BALLSTON SPA – Community spirit will be in high visibility this spring when more than 1,000 birdhouses — all made and decorated as part of the fifth annual Ballston Spa Birdhouse Program — will grace village lamp posts.
“I never thought it would be this popular, but would only be a local event,” said Mark Blech. “But in the last two years it’s exploded. The response has been amazing.”
Blech, a local woodworker and artist who’d spent more than 30 years working in film, television and theme parks building and designing sets and fantasy-size objects, had moved to Ballston Spa to “make art.” In walking around the village he said he sensed a lack of community involvement. His first idea was to get the annual Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by local children, which then-Mayor John Romano agreed to support with seed money.
“We had hundreds of decorations,” Blech said.
On another walk about the village he noted the lamp posts.
“I thought they should be decorated but in an accessible format,” he said. “Everyone loves birds. With a birdhouse, people could decorate them.”
Romano loved that idea, too, and in 2018 the first Birdhouse Competition was held. Some 75 houses were decorated, most built by Curtis Lumber.
Many others were built and decorated by home woodworkers. The outstanding ones were mounted on trees along the Assemblyman Jim Tedesco Old Iron Spring Fitness Trail.
Every year since, except for last year when it was canceled because of COVID, more and more children and adults have become involved to decorate the birdhouses. This year, Curtis Lumber provided the lumber and some assistance for middle school children to build 1,000 birdhouses, which also helped to promote the trades in schools.
“It’s to teach woodworking and what it’s like to work on a large scale,” Blech said. “It’s giving kids a creative, mindful, and healthy outlet and shows them opportunities as to where to go in life.”
Kate Fryer, the owner of A Bead Just So in Ballston Spa, has decorated a birdhouse every year. “It’s a great activity for the village and brings a lot of people downtown,” she said.
Fryer anticipates working with her son Zeke, age 5 1/2, to help her splatter paint and possibly do something on Spiderman.
“We have no big themes,” she said laughing.
Zeke is also involved in painting oversize letters as part of the banner program being done by area elementary kids. They’ll measure five feet tall and 32 inches deep to spell Ballston Spa and will be mounted in Wiswall Park as part of the June 10 celebration.
“He’s very excited. As a community member, especially for a kid, to say I did that for my town … it’s a cool thing,” Fryer said.
With birdhouse entrants coming locally and as far as Delmar, Schenectady and even Vermont, Blech said the June 10 celebration will be “spectacular.”
There will be an 18-foot tall, two-story birdhouse that BOCES will build, with as many birdhouses as possible mounted on the supports. There will also be another structure also covered with birdhouses atop which will be Penelope, a bird that Blech created out of colored ornaments that measures eight feet long, five feet high and three feet deep.
There will be banners, whose theme is “peace,” exhibits, including one from the National Guard, kids’ crafts, food vendors, a barbecue and vendors including one that sells birdhouse kits. Blech is also designing and making medallions decorated with gold leaf to commemorate the day.
“The birdhouse program is a true blessing to our community,” said Mayor Frank Rossi, Jr. “It’s creating education for school children … and for families to get together and involved. It’s wonderful to see and it’s all grown exponentially. Curtis Lumber has parlayed this to incentivize the trades to children as an alternative. And people are looking for more community-based events. It’s gravy [for the village], but important gravy.”
While the run on people getting a birdhouse has now exceeded the first 1,000, Blech himself built the other 500. The deadline to submit a finished birdhouse is April 10. To get one now, people should submit a request to Blech at www.askbspa.com. Blech will give directions as to where people can pickup their birdhouse. There is no cost.
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Categories: Art, Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Saratoga Springs