Fire strikes Lake George …the music will go on

Shepard Park stage destroyed; Mayor: ‘We’ll salvage the summer’

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

“We’re still open for business. We’re gonna salvage this summer. We’re Lake George strong,” Village Mayor Ray Perry said Sunday looking at the charred remains of the Shepard Park bandstand, still standing at the time.

By Monday, the mayor was buoyant. “This is an opportunity to make the greatest amphitheater in the Northeast,” Mayor Perry told The Chronicle, promising “drastic improvements” to what was “already beautiful.”

He said, “We’ve had an outpouring of support — texts, email, Facebook messages, everyone saying I wanna help.”

He expects a tent will be in place for the scheduled concerts on Wednesday and Friday, July 3 and 5, with generators providing power, and a temporary stage erected next week.

The fire started just after 3 a.m. on Sunday, Mayor Perry said. It was called at 3:42 in by a man “seeking shelter for the evening in the structure.” The mayor said police ruled out the caller as a suspect.

Where the fire started.
He said indications are the fire started in the locked “sound equipment room, in the corner behind a soda machine.”

“They’re leaning toward an electrical fire, rather than something malicious.”

No one was injured, “thankfully,” Mayor Perry said, including the man who called the fire in, and another “shelterless” person on the site at the time.

“I have so many memories in that space, and we will have it again…” Mayor Perry said. “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, that we can make it a little better acoustically, with modern designs and power….It’s gonna be better than ever.”

“I’m a music lover, and it sucks,” the mayor said, momentarily overcome as he looked over the site.

He said, “We did get clearance from the State Fire Inspectors to level the building as soon as possible.”

By Sunday afternoon, Ellsworth Excavating had levelled the site to a flat slab.

The Village owns a portable stage it uses at the Festival Commons at Charles R. Wood Park that it aims to install in Shepard Park “as quickly as possible.”

“It’ll be makeshift for the remainder of the summer, until we get a new design and construction,” the mayor said. “I’m trying to salvage the summer — and salvage the Fourth of July, if at all possible.”

The Village typically doesn’t have live concerts on the Fourth, which is busy enough with the annual fireworks show.
But free concerts are planned all summer, most weekdays and some weekends.

Regular shows include local musicians on Mondays and Tuesdays, touring artists curated by the Lake George Arts Project on Wednesdays, Thursday concerts by the Lake George Community Band (in conjunction with weekly fireworks), and “Fridays at the Lake” family-friendly rock shows by Capital Region artists.

The mayor said they aim to find alternate sites or install the stage quickly.

The Lake George Arts Project posted on Facebook, “Lake George will not be deterred. The Village and friends are already working on plans to ensure this summer season is as enjoyable and memorable as all of the summers before it. As things progress, we hope (we know) the community will come together for whatever calls to action come from the process.”

Dave Ehmann of Improv Records, which produces the Fridays at the Lakeseries, posted, “We in Lake George don’t get discouraged. We get busy….Tuesday we will put up a huge tent thanks to Entertainment One Rentals.

“The park will be ready for Wednesday’s Lake George Arts Project concert followed by our concert on Friday. There’s a lot of love in this town and so many memories in that park. See you Friday!!!!”

Mayor Perry said “thousands of dollars of musical instruments…were irrevocably damaged in the building.”

That includes timpani and drum kits, a xylophone and vibraphone, as well as sound equipment. Some were owned by Lake George High School, kept on site for the Lake George Community Band to use for its weekly free concerts in Shepard Park. Others were owned by the Community Band or its members.

Alex Lombard’s Lake George Music Festival in August also uses the instruments.

Sunday morning’s cleanup crew was seen (and heard) tossing the instruments into the back of a DPW truck.

Lake George music teacher Amy Baker said even if not directly burned, they were damaged beyond saving by the heat.

Surviving intact were the school’s metal music stands, also on loan for the Community Band, Mayor Perry noted.

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