CAROGA — Thanks to a $1 million donation from town of Caroga native and entertainment business veteran Ted Farnsworth, along with Rod Vanderbilt, the nonprofit Caroga Arts Collective is now about halfway towards its goal of raising $4 million to build a world-class, top-tier music and entertainment venue with a new amphitheater stage at the site of the former Sherman’s Amusement Park.
It’s been nearly two years since the nonprofit Caroga Arts Collective — after years of legal and political squabbling with the town government — finally acquired Sherman’s for $1 on Dec. 31, 2019 from Gloversville-based attorney George Abdella, through his corporation Balboaa Land Development.
Since then CAC President Kyle Barrett Price said the organization has been engaging in what he called “the silent phase” of the $4 million capital fundraising campaign. He said after the $1 million donation from Farnsworth and Vanderbilt the CAC’s fundraising is now ready to start making a lot more noise.
“This gift is really launching us to a whole nother level in terms of getting our first phase completed in a really quick time frame, hopefully being able to build at Sherman’s and at [the Carriage House at] Myhil,” he said. “We have full participation from our board of advisers to launch the campaign, and we’ll be going more formally to the public in the next few months.”
The CAC was formed in 2016 when a 10.5-acre property known as Myhill, was donated to the Caroga Lake Music Festival by Bruce and Richard Veghte. Myhill was the former estate of Myer and Hildegarde Schine who were the owners of the Glove and Hippodrome Theaters in Gloversville.
Since then the CAC has grown from a small nonprofit hosting summer concert series inside the bumper-car building at Sherman’s to the property’s owner having raised close to half of the money needed towards its $4 million goal.
“In addition to the $1 million gift [from Farnsworth and Vanderbilt] we have almost another $1 million in internal giving from our board of directors and advisory council,” Price said.
Farnsworth and Vanderbilt now join the ranks of business leaders and investors like Brad Dake, of the Stewart’s Shops’ Dake family, who has pledged to match every donation up to $10,000 made to the CAC, and CAC Board chairman Rick Ruby, owner of Ruby & Quiri furniture store, who has supported the CAC’s vision for transforming the long inactive 1920s vintage Sherman’s Amusement Park into a major entertainment venue in the Northeast.
Farnsworth is the chairman and co-founder of ZASH Global Media and Entertainment. He was recently named by Variety Magazine as a “Top 30 Visionary and Disrupter of the Entertainment and Media Business of 2021.” His entertainment industry credentials include having been an executive producer on movies starring Al Pacino, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.
Farnsworth grew up in the community of Caroga Lake, attending Wheelerville Union Free School.
“This is the town I grew up in and this is the town I love,” Farnsworth said in a news release announcing the gift. “Growing up in Caroga Lake gave me the foundation of who I am today. I will never, ever forget the people who were so generous to all the kids who grew up here. I am truly honored that I can give back to the town that has given so much to me.”
Farnsworth recently acquired one of the largest short-form video platforms, Lomotif. Lomotif has been recognized as a top competitor to the social media app TikTok, and recently launched its own record label, Lomo Records. Lomotif recently signed a deal with Universal Music worldwide
giving them access to video and music rights to several major artists including Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and Kenny Chesney.
“My goal and dream, personally, is to see Sherman’s Amusement Park as it was years ago as a hub for family entertainment in the Adirondacks,” Farnsworth stated in the news release. “I believe our collaboration will raise the profile of Caroga Arts Collective to new heights in Hollywood and the entertainment industry. This will happen because Zash is one of the fastest-growing entertainment companies in the world. Our short-form video app alone has over 400 million lifetime users from around the world. Our company combines movies, music, syndicated television, and short-form video content to put Caroga Arts Collective into a new realm.”
Farnsworth said he intends to link his entertainment business connections to Caroga Lake.
“We have given Kyle, his team of artists, and his executive staff access to all our talent executive management companies to leverage everything possible in the entertainment business to make Sherman’s a world-class showcase for entertainment,” he stated in the news release.
Price said, after a Request for Proposals Process, the CAC earlier this year hired Albany-based firm Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture & Preservation [LTRW] to create a master-plan for the Sherman’s property and begin the design phase for how the new stage will look and function once built.
Some Capital Region projects LTRW has worked on include: the Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs, new construction at the Yaddo retreat for artists and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
Price described what the CAC hopes to accomplish with the new stage.
“We want a stage-size that can accommodate an 80-person orchestra, something similar to the Albany Symphony and also one that is comfortable and intimate enough where we can have events onstage, kind of like what [the Saratoga Performing Arts Center] does with the ‘SPAC On Stage Series’ where the audience is on stage,” Price said. “We’re also going to have a really cool effect where the front of the stage can close off, and it becomes kind of a more indoor, intimate venue for certain occasions. With the amphitheater design it will also have really amazing kind of light and sound production, which will then help really accentuate the experience for the audience with bigger pop and rock artists.”
Price said he envisions the CAC breaking ground on the construction phase of the amphitheater by fall of 2022, pending the success of the remainder of its capital fundraising campaign.
“If not by the following spring [of 2023], so within one to two years we hope to have the whole amphitheater and backstage built, along with the Carriage House at Myhil,” Price said.