Altamont, Aug. 22, 2013

 Fair week is always an exciting week around our house. I have spent all of fair week on the grounds in one capacity or another for most of our life here in Altamont.

Years ago, St. Lucy’s Church ran a food concession, and our entire family worked in the restaurant for many, many years.

The Mason’s also ran a fast food booth that also had the services of the Caruso family for most of the time that they ran the concession.

The Green Giant’s 4-H Club was also an exciting way for us to learn, work with our kids and see so many future leaders just starting on their journey from youth to young adults and then stepping into the jobs of leadership in businesses and government.

These were all warm experiences for our entire family. We saw the changes in the fair as new buildings were erected and especially after the grandstand burned down. The addition of the milking parlor and birthing barn were display areas that taught both city dwellers and country folk some new experiences.

 However, the most exciting event that has occurred each and every year (at least for the last 40 years) has been the birthday of our daughter Cindy.  We have had birthday parties at our home, at Chuck E. Cheeses, and at the old Family Swim Club (now Orsini Park}. This year, because it was a special year, Cindy’s sisters wanted to throw her a surprise party. A surprise party is not that easy to do, but we all agreed to try.

Christa, our oldest daughter, and her friend Rachel live in a home that has a pool so they volunteered their home. Christa said, “Why don’t we have a pool-side barbecue”? With that, the plans were underway.

Now the real planning began. We asked Matt, Cindy’s boyfriend, to put together a list of her good friends. Elizabeth, our second daughter, was called and given the plans so she could get a flight home from Oklahoma to help and be at the party.

Jim, my husband, and I worked on a list of some of our friends we felt would want to be on hand for the surprise.

When Cindy was younger she was very shy. After graduating from college and working her way up to be the manager of a group home for The Center for Disability Services, she has gained a lot of personal confidence. Part of the confidence comes from her addiction to Zumba.

 When is a surprise not a surprise? When someone leaks some information and it is no longer a surprise. When is a surprise really a surprise? When everyone is able to sneak around and pull off a party without giving away the secret.

We all shouted, “surprise!” as Cindy walked through the door at her party. Her face flushed a bright red, and she took two steps backward in both delight and shock. We knew from her expression that by being cautious, sneaking around, using Facebook to communicate and by just sheer luck we were able to pull it off.

 Her addiction to Zumba was a problem for a short while. She resisted missing a class, even to have a birthday dinner with the family. We talked to the Zumba instructor, who had been invited to the party, she told Cindy that she had a meeting to go to that day and would have to cancel the class. The instructor and several friends from the Zumba class were among the first friends she spotted.

 As Cindy walked around the house and into the yard by the pool, she stopped to share a story, get a hug, cry a little and move on to the next person or group. In the living room she saw Tom and Mary Beth Nowak who have been friends for years.  Long ago, Mary Beth showed Cindy how to diaper a newborn baby. 

At age 11 Cindy really wanted to be a babysitter. The Nowack's were sitting with Bill and Kathy  Johnson who have been friends with Cindy since she went to Cobleskill where Kathy was teaching. Kathy was a good mentor to Cindy and they became good friends. She later became the babysitter and role model for the Johnson's children.

On a small table was a very large ladybug cake. We have called her Cindy Bug her entire life and the ladybug has been her symbol. The cake was absolutely beautiful! Later it was joined by two ice cream sheetcakes. When it was time to blow out the many candles Cindy was assisted by the children at the party.

Her cousins, Sherry and Angie drove in from Connecticut. Sherry’s daughter Irene and Irene’s three- children, also shared in the surprise. Her cousin Laurie lives in Arizona and could not make it but Laurie’s daughter Michele and Michele’s two children, from Massachusetts, enjoyed the pool and the surprise.

Jim and I were talking to our friends Harvey and Di Levin and Mary Anne Ross. Mary Anne lived above us in our first house in Altamont, and we have been good friends ever since.

Of course, you have heard of Harvey and Di, who have been our friends since our Elizabeth and their son, Paul were classmates in the sixth grade. We had to move from our seats because we had been sitting in the way of the candy shop. This was a table set up with over a dozen bowls and dishes filled with all types of candy. There was a spoon in each to help you fill a bag. They even had the twists to tie off the bag.

 At some point, the people who had been outside by the pool came inside and the barbecue was spread out on a table in the kitchen.  After we all enjoyed the pepperoni, cheese, shrimp, tomato and mozzarella cheese, crackers, chips, etc. that were on the appetizer table folks turned to the hot dogs, cheeseburgers, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, broccoli salad (the Zumba people were impressed with the healthy choices), and other foods available.

 Rachel’s mother and father and her aunt Rachel, her cousin and some family friends were outside by the pool.  After they ate they all helped with the cleanup.

When everyone gathered for cake and ice cream, a video with pictures of Cindy’s life was played on the television. Her friend, Elmer did a great job and everyone loved seeing the changes that had taken place over the years from being a baby to the present time.

The presence of so many friends that have touched Cindy’s life over the years was truly wonderful. The only drawback to the evening was that it had to end. Saying goodnight and thanks to her friends as they left was an eye washing experience.

The next day, during breakfast with the out of town relatives, Cindy had a chance to relive a little of the excitement before they all hit the road for home.

Thinking that the celebration was all over, Cindy started to settle into her regular routine. Other plans were brewing that she did not know about. What? Another surprise; of course! Our Family loves to give happy surprises to each other.

This time we invited Cindy and Matt to dinner so we could talk about her birthday in a more calm area. She did not know that on Saturday afternoon her cousin, Steve Furr, flew in from Greensboro, N.C. He was sorry to miss the party but wanted to see her and surprise her for her birthday.

 It was indeed a wonderful surprise. Steve was able to stay a few days so we treated him to a day at the  fair. It was an experience that he will never forget.

Steve doesn’t think they have anything quite like the Altamont Fair near Greensboro, and if they do, he has never gone.

Life is full of surprises, some good, others not so good. The last several days have been very exciting, very happy and filled with good surprises. We have all shared in the joy of Cindy’s 40th birthday.  Now we have to decide what to plan for our next surprise!


On Saturday, Aug. 24, the fire departments in Altamont, Guilderland Center and Knox will hold a  parade in Altamont. The participants will parade from the Altamont Fairgrounds, down Grand Street, up Main Street, down Park Street and back into the fairgrounds.  The public is invited to enjoy the festivities that will follow the parade free of charge.

Scottish Games

The annual Scottish Games will take place the weekend of Aug. 31 through Sept. 1, at the Altamont  Fairgrounds.  Children ages 12 and under will be admitted free.  Advance sale tickets will be available at Price Chopper through Aug. 28, or online at The famous Brigadoons will be featured.


Happy-anniversary wishes are extended to Linda and Bill Hookamp who will celebrate their special day on Aug. 27.


Happy-birthday wishes are extended to:

— George Pratt, David Todd Spiak, and Jennifer Stooks on Aug. 23;

— Ann Marie Cardone, Brad Grant, Nicholas Blackman, and Lorraine Kasitch on Aug. 26;

— Jamie Forand, Ernest Orsini, Jr., and Arnie Rothstein on Aug. 27;

— Lizzie Bintz and Verna Chapman on Aug. 28; and

— Laura DeNucci, Jim Schiltz, and Donald Strever on Aug. 29.