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New Mont Alto Fire Department fairgrounds 65 percent complete

March 21, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

MONT ALTO, Pa. -- Fairgrounds development at the Mont Alto Fire Department headquarters is about 65 percent complete, and department officials say the remaining work should be completed for the upcoming carnival season.

"We're finishing the last building that we want to get done for this June," department vice president Rich Sleicher said. "We're down to electrical wiring, installing equipment and some paving that needs to be done."

The fairgrounds cover 15 acres behind the ambulance squad building at 517 S. Main St. Five structures are expected to be finished by the start of the 33rd annual carnival that runs from June 13 to 21.

The estimated cost of the facilities is $750,000, despite countless hours of work put in by volunteers.

"We were basically the contractors for the job," Sleicher said. "We subcontracted some stuff, like the block work, some excavating and roofing, but a lot of the electrical and plumbing work is done by members of the department."

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The largest of the five buildings measures 7,600 square feet and will be for the kitchen and dining area. The kitchen portion of the building covers 4,000 square feet with walk-in refrigerator and freezer rooms, while the 3,600-square-foot dining room should seat about 300 people.

Connected at the south end of the building is a 1,600-square-foot outdoor patio.

"The kitchen is 100 feet long, the dining room is 90 feet long and the patio is 40 feet long, so this is the biggest," Sleicher said.

Just behind the kitchen/dining room building sits the similarly shaped bingo building, which seats about 280 people. The building also has two offices -- the only rooms within the structures with central air and heating.

Beside the bingo hall sits two outdoor structures -- a pavilion planned to hold games of chance during carnival season, and a stage for bands and other entertainment during summer events.

At the rear of the structured area is a slim, rectangular building designed for traditional carnival games, such as those involving throwing at targets. Two additional buildings are expected to be built by summer 2009 -- a barbecue pit and a facility for restrooms.

"Mainly, the buildings will all be used for our annual carnival," Sleicher said. "But because it's gotten so big, we will be doing other smaller events. We'll probably have a couple three-day events in the warmer months -- probably one each month from April through October."

The structured area covers about three acres and is surrounded by grassy lands. The grassy area to the immediate south is about five acres and is where the amusement rides will be located during the carnival.

The grassy area at the rear of the property, about six acres, primarily will be used for parking at the events.

"The rides area is ready to go, our electric will be all settled soon," Sleicher said. "Our parking will be on grass this year, but we will add roads in the future."

Ideas for a fairgrounds area in Mont Alto began in the spring of 2005. Sleicher oversaw the development and joined with engineers to create a design for the property.

In recent years, the fire department had rented an area in Quincy Township, about three miles south of Mont Alto.

Construction for the new fairgrounds began last August.

"We outgrew the facility in Quincy, and we had less and less volunteers as time went on," Sleicher said. "It became a big hassle to take all the equipment and everything down the road and set it up, then bring it all back up when we were finished.

"A few years ago, we bought five more acres to give us 15 for carnival grounds and other fundraisers."

Those fundraisers and the yearly carnival will drive funding for the fairgrounds. Sleicher said that people come from about a 30-mile radius to the yearly carnival.

"Everybody claims this is one of the biggest firemen's carnivals," he said. "This will make everything easier for us and for the people who want to come."

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