The Telegraph Poll: A fairground and visitor center for Chester?

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  1. Diana Ashworth says:

    I think a big farmers market in the summer at that spot would be a nice touch. Also, beautifying the downtown is a great idea. Is there a group in town dedicated to scouting out clean companies to come into Chester? That would be a better way to bring badly needed jobs into town. Could the Chester Economic Development Fund be used for that?

  2. Barre Pinske says:

    Kathy, Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. When you watch the video you will see the concept is completely community-oriented including featuring the town Green in the visitors center and a Chester history time line, while addressing an aspect of economic development that is very practical and relatively inexpensive.

    Simply, we are providing flat ground and some shelter from the rain for sales and events. There are 7.5 acres with much high ground, and some grade work and drainage could be done.

    A farmers market would provide an incubator opportunity for entrepreneurs to try their products with out a 24/7/365 store front commitment. Our business community is struggling, the government is constantly talking about helping to create jobs. The goal is to help people by creating opportunities. Who knows where the next best artisan cheese, craft beer or gourmet ice cream could come from. These types of products can be showcased at a market or with specific events. People need a chance to make a living and getting goods out on Rte. 103 in an inexpensive way, I feel is a very good idea.

    If anyone cannot make $300 on a weekend on Rte. 103 they are bad sales people or have a bad widget. Their space rents would go to pay for the field as would rents for events like mine. Could any of the vendors end up employing others and growing? I hope so. That’s seeing the big picture.

    My event – “The Big Buzz” – brought carvers from Europe in year four. We became an international event in our little town. We are doing the event in someone’s front yard because there is no available flat ground with parking in our town that works well for events. Should I take it someplace else as it grows? It’s very short-sighted to look at how one individual may benefit from something especially when they put the effort into it. I hope people will realize what is really being brought to the table.

    In my opinion, we all need to have some skin in the game and work together if we want to enjoy any benefits … I have no kids in school, playing ball or swimming at the pool. We are not itemized according to what we use. We are a town, we all pay. This festival park can and should generate enough income to support itself plus put money in the pockets of the players. Now, put on an event that brings folks to town at an off-peak time and what do we have? Lot’s of folks making money and maybe the promoters can pay their property taxes and water bill.

    In my opinion, we should make the investment and we need to stop holding onto our dollars like they are the last ones we are going to get. We should realize we have a river of gold in Rte. 103 and we are not doing a good job of sluicing it. Many of these people come from Fairfield County, CT — the wealthiest county in the U.S. With respect to my duck hunting analogy we don’t need more ducks. We need to be better at hunting the ones we have flying by.

    If we plant a seed something will grow and that needs to be the focus — not what any one person can do or how they will benefit. This is not for me or about me. It’s for and about everyone. It’s about a little kid flying a kite and about the retired person selling their honey. If it is the town’s festival park it will be there forever and what will that initial investment mean? It will mean that future historians will see we had a little vision to create some opportunity for people and we wanted to have some cultural fun too.

    I want to sit on the grass and hear the Speckers play the fiddle at OUR festival park and I hope we can sit together. I hope 100 years from now the town’s people can have a similar experience. It’s not about me. Make it yours. If we all do that we can each enjoy it in our own way.

  3. Kathy Pellett says:

    This idea could be good, but as proposed, sounds a little self-serving for Pinske’s business and carving event. I think this piece of land is under water a good deal of time in rainy weather, so don’t think this is a good location. A ag fairground is a huge undertaking and commitment. Just ask the people in Springfield as they have had to discontinue their long-standing ag fair. Something like this needs a huge commitment from dedicated people who will stay with it. It should be self-supporting – not town supported (i.e., taxpayers), as what we’re really paying for is local business. Perhaps the business community as a whole should be asked whether they want to support such a venture.

  4. Barre Pinske says:

    More answers: Below is a link to the 14-minute video I made on the project. I did not expect the board to make a financial commitment to the project upon first presentation. I feel very strongly about the project’s value to the town.

    Similar to a convention center in a big city, we will bring people here and they spend money over and above the normal commerce due to our efforts. It would be for and by the town’s people first. Obviously some folks may have more desire to get involved than others and do more work, thus reaping greater rewards such as those who choose to use the grounds and produce an event. If people come and stay, we will sell extra meals, rent more rooms and have more opportunity for retail business. The Big Buzz has proved that.

    Is a Festival Park a good way to establish some immunity to economic troubles? I think it could and it could bring us some fun events also. I think we need a shot in the arm. The shot will hurt a little but the lasting benefits could really help us out in the long run. The pain comes in getting money to get it going. We have to put pen to paper and find out what that really is before making a commitment. This would be the town’s Festival Park just like the Pinnacle with the ballfields and pool only it should balance out if run well, put money in the pockets of business owners and folks selling their wares at the market.

    Questions and concerns will help. It’s just a plan right now. I want to stress if we have a willingness to work for a common good no one may be 100 percent happy, but we may make something that works for a common good.
    Here is the video link.

  5. Mike says:

    I applaud the enthusiasm and wholeheartedly agree that the town’s economic development fund is being badly underutilized. As someone working for a major land developer in the region however, I can say it is highly unlikely that that field could be developed under current state regulations pertaining to flood plains/ways and would discourage the use of town funds just to find this out.

    I support trying to get some of the traffic that passes the village by to stop and enjoy Chester. I think a model such as Johnson, VT, where they took a downtown defined by busy Route 15, invested in The Johnson Main Street Project to slow traffic, invest in their existing public spaces and make the town a more pedestrian- friendly place that people want to spend time. Google their project name to see the accolades.

    I’m also perplexed regarding the existence of the Chester Economic Development Committee that is seemingly completely disconnected from the town’s conversation on this subject.

  6. Kathy says:

    Thank you for clearing some if this up for me. I look forward to learning more about this proposal as new information becomes available.

  7. A couple of items to clarify. What Barre was proposing was not that he run the fairground – or be lent money – but that the town or some other entity rent and manage the field. The select board asked for more information including answers to some of your questions.

    The Chester Economic Development Fund was set up to make loans to Chester businesses – like Barre’s – for capital improvements to strengthen local enterprise. Unfortunately this fund has not been used much. This may have to do with how few people know it exists. For more information on the CDF and how it can help a local business, contact Town Hall.

  8. Kathy says:

    A welcome center as one approaches Chester is a good idea. As it is now, people entering Chester are greeted by an ugly CTM garage/building, a modest (but with an updated exterior) thrift shop, a generic car wash. Entering Chester heading north does not give a tourist any reason to want to stop and spend money other than perhaps a quick bite at Heritage and a brief stretch of the legs at Stone House or Gallery 103 (now 103 Artisans Marketplace). They need to be enticed into heading farther west on Route 11 as opposed to turning north onto 103 toward Ludlow.

    Chester needs to regain its identity, which has been chipped away under the blanket of the Okemo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

    Will a fairground restore some of its identity? I can’t say for certain. However I do have mixed feelings regarding the town lending $1,500 seed money to a local merchant who has already received loans of $12,000 to further his business. Aside from the meager interest this loan generated, how much does Chester actually profit from his sale of wooden bears?

    How much will it cost for the town to insure the fairgrounds? How much will it cost to build structures? How much will it cost to secure the structures and fairgrounds against vandalism, etc.? What is the cost of maintaining these grounds? Have any studies been submitted indicating how much revenue Chester might receive after an event is held on the fairgrounds?

    It’s hard to answer a poll question when there are many questions not answered.

  9. Gail Stewart says:

    I think having the welcome center as you approach Chester would be a much better idea than having it in the middle of town. A good percentage of visitors turn off toward Ludlow/Okemo before getting to the Green. The Green is becoming less attractive for visitors with four empty storefronts. So much could be done with the fairgrounds.