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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 7, 2010

Going bugsy for the first Helderberg Hilltowns Fall Festival

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — This Saturday, the roadside lawn in front of the revitalized Town Hall will be the venue for the first Helderberg Hilltowns Fall Festival.

“I think, for the first time out, we’re getting a lot of interest,” said Cheryl Frantzen, chairperson of the Knox Conservation Advisory Council, which organized the event. “We had thought of doing something like this last fall; that’s when the original idea was presented, and we’ve been working on it ever since,” she said.

The event will run from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9. There will be close to 30 vendors selling food and crafts, Frantzen said, as well as a variety of activities, like pumpkin painting and pony rides from 11 a.m. to noon. The Knox Historical Society and the Saddlemire Homestead will be open for self-guided tours.

In addition, two local bands, The Knox Traditional Strings and The Bluestones, will be performing at the festival.

Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s cross-country and track teams will be selling hamburgers and other foods to raise money so they can take trips out of state for track and cross-country meets, Frantzen said. “And there’ll be farm vendors selling anything from freshly raised produce, to chicken, eggs, beef, and more.”

One of the festival’s vendors, Robert Bareis, has a unique product — “Bob’s Lawn Bugs.”

At 74, Bareis is a retired machinist who now welds together colorful creatures out of scrap metal, turning recycling into an art.

“They look like giant spiders,” Bareis said. “They’re made out of truck oil filters, sparkplugs, car springs, water tanks — any scrap metal I can get,” he said of the bugs. Bareis gets used oil filters from the BKW School District, and sparkplugs from Mickles Automotive in Knox.

When he’s not building these yard-crawling critters, he also constructs stone fountains and fireplaces for family members.

His bugs vary in color, shape, and size. The smaller ones are about six inches tall, with bodies shaped like upside-down pots. The larger ones stand about two feet high, their bodies made of big car springs that spiral up from the base where their legs meet.

Some of them have eyes that look like jewels, with actual toothbrushes for eyebrows. Some have mouths. Some have claws. Some look like droids from the Star Wars saga.

“I got one great big one that’s got the face of an old carnival ride on the front of it; probably weighs 200 pounds or more,” said Bareis. The rest of its massive yellow head is made from an old water tank. Bareis had to restore the face, which resembles that of a gargantuan cartoon bumblebee wearing clown makeup. He painted it by hand, as he does with all of the Lawn Bugs.

Bareis even has a small, red, crab-like bug on top of his van that watches the cars behind him while he drives. When he turns the van on, its eyes light up. Meanwhile, the other small bugs can hang from the metal spider web that Bareis has constructed for them.

They cost anywhere from $30 to $250, he said, depending on how long it takes him to make a particular Lawn Bug.

“I’ve given a lot away to the grandkids, but I don’t have no place to sell them; I live on a dead-end road,” said Bareis. “Sometimes, people see them and they want to know if I do exterminating,” he laughed.

Frantzen hopes that the variety of vendors will help raise awareness of what can be gained from a visit to the Helderbergs.

“Hopefully, people will come out, enjoy the fall foliage in the Hilltowns, and enjoy the event,” she concluded. “It’s a good event for the community; there’s no fee for the vendors, no fee to attend. It’s intended to be an event that showcases what people in the Hilltowns have to offer, so people in surrounding communities know what’s here, and utilize what we have to offer.”

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