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Ag Society proposing outdoor amphitheater at Pratt Park

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LOWVILLE — The Lewis County Agricultural Society is moving forward with plans for an outdoor amphitheater at Pratt Park just outside the village.

“We feel this location provides the setting for a unique performing arts venue,” Kevin Kent, a member of the Agricultural Society board, said in a statement. “The amphitheater’s terrace seating design will accommodate up to 550 spectators nestled into the hill. The surrounding grassland area will easily provide seating for many more people with lawn chairs or blankets. This outdoor amphitheater will be one of a kind in the north country and would lend well to educational programs as well as other cultural and community events. The facility would be available for public use.”

The eventual goal is to connect the Pratt Park area to the Lewis County Fairgrounds, which the society also operates, with a walking and access trail, he said.

“The amphitheater at Pratt Park will be a great complement to the Maple Ridge facility and will provide a beautiful venue for events similar to our Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival,” Keith M. Zehr, executive director of the Adirondack Mennonite Camping Association, which operates Maple Ridge Center and Beaver Camp, said in a statement.

A preliminary design for the amphitheater site — proposed on the hillside behind the old horse track on the 55-acre Pratt Park parcel — has been completed through a funding partnership with Pratt-Northam Foundation, and the Agricultural Society has applied for funding to continue design work on the project, according to a release.

Society members also are proposing the purchase of a portable, trailer-mounted stage for the amphitheater that also could replace the Show Wagon, which has served as the stage at the Lewis County Fair for decades and also is used at the Lowville Cream Cheese Festival.

“In early 2014, a fundraising campaign will be initiated specifically for the portable stage acquisition,” the release states. “The stage is an important need for the Ag Society, and the board hopes to move forward with that project, given community support, even if other grants funds are not immediately secured.”

The stage itself is expected to cost about $80,000, although project estimates are still preliminary, Mr. Kent said.

Although there is no specific timeline, society officials hope to complete the project sometime in 2015, he said.

“We have gathered good feedback and information on potential uses for the site, and we hope to hear more comments and support from citizens of Lewis County as this project moves forward,” Mr. Kent said.

The Pratt-Northam Foundation in 2007 turned over most of the former Kenneth Seeber horse farm on East Road to the Agricultural Society and the camping association in hopes that they would further develop the site’s recreational possibilities. Pratt-Northam, which funds numerous youth-oriented programs from Carthage to Boonville, bought the 180-acre property between East Road and Route 26 in September 2000.

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