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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 26, 2008

Victorian flair at the Altamont Fair
Thomas and Cring donate new bandstand with old look

By Tyler Schuling

ALTAMONT — A developer who has worked on multiple projects here is donating a new stage with an old look to the Altamont Fair.   

Jeff Thomas is constructing a Victorian-style stage in the infield in front of the grandstand with his architect, Dominick Ranieri, and Peter Bette, the owner and founder of Bette & Cring Construction — the company that is building Thomas’s senior housing project across the street from the fairgrounds. 

“Our goal is to complete it by August 1,” said Thomas.

The new 30-by-40-foot stage will have a gable roof and be accessible to those with handicaps.  This year’s grandstand lineup at the fair consists of a number of country music singers and the demolition derby, an old standby. 

“We sort of mimicked what we could of what would have been erected when the fair was in the beginning stages 100 years ago,” said Thomas.

Thomas, the owner and founder of WeatherGuard Roofing, estimated the new stage at between $75,000 and $100,000. 

“We go through bringing in a portable stage every year,” said Marie McMillan, operations manager for the fair.

“It’s extremely expensive and it doesn’t look as nice as this is going to look and this will be wonderful for whatever events that get used during our fair week,” she said.  “If outside events choose to use it, as was suggested to me by one of the events, they can put a large screen in front of the grandstand for people to sit in the grandstand and watch the show, rather than standing down in the infield, like you would at some of the events we have now,” McMillan said. 

She said, “I think it will be great.  I think it will serve the purpose well, and everyone I’ve talked to here in the organization, and even some of the outside vendors I’ve spoken with, are very pleased.” 

Thomas is currently working on two other projects in the Altamont area — the retirement village on Brandle Road and a federal credit union to be built at the intersection of Route 146 and Gun Club Road. 

The first Altamont Fair — now an annual tri-county event — was held 115 years ago.  In November of 1995, its centerpiece — a 70-year-old covered grandstand — went up in flames.  It was replaced with modern metal bleachers. 

Does Thomas have plans to also rebuild the grandstand?

“They’ve got a vast amount of acres with many buildings, and it’s a business that only conducts itself one week a year.  And it’s almost impossible to maintain all of the structures and maintain all that land,” he said, adding that the fair definitely needs help from the business community and grants and donations. 

“I looked at some of the design that was done there before and I can envision a really nice Victorian, covered grandstand, and we’re hoping that this bandstand is going to be the catalyst to make that happen,” Thomas said. 

“We’re hoping that other businesses will be encouraged by what we’re doing and hopefully some day in the very near future, we’ll get grandstands back in the fair.  The fair’s got a wonderful history.  It’s a staple in the community.  Great organization,” he said. 

“The other thing is: It’s a great distraction today — from the Internet, malls, all the hustle and bustle of today’s world.  For a week out of the year,” Thomas said, “you get to walk around and see cows and chickens and horses and farm animals, and it’s a nice oasis in the middle of today’s society. It’s really nice.” 

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