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Around The Grange
Donation of Grange Hall could change Hamburg Fair

By Peter Vigue, New Haven Register (2-26-02)

  FEBRUARY 2002 --

Due to a decline in attendance at the Lyme Grange hall and reports that the Grange is lacking funds for needed repairs, the public library is interested in taking over the Grange hall space in the form of a donation. 

According to Grange members, if the building were in fact donated to the library, the Hamburg Fair as we know it would cease to exist in the same fashion it has thrived in for over 100 years.

Theresa Conley, head librarian for the Lyme Public Library, said that if donated, the library would most likely move from its current location to the Grange hall. Conley said that the town has expressed interest in using the current library space for additional town offices.

"I'm very excited at the prospect of the library moving to where the Grange hall currently sits. There are advantages to having the library on the Grange property," said Conley.

Conley explained, "The Grange hall would be a much more convenient location for our library. We are currently located on the north end of town. So many residents go to the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library for books when they go grocery shopping in Old Lyme. By changing our current location, it would make the library more of a community center."

Gloria Maddocks, a Grange member and secretary for the Hamburg Fair, explained that if the library took over the space, they plan on using 10,000 square feet of the property for expansions and renovations. The space used by the library along with all the books inside of the building would prevent the fair organizers from holding many of their exhibits inside as it has traditionally done for over 100 years. 

"The library is making a big deal about a minimal amount of repairs that need to be made. If the library moves in, the Hamburg Fair would change as we know it. We have regulations for holding a district fair. If the fair is held on the same property it has been held for 100 years, and the library took over our space, many of our exhibitions, games and concessions would have to be eliminated to make up for the space the library would be using inside the building. If it rains, we wouldn't have enough space to put a tent outside with our exhibits under it," said Maddocks.

Maddocks explained, "We need the facility to have the fair, and after recently celebrating the 100th anniversary of the fair, we are not going to stop now. We made $5,000 last year from the fair for this year's event." 

The Lyme Grange has taken part in several community projects since its inception in 1896. The Grange's most notable project was bringing the now century old Hamburg Fair to town in the fall of 1897. 

"The Grange needs to be comfortable with what would happen to the Hamburg Fair if they deed their property. I think this is a great opportunity to make Hamburg more of a village center for Lyme. I'm hoping the Grange can come up with a solution to still have the fair and let the library use their space," said First Selectman Bill Koch.

Koch felt that there is a good probability the building will be donated, at which point the selectmen would discuss what should happen to the current library space. Koch said there is interest in the town using the library space for additional town offices and that it would eventually be voted on in a town meeting if the donation takes place.

"As long as I am in this office, I will do everything possible to keep the fair running. It is a culturally important event for people of all ages. I couldn't go home at night if I were the cause of the demise of the Hamburg Fair. My daughter would be really mad at me," said Koch. 

Due to the success of the first fair in 1897, the Grange was able to purchase its current building, located on Route 156, which at the time was an aging store beginning to go to ruin. 

"I think donating the building to the library would be a good idea maybe five to 10 years down the road. But currently our main concern is keeping the fair going in the same fashion it has always run. I don't think anything should change at the present time, although there are a lot of people pushing for this, especially the library board," said Lyme Grange President Lois Evankow.

The first meeting concerning a donation took place Jan. 24, and the Lyme Library Board of Directors and their architect were in attendance.

The purpose of the meeting was to inform Grange members what the library's plans are for the building if donated.

"My impression is that the fair can keep running if the property is donated. It would be a shame if the Grange voted against it, continue with the fair for now, and then the fair folds a few years down the road because of a lack of funds," said Conley.

Discussions are scheduled for a proposed donation. A vote by Grange members will take place in the coming months.


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