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Festival organizer offers plan for Caroga Lake amusement park

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Festival organizer offers plan for Caroga Lake amusement park

The founder of the Caroga Lake Music Festival has come forward with a plan to turn the donated Sherm
Festival organizer offers plan for Caroga Lake amusement park
The former Sherman's Amusement Park in Caroga Lake was a center of recreation and tourism from its beginnings in the 1920s until its decline in the '70s and '80s, but has been used only for special events in recent years.
Photographer: Kyle Adams

The founder of the Caroga Lake Music Festival has come forward with a plan to turn the donated Sherman’s Amusement Park into a performing arts and education center.

Twenty-two-year-old Kyle Price and his partner on the project, Keir GoGwilt, think the center could “transform the town of Caroga area” with “nationally recognized performances, exhibits, and community engagement events,” according to their proposal and a letter read to the Caroga Town Board on Wednesday night.

The town is pursuing a $500,000 federal grant to help restore the former amusement park, which was donated to the town by former owner George Abdella at the end of December. The terms of the original donation agreement were challenged by members of the public and eventually rejected by the Town Board.

With no concrete or detailed plan announced yet for the 8-acre park, which contains a large banquet hall, pavilion and Ferris wheel, Price is hoping his proposal could chart the way forward.

“I really want to push the idea because I really feel like the community will benefit a lot from it,” he said Thursday. “We have world-class artists that we’re friends with and a lot of us perform nationally and do a lot of festivals, and we feel that we can really bring something different and unique that will attract people from Boston, New York City, up to Caroga.”

Price, a cellist, is a fellow and master’s degree student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Although he was raised in Ohio, his grandmother lived in Caroga Lake, and he spent most of his summers with her in the small Adirondack town.

Since 2012, he has been inviting fellow young musicians from music conservatories to perform in the Caroga Lake Music Festival, which features performances throughout the town for about a month each summer.

That festival’s success has given Price a solid foundation for his arts center proposal.

“Based on what I’ve seen, I think it’s got some potential,” said Canada Lake resident Dave Graves. “And that’s partially because Kyle himself is a very high-energy guy who has proven that you can do some things that on the face of it you wouldn’t say were possible in a small Adirondack community. I think it’s very interesting, I think it’s intriguing, I think it’s visionary.”

The proposed Sherman’s Center for Collaborative Arts and Education would be a place for arts fellows — from music to visual and culinary arts — to work, teach, collaborate and experiment, all while engaging with the community through educational opportunities, events, exhibits and performances.

Price envisions using the enclosed carousel as an art gallery, the main hall as a lakeside performance venue and dining hall/restaurant, the pavilion as an outdoor performance space and creating a community garden and farm stand.

He said funding the arts center will rely to an extent on the town’s support, but he has proposed seeking grants and sponsorships, raising money through advertisements, merchandise, concerts, exhibits and weekend festivals, as well as special events like weddings, and online fundraising.

The Town Board seemed to be interested in the proposal. Town Supervisor Ralph Ottuso said Thursday he thinks it’s a “great idea,” based partly on the success of the arts festival,

“It’s standing room only [at the festival concerts],” he said, “and people come from all over the counties, and they create a lot of activity. So the businesses, the restaurants, the stores are all doing better.”

Town Board member Bob Sullivan is also behind it. Though there are still some questions to be answered, he said it’s “an exciting opportunity for the town” that he would encourage the board to take a serious look at.

Price is now working to build public support for the project and said he plans to release a video soon to better illustrate his vision. The entire proposal is available at http://carogalakemusicfestival.org.

Price’s network of high-caliber musicians — he name-drops Yo-Yo Ma as one of the project’s supporters — has impressed the people of the community in the last few years, and he plans to draw on that network to help bring the arts center to life.

“Based on what I’ve seen at the Caroga Lake Music Festival and the people he’s been able to bring in and the connections he has, I wouldn’t discount that this could work,” said Graves, who agreed with Sullivan that there are some details that need to be fleshed out. “There’s a lot of youth and energy in that group, and that’s certainly something that Caroga could use.”

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