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Editorial: Mud Ball good tonic for season

Dan McClelland

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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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