By ALVIN REINER Press-Republican
---- — WESTPORT — Under the cover of darkness, vandals entered the Essex County Fairgrounds and helped themselves to eight panels of movable corral fencing belonging to 4-H youngsters.
Around 10 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, Wayne Napper, who lives across the street from the fairgrounds, saw two people load eight galvanized aluminum corral panels into a pickup truck bed.
According to Napper, the people were very careful and quiet loading the panels, and when they finished, they sped off from the fairgrounds.
After deciding overnight that the activity was suspicious, Napper reported it to the Fair Office the next morning.
“It was dark, and they used high beams and fog lights. I’ve seen cars go in and out of the fairgrounds, but they usually don’t stop,” he said.
“It’s somebody who has no feeling for the fair association,” said Napper, who generally spends several days each year enjoying the fair.
A report has since been filed with State Police.
RAISED FUNDS FOR YEARS
“We’re on a shoestring budget. Each of these panels cost $100 each, so we suffered a loss of $800,” said 4-H Resource Educator Linda Gillilland.
“It took about four years for the 4-H youth, leaders, horse-program people and volunteers to fundraise for these panels. Bake sales, picking up bottles and cans, tack sales, etc. — bit by bit, everyone worked hard to purchase these panels over the course of years.”
At times, 4-H members may check the corral sections out to use for their 4-H educational horse and livestock projects. Initially, Gillilland thought that might be a possibility, but no one has contacted the Fair Office saying they needed to borrow them.
In all, 4-H had 36 panels and two gates. Those not taken were in another area.
“In times of our community members’ need, such as when the Evens Farm (Ralph and Cecil Evens) burned down, the 4-Hers loaned the panels to the farm to keep their scared and frightened animals secure and out of harm’s way,” said Gillilland.
“In another example of community spirit and service, our 4-H members lend the panels to contain and provide safe housing for the livestock exhibits during Fair Week.
“It just sickens me that Essex County’s youth, in trying to do the right thing, have had to suffer the consequence of no good deed goes unpunished. You really want to think the best of people,” said a perplexed Gillilland.
At a Cornell Cooperative Extension Board meeting, it was decided that the agency will press charges should the perpetrators be caught.
Email Alvin Reiner at:firstname.lastname@example.orgHOW TO HELP Anyone with information about the missing panels should call State Police at 897-2000. To help financially, 4-H Resource Educator Linda Gillilland at 962-4810, ext. 416, or email email@example.com.