Annual benefit brings in money for local historical repair projects

By JOSHUA THOMAS
C-S-E Editor

FORT PLAIN — On Saturday, the Mohawk Valley Collective, Inc., put on the fourth annual Standing Strong: River Through Time fundraiser, its attendees taking reprieve from the hazy summer heat under Haslett Park’s shady trees.
The event filled the sprawling village space with music, food and enthusiasm all Saturday afternoon, the day’s scheduled storm holding back until the evening.
“I feel so lucky we had nice weather with all the talk of rain and thunderstorms,” said MVC Treasurer Tolga Morawski, explaining that proceeds from Saturday’s event will go toward necessary repairs at Fort Plain’s Unity Hall and Canajoharie’s West Hill School, two projects that the MVC remains fully immersed in, the group having formed with the specific goal of restoring and repurposing local properties for community use.
Said Morawski, “There’s no major disasters this year, thankfully,” allowing MVC to utilize Saturday’s proceeds, which were put toward flood mitigation following the first event in 2013, held directly on the heels of the devastating disaster.
In subsequent years, the funding raised at Standing Strong: River Through Time has filled various needs throughout the community.
Morawski also noted that the MVC was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Assembly Angelo Santabarbara. The grant, requiring matching funding, will be put toward re-roofing West Hill School’s bell tower.
He explained, “Now, we’re fundraising to get that money, and we’ll be reimbursed after,” the project’s completion.
The re-roofing project at West Hill School will likely be completed in sections, with local contractor Hein Kraak beginning work in the next few months, or once the weather begins to cool.
During Saturday’s benefit, about 15-20 volunteers donated time, from running soundboards, to preparing food, to operating a raffle that many attendees partook in, the outdoor activity-themed prizes once again proving quite popular.
Morawski said that the items, mostly purchased at cost from local and semi-local businesses, were acquired with a specific theme in mind, stating, “The theme we’ve done over the years is ‘outdoor activities.’ We’re trying to promote tourism.”
“Really, it’s about getting people outdoors. That’s a really big part of the idea of this event, which ties in with Canal Splash!” continued Morawski of the vast, annual happening coordinated by NYS Canal Corporation and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, a group which helped underwrite a grant that helped fund Saturday’s benefit.
Between six and eight people were responsible for the Standing Strong: River Through Time’s organization and planning, one of the main tasks being to work out logistics with performers. “It’s hard to schedule a Saturday in August,” for many performers, as they’re booked in advance, Morawski explained.
Though he said, “there are a lot of things going on this weekend, we’ve had a lot of people come through today,” Morawski noting that he considered Saturday’s event a success, over 70-people having passed through the park by mid-afternoon.
One attendee was Town of Palatine Supervisor Sara Niccoli, who will run against Senator George Amedore for a New York State Senate seat representing the 46th district this November
Niccoli had spent the morning supporting nurses in Poughkeepsie, then traveling back to Fort Plain for Standing Strong: River Through Time. She ended her day in Amsterdam, where she took in a riverfront concert.
Niccoli, after trying her hand at the dunking booth from dry land, took an unexpected, fully-clothed turn inside the booth, playfully teasing attendees as they tried to sink her. Niccoli rose from the dunking booth soaking wet, but all smiles, excitedly commenting — in words that could easily have summed up all of Saturday’s Standing Strong: River Through Time activities — “That was fun!”