WARRENSBURG - Attendance was up but spending was down at the annual Smoke Eaters Jamboree held last weekend, event officials reported Monday.
"We had a total of over 2,500 people attending over Friday and Saturday, and we're happy with the turnout during a relatively 'down' economy," said Kevin Geraghty, president of the Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co. which has sponsored the event for 46 years.
Geraghty said people were willing to spend the $3 admission price, but proceeds from the annual auction, amusements, legal gambling games and other concessions were slightly lower than prior years.
"While our chicken barbecue was virtually sold out, we didn't get bids on the boats donated for our auction," he said. "People just didn't have the money to spend on these things like they normally do."
Only one of the six donated boats received a bid, he said.
The beer sales, however remained about equal to last year.
Accounting for the Jamboree's solid attendance was Saturday Night's performance of the popular Capital District band The Refrigerators, Geraghty said.
Several corporate sponsors in the region bankrolled their $4,500 booking fee, he said.
"The Refrigerators were our big draw," he said. "They put on a really good show."
Jamboree attendees Saturday night filled the spectator tent and sat on the hillside listening to the band's driving rock n' roll that included favorites from the 1960s and 1970s. Many others danced to the music in the warm evening air.
The Refrigerators opened their show with such danceable classics as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and "Get Down Tonight, " The tunes punctuated by backup of the band's talented horn section.
Friday night's auction also drew a crowd, although bidders were more frugal than in past years. Among the auctioned goods were several 20-ton loads of crushed stone donated by Peckham Industries, and truckloads of topsoil donated by Pat Galusha and Bryan Rounds, according to Rick Hull, who called for bids in the absence of Jim Galusha who is the traditional auctioneer.
Hull said that a set of auctioned items featured an intriguing surprise for bidders.
A set of a half-dozen new toasters donated by Glens Falls National Bank were snapped up by bidders at $10 each, he said. The successful bidders discovered over the weekend that the appliances made toast with a smiley face imprinted on one side.
Hull said Monday this was his first time calling for bids, and he did his best to imitate the auctioneer's fast-paced phrasing and lingo.
"I've assisted Jim Galusha onstage at the Jamboree for a lot of years and and I tried to imitate him the best I could," Hull said, adding that he didn't even have one beer to make the calls come easier. "By the time I got home Saturday night, I couldn't talk."
Geraghty said the fire company's net proceeds would be good despite the restrained spending by attendees.
"The Jamboree's been a staple event of the North Country for 46 years," he said. "And we 're pleased with the continued support from area communities."