Harvest Moon Festival draws artists, donors and dollars

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:49

BYRAM — The Friends of Waterloo Village hosted their Harvest Moon Festival on Thursday, Oct. 13. The event, designed to raise funds for repairing the roof on the gristmill building at Waterloo Village, drew local politicians, distinguished citizens and artists. Held in the village's shop building, approximately 200 people shared stories of their experiences at the 19th century historic village and the need to have the buildings restored. Of the 23 buildings on the property, nearly all were deemed unsafe in 2007 when state authorities assumed control of the facility. The site was previously run under lease with the Waterloo Foundation for the Arts. The iconic gristmill building was recently deemed safe for the public and the waterwheel became operational over the summer. However, the structure is still in need of a roof and is currently covered with a heavy layer of moss which is deteriorating the shingles and wood. The cost of a new roof is estimated at being between $10,000 and $50,000. Every dollar raised from the Harvest Moon Festival will be spent on the gristmill roof. Money donated to Friends of Waterloo Village goes directly into the restoration of the village and not into state coffers. Attendees browsed auction items ranging from books, an NFL gift collection, antiques and fresh flower arrangements while enjoying food from local eateries including the Black Forest Inn, Salt Gastro Pub, Bells Mansion, Café Pierrot, Muldoons, Bella Italia and All in One. “It's amazing the way donations have come in and the amount of support that the village is receiving," said Marie Raffay, Waterloo Village Chairperson and one of the organizers of the event. "We even received floral bouquets from the Sussex County Vocational School which were made by the students, some of which remember Waterloo from their grammar school years and are glad to see it up and running again." Raffay said that everything was donated, from the food and drinks to the auction items and decorations, and that she was pleased to see so many people show up on a weeknight. Artists who attended include Joyce Bambach, William C. Sturm and David John Rush, all of who have strong connections with Waterloo Village. “I've lived in Byram for 38 years and have photographed Waterloo for the past 20," said Bambach. "I've watched it become dilapidated and it's delightful that this event is such a success." Bambach said she would like to see the village become a haven for the arts. “I used to come here as a kid," said Bambach. "There's a 20 foot bridge here...we used to jump from it and swim. It's very exciting to see this place come back to life, I hope the restoration continues.” William C. Sturm also has a past with the village, which is now the subject of much of his paintings. “When the restoration came up through Susan Zellmen, I started making new painting with new feelings," said Sturm. "At first it was new and exciting, then it became an emotional walk back in history. It is a most enjoyable place." Friends of Waterloo Village BoardMember Jim Braun donated much of his week cleaning windows and floors of the facility in order to make it presentable for the auction. The state does not have the funds, or the manpower, to do that kind of work, so Braun stepped in. Linda and Robert Barth, members of the Canal Society since the 1980s, were married in the church on the property and continue to help with the society’s Heritage Days. The couple planned on bidding on a picture of the church they were married in. “Everyone here has a connection with this place,” said Byram Mayor James Oscovitch. Heinz Aichem and Wendy Harris from the Black Forest Inn said that when the village was in full swing it was very good for business and since the number of events has dropped significantly, so has their business. Oscovitch agreed that a thriving Waterloo Village would be good for Byram and good for all businesses in the community. John Mintz, a 31-year Byram resident, said “this is a culturally significant site. There are few areas where you can kayak past a gristmill and enjoy the historic buildings from the water.” County Freeholder Susan Zellman, who coordinated the event, has been involved in restoration efforts at the village for over two years. “It is wonderful to see so many people turn out to donate like this and support his cause,” said Zellman. The event grossed $7,000 with few expenses. For more information on Friends of Waterloo Village visit www.friendsofwaterloovillage.org.