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For now, the judges' stand is staying

Published April 19. 2011 05:00PM

The 111-year-old Greater Lehighton/Carbon County Fair judges' stand, where decades ago men sat high above the crowds to call the winners of horse shows and wrestling matches, will continue to stand sentinel where it has stood for several years, at the Community Grove on Seventh Street in the borough.

At least for now.

On Monday, Lehighton Borough Council twice voted on ways to transfer ownership of the eight-sided, 20-foot-high structure. Both suggestions failed, 5-2.

Council first considered selling the tin-roofed building to the highest bidder. Council members John Bird and Melissa Ebbert favored that approach. But council members Darryl Arner, Dale Traupman, Bessie Bauchspies, Vice-President Scott Rehrig and President Grant Hunsicker were opposed.

The next method, which Arner said was the original intent, would have just given the stand to the first person who came forward to take it. However, although Arner and Traupman voted in favor of that way, Bird, Rehrig, Hunsicker, Bauchspies and Ebbert were opposed.

Three people had apparently expressed interest in the stand.

The next step remains unclear.

"We can keep it if we like," said solicitor James R. Nanovic. "I look at it, and I assume it has no value. I could be wrong."

Hunsicker was among those who would like to keep the stand, a relic of borough history, and refurbish it. The stand is in bad shape, with its tin roof corroded and its plywood sides deteriorating.

"We throw anything old away. Jim Thorpe keeps everything, the other places keep it. But we throw ours away," he said.

Treasurer Nicole L. Beckett said the borough could ask for a one-year extension of a $20,000 grant that could be used to repair the stand. However, borough engineer Bruce Steigerwalt said the cost of materials alone would exceed the amount of the grant.

Ebbert suggested asking surrounding communities for help.

"That Carbon County Fair wasn't just Lehighton only," she said. "I can't imagine using taxpayers' money, or even trying to raise money, to fix that. It doesn't seem justified."

The borough has sought bids to repair the stand, but the one it received, from Cornerstone Industrial Services Inc., Bowmanstown, came to $115,000.

The fate of the stand has generated strongly-worded letters to the editor of the TIMES NEWS from those who believe the stand, which for decades stood in the center of the track at the fairgrounds, should be preserved.

The original Carbon County Fair, which began in 1858 as the Greater Lehighton Fair, came to an end in 1992, when the Lehighton Area School District acquired the 45-acre parcel of land, between Grant Alley and Mahoning Street, from the Carbon County Agricultural Association to build a new school and sports fields. The county fair has been reborn, and is held each August at its new home along Little Gap Road in Palmerton. Local historians say the judges' stand was built in 1900.

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