Sen. Betty Little, center, talks with Woody and Elise Widlund June 30 at the Tannery Pond Community Center’s gala.
Dozens of residents celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Tannery Pond Community Center Saturday, June 30 with a gala.
The event also served to introduce the new executive director for the center, Bernadette Speach.
During the reception, Speach introduced herself to the arriving guests. She has been meeting with the various groups and organizations that are involved with the center over the past two weeks.
At this stage, Speach said she wants to get a good picture of how all the activities and uses that are made of Tannery Pond fit into the bigger picture. Ultimately, her goal is to find ways to expand, enrich and enhance the role of the center within the community.
Several people spoke during a presentation in the performing arts center, reflecting on the role that the Tannery Pond Community Center has played in the community, its future and the individuals who built and donated it to the town — Woody and Elise Widlund.
Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) spoke first. She noted that she had been to the center several times over the years and was saddened to hear that the Widlunds are moving away.
She added that, over the years, the Widlunds’ philosophy of helping people succeed had a tremendous impact on the town, and they had helped in many ways.
Little recalled how the Widlunds had purchased a house in North River, paid to have it completely remodeled and then donated it to the Adirondack Community Housing Trust so it could benefit a family in need.
In the end, she thanked them for everything they had done “for all of us.”
Businessman and author Glenn Pearsall shared how a recent report on cultural centers found that they “play a critical role in revitalizing a sense of community spirit … bring economic activity into neglected sectors, improve the quality of life of individuals, generate new tax revenues … and contribute to creative and cultural growth.”
Pearsall said that this wasn’t news to the Widlunds; they not only knew how a community center could transform a community 10 years ago, but they actually made it happen.
The Widlunds paid to have the previous building torn down and a new, state-of-the-art facility designed and built, and they devoted countless hours to overseeing each step of the process before gifting it to the town of Johnsburg.
Continuing Sen. Little’s point, Pearsall added that the generosity and dedication evident in this gift to the town had long been present in their relationship to the community.
Woody had been an advisor to the Earth Club, and in that capacity had chaperoned many hikes and rafting trips.
He had also been chair of the Library Capital Campaign, which helped expand the now reopened local library, which has the highest circulation rate of any library in Warren County, apart from Crandall Library in Glens Falls.
Both Woody and Elise had also helped support and advise several of the struggling businesses in town.
They also provided guidance and contributions to the Adirondack Ensemble, a chamber music group.
In the past 10 years, Tannery Pond has hosted 400 live theater productions and concerts, held art exhibits and shows for more than 50 artists, been a home to countless children’s programs and been a safe, alcohol-free site for more than 100 dances.
Pearsall said there was an article in Adirondack Life called “What’s Up With North Creek?” a few months after the center opened in 2002. The story mentioned the newly restored train depot and museum, the new multi-million dollar community center and several new restaurants and shops on main street.
He said that people still ask him that question and follow it up with: “Do they put something in the water up there?”
“Well if there is something in the water, it’s Woody and Elise,” Pearsall told the audience.
Mike Bowers, a co-chairman of the North Creek Business Alliance, said that in addition to celebrating the anniversary of the community center, they were also celebrating its future.
The business community was keenly aware of the importance of Tannery Pond to the community, Bowers said, and was committed to helping it achieve its full potential.
Lyle Dye, the recent recipient of the Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Person of the Year award, presented the Widlunds with a poster-sized photograph of the center signed by various local residents thanking them for providing the town with a “collective home for our community.”
After accepting their gift, the Widlunds revealed yet another gift to the community: a donation to help bring the future of the Tannery Pond Community Center to fruition. It was a check for $2,000, made out to the Tannery Pond Community Center Association “to be used at the discretion of the TPCCA Executive Director to market Tannery Pond Community Center as a presentation venue,” the Widlunds said in a letter to TPCCA Chair Ken Murray. “Best of luck in this new chapter.”