by Dan McClelland
There are few class reunions held in the North Country that can rival the big one in Tupper Lake when hundreds of Tupper High alumni are treated to ten hours of some of the best music they grew up to during their high school years.
On Saturday Paul Chartier's Little Wolfstock returns to its birth place in 2012 at the town's Little Wolf Beach and Campgrounds for the second time.
The daylong festival of great music and fond remembrances by classmates of high school began in 2012 when organizer Paul Chartier was asked to help with his Class of 1972 40th reunion.
“I'd never done anything like a reunion and I was willing to try butit got me thinking. I didn't want to do something traditional!” he told the Free Press this week.
He remembered the class of 1971 reunion organized by his friends Stuart Nichols and Bob Lewis the year before and how of the 130 graduates that year, only about 35 people- including spouses- showed up.
“It seemed to me that for all that work, the end result was a disappointment for those organizers!”
The Tupper Lake native, who is now retired after a career in communications and graphic design at Sunmount DDSO, said he figured if he organized a reunion for all the classes of the 1970s he might be able to create an event that would draw 350 people, not just 35.
When he added the unique musical twist to the event, his first Little Wolfstock that year drew upwards of 1,000 people.
“I'm a lover of live music, and so with all the talented musicians Tupper Lake has produced over the years, I figured let's get them all together” to play for their classmates. It was a formula that worked in a big way.
Contacting every Tupper Lake musician from years gone by he could, the first event produced about a dozen performances- individuals, duets and bands. Some musicians- like Clark Blanton of Long Island and Jim LeBlanc of the Carolinas- came long distances to join the show.
A second event in 2014 produceda similar musical line-up and there are more than 16 acts planned for Saturday.
“The first year we barely had enough powerin the new town pavilion,” he remembered this week. A long extension cord was run from the shelter area to the concession stand several hundred feet across the beach's parking lot that first year.
By the 2014 event the town had installed a new 200-amp electric services just to power the pavilion area. Musical groups today need a lot of electricity to run their sophisticated sound boards, amplifiers and such.
That year Paul invited the classmates of the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s and numbers swelled to almost 1,500. It was what those classmates wanted and the interest showed in the numbers.
“We started calling it the 'largest reunion' in the Adirondacks!”
From the start Paul knew he only wanted to do it every two or three years, because to do it annually would tarnish the draw.
For his 2017 Little Wolfstock he has invited everyone who ever attended Tupper High School and their friends, including past and present teachers, staff and administrators.
“It's a very open format this year...essentially everyone is invited!
“It's a giant bring your own picnic,” he noted, adding that the Tupper Lake Lions Club food shack will be there to feed those who don't pack a lunch or dinner. Lion Tom Sciacca, well known local chef, is directing that effort.
Paul's approach to the successful reunion is keeping all costs down.
The only major expense is the services of Vermontville sound technician Russell Farr, who brings everything with him the musicians will need to power and amplify their guitars and other equipment.
“That's how we can have so many different people performing one after another,” he said of the reason he's retained Mr. Farr.
To pay for his production costs, organizers will be passing a hat that day among the various local graduates in attendance.
The local Lions Club is a co-sponsor of the event, and so the service organization's liability insurance will be in play. The town has also waived the usual user fees for the pavilion and has agreed to bring more portable toilets on site to handle the big crowd that is expected.
“Any money left over we always donate to a local charity or community organization,” the organizer explained. Last year it was the food pantry; this year any surplus funds will go to the children of Jamie Rose Martin, in care of her sister Jen Tice, he said this week.
The event will feature both “a big stage” in the pavilion and a little one too. That way smaller acts will perform between bigger ones for a constant flow of great music.
Lined up so far for the main stage (in order of appearance) is Dennis Pickering's “2 Bits,” Clint Hollingsworth and friends who now call themselves “Bad Influence,” Evan Bujold and his band “Late Earth,” soloist Jess Mayotte, Jim (Boushie) & E., Brock Gonyea, Ben and Jay (Ben McClelland and Jay Martin), “Spring Street” featuring Dan Spada and Josh Pratt from Tupper Lake, “The Jones Boys, “Hammer Lok,” making its first appearance at the event, Tom Snye and his band “Bittersweet and wrapping up the big party, beginning at 9p.m. will be Jeff Gonyea's band “Legend.”
“Legend,” for a finale, will call other musicians that day back to the stage for a rousing all-star jam, headlined by “Sweet Home, Alabama!”
Part of the big finish too will be a choral attempt at the Tupper High school song, “Deep in the North Land,” the lyrics of which were written by L.P. Quinn.
Some of the talents expected to perform on the smaller stage over the ten hours are Jim Lemieux, Kurt Gagnier, Dale Reandeau and Erin Booya, Clark Blanton, Jeff Boushie, Deanna Courtney and “Chi Chi” Glanda and her son.
“I have a variety of other musicians who have said they may appear.”
The organizers said the talent pool is still open this week. “If you are a musician from Tupper Lake, I'll do my best to squeeze you in!”
Mr. Chartier can be contacted at 359-3562.
As a person who has been a fan of local music throughout his lifetime here, he figures there are more people and groups performing music here right now that at any time in Tupper's history.
“If everything goes as planned it'll be non-stop music from start to finish!” he predicted.
In his planning work, Daniel “Bonnie” Carmichael has been a big help, he told the Free Press.
Another familiar face the graduates will see on the grounds Saturday will be Ken Carmichael, known to many here as “Mr. Fun,” and who has the tee shirt concession this weekend.
Jerry Fletcher will be furnishing extra trash barrels for the event and Greg Jessie will be bringing over from his residence a short distance away some of his foos ball tables from his large collection to generate a little good-natured competition.
Lion and Town Councilman John Quinn has signed up “for light detail,” and is expected to string a number of strands of Christmas lights to give the grounds a festive feel.
The event will be held rain or shine, and Mr. Chartier is hoping for a repeat of the first two Little Wolfstocks. In 2012 rain and thunder threatened but held off all day and the last time in 2014 it was a sunny day with a nice breeze from the west.
The extended forecast this week, as of press time yesterday, is calling for full sun, so let's keep our fingers crossed.
“I'm hoping to see people of all ages and from all classes herecome out.,” invited Mr. Chartier. “It promises to be another great time!”
by Dan McClelland