Country Strong had more in common with a pit-stop than a finish line.
Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) presented the musical event at the fairgrounds in Cobleskill to celebrate the year of recovery since Tropical Storm Irene.
“We’re bringing some family fun to those who have been working to bring this community back,” said Melissa Jones, communications chair of SALT. “When you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and not see how far we’ve come. They need a break.”
But a break is all Jones and other SALT officials proposed. She said about one-fourth of the over 2,000 affected households are restored, which is progress, but far from completion. To use a race metaphor, if the Schoharie County recovery was a marathon, she said, Country Strong would be a water stand on mile marker four.
“We still need your help to fulfill this historic recovery,” said SALT Executive Director Sarah Goodrich. “We will make it and we will make it together.”
It was a qualified celebration, but that didn’t stop nearly 2,000 residents from cutting loose for a good time. There were a few bounce houses for the kids, live music, vendors, even belly dancers gyrating to sitar music, which one doesn’t normally expect in rural upstate New York.
Nine-year-old Brayden coasted to earth in his harness and child-sized hard hat after conquering the National Guard rock wall. His father, Keith Carn, gave him a high five. After many hours of volunteer work, the boy deserved a day of fun.
“We have seven children from 9 to 19,” Carn said. “On the weekends, we volunteered anywhere that needed help. We wanted to teach them what it means to be part of a community.”
Considering the nine workers putting in eight hours every Saturday for months after the flood, Carn estimated his family contributed over 1,000 hours to the recovery.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Brayden said, referring to the rock wall, not the hours of cleanup.
The Carn family wasn’t hit by the flood, but as a mortgage collector, Keith sees the ongoing flood damage every day.
Nearly every one of the attendees had a flood story to tell, even the entertainment.
J.D. Winslow spent the day riding his two massive draft horses, Zeus and Athena, around the fairgrounds, Roman style, with one foot on the back of each friendly giant.
“We were very lucky,” he said, rubbing the broad forehead of Zeus. He wore a cowboy shirt and tights left over from the decade he spent in the trick-riding business. Now Winslow lives in Esperance with his horses.
His pastures are on the high side of the creek, so while he watched the water crest the banks, it never made it to his land.
“I figured I would lose my horses to run to higher ground,” he said, “but it never came to that.”
Most, like Susan Bramer and her husband, Dick, weren’t so lucky. Her selection of bead and silver handmade jewelry laid out on the vendor’s table was the last she says she’ll ever make.
They live in a split-level ranch house in the village of Schoharie.
“We lost all the furniture and everything that goes with it,” she said pausing to clear her throat. “We only had four feet of water, but that’s all it takes.”
The jewelry was all housed upstairs, but after the flood and a raise in silver prices, she said she just didn’t have the inclination.
“There are other things to be done,” she said, adding that all the money she makes at Country Strong will go directly into rebuilding their bathroom.
For more information or to donate to SALT, visit www.saltrecovery.org.
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