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ON THE SCENE: A community cause: taking timeout for a moment in Keene

September 17, 2011
He glanced at his wife Katie, also a professional chef, and said, “Low and slow.” She nodded.

“How long did it take?”

“Ten hours. It is about a 100-pound pig. I stuffed it with a bunch of citrus, oranges, apples and fresh thyme,” said Fiore. “We didn’t even salt it. I was going to use just apples and onions, but I heard that oranges were nice. We couldn’t do much cleaning like many others. My job was pretty easy, throw the pig on at 5 a.m. and let it go. I am just happy that we could help out.”

Easy or not, his and Katie’s efforts were certainly welcome and anticipated by the more than 250 people waiting to taste the results of their culinary talents and of the many others that contributed, such as the Noonmark Diner that brought over at least two dozen of their famous pies. Fiore and his neighbors, the denizens of Market Street, under the spirited leadership of Angela Smith, decided to turn their annual block party into a pig roast and fund raiser for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund. More than that, they felt that the people of the three hamlets of Keene, Keene Valley and St Huberts needed a bit of fun – a chance to relax in the midst of a ten-day effort to scrape the mud and sponge the water out of their lives.

Tropical Storm Irene hit hard all the towns along the East Branch of the Ausable. As of this writing a dozen families in Keene either saw their homes washed away or had them condemned by the floods that tore out basement walls, filled stores with 2-3 feet of water and mud, took out two of Rivermede Farm’s greenhouses, its deer fencing and a third of its sugar works while swamping its harvest. Adding insult to injury was the added 2-3 inches of rain a week later that washed away much of the repairs to Styles Brook Road, drenched volunteers brought in the Labor for your Neighbor, and dampened spirits that already were bumping along a Main Street turned into a streambed.

“I have a double edged feeling,” said Joe Pete Wilson, Jr. “I have a great satisfaction by how this community has come together and people are looking out for their neighbor, and at the same time I am sad that it was disaster that brought them together. Driving along in a tractor at 8 miles an hour gives me a lot of time to think. You see the people and how they are working together and you look past that and see their homes damaged or destroyed, you see how painful all this is.”

“This is a great community,” said Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee addressing the crowd from atop a barrel. “Jim (Herman) and Dave (Mason) have done a great job (organizing the Recovery Fund).”

“I am so happy,” said Angela Smith, organizer of the pig fest and benefit. “People were so generous. We have a great community. People show up when you ask. We didn’t ask for anyone to donate to the pig fest, but they did. This is really fantastic. I love the mix of people. It is a great turnout.”

“It is hard to say how I am feeling,” said Ben Stechschulte. “I am at a loss for words. We fared well compared to many. Aside from some mud and water in the basement and garage we did all right.”

“You can see that people will pull together when times get hard and amazing things can be done when they do,” said Jan Cohen, who whipped together the Trust’s web site in less than 36 hours. “As a web developer I’ve learned that there is a right time and place to go get things. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It is a matter of putting up the information that people need. That is all I did. Others gave me the content.”

“It is nice to see the community come together in a fun way instead of the tragic way that it has been,” said Fritz Sabbow. “We really were hit hard. We are hoping to see some recovery of the garden. Rob (Hastings, his partner and owner of Rivermede Farm) is working hard trying to manage what he has left. I have learned that you can never fully understand the impact of an event like this until it happens, and how much you really appreciate your neighbor.”

“The farm looks like a bomb went off,” said Hastings. “Two of the green houses are toast. I need volunteer help but it is tricky. I need people skilled using chainsaws and stringing sugar tubing. We had two floods this year. It’s tough, but we will continue. This is the first time I have emerged socially since the flood. You feel so helpless watching your pumpkins float away. In the morning we found our fields littered with propane tanks. They had come down from the Club. The really hard part is I had to let go three people this week. That’s what really hurts.”

“I have always known that this is a pretty amazing town,” said Ron Konowitz, who coordinated the Keene Valley volunteer effort. “For me, all of my friends and neighbors are here. I’ve had their kids in school. I’ve known them for 35-40 years. I met the governor. He was so personable, and he listens. Looking forward I have new slides to ski this winter.”

“It is so great to see all these people together,” said Mimi McMakin. “These are the people that we will spend they rest of our lives with. I look around and I see that this is my town. It’s special.”

The pig roast raised $11,733 for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund, exceeding a very generous $10,000 challenge match by Karl Weckel for a total of $22,733.

Those wishing to contribute to the Fund or learn of other ways they can help:

Article Photos

Naj Wikoff/Lake Placid News
Residents bring in the roasted pig for the pig roast benefit on Sept. 9 that raised $11,733 for the Keene Flood Recovery Fund.



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