be built through a wetland. I contacted Adirondack Park Agency (APA) biologist Mark Rooks to look at the proposal. It was determined that the project would require a permit issued by the APA bypassing the JIF process. It is approximated that 7,500 square feet of wetland would be disturbed. This would require the village to mitigate (create new wetland) approximately 15,000 square feet. Mr. Rooks, while looking at wetland maps of the village identified a possible mitigation site.”
It was recently discovered that the street is actually owned by the town and at a recent meeting of the town board, the officials took steps to transfer it to the village, which typically owns streets in the village corporation.
Extending the street to the Sarazen lot will require crossing a local stream with a small bridge or large culvert and filling in some wetland areas.  Under Adirondack Park Agency law, when a wetland is filled, a wetland area at least twice its size must be created.
If the village steps away and sells the street, the sale would put the responsibility for and  maintenance of  the existing road, extending it farther to the private lot  and any required filling of the wetlands to accomplish the extension on any new owner.  In this case it would most likely be Mr. Jessie and Mr. Hockey.
Mayor Paul Maroun noted briefly that evening that the discontinuation of the street requires several steps for the village.
The only person to comment on the issue that evening was Trustee Ron LaScala, who said the brewery owners now own both sides of the short street, since Joe Hockey's recent purchase of the house at 137 Main Street.  “For us to continue the street will required a considerable investment in engineering and construction costs.  It may be better to discontinue (ownership) of the street!”
He said with the brewery's planned purchase of the lot for the production brewery and the owners' current ownership of both sides of the street, the street holds little use as a public street for the village.
Mark Jessie said over the weekend the construction of a larger-scale production brewery to produce more product for their patrons and to increase distribution is still very much apart of their plans.