Stump City Brewing and Caroga Arts Collective growing together at Caroga Lake


Nick Sherman, co-owner of Stump City Brewery pours hot chocolate inside the carousel at Sherman’s Amusement Park in Caroga Lake during the Caroga Arts Collective’s 4th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony event.

Photo Caption: Nick Sherman, co-owner of Stump City Brewery pours hot chocolate inside the carousel at Sherman’s Amusement Park in Caroga Lake during the Caroga Arts Collective’s 4th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony event. JASON SUBIK/THE LEADER-HERALD

CAROGA LAKE — When Nick Sherman, co-owner of Stump City Brewing, looks out at the Sherman’s Amusement Park property under the ownership of the Caroga Arts Collective, he sees a prosperous future for both the growth of the venue and his company.

“We should be here every summer going forward,” Sherman said, as he poured hot chocolate inside the carousel building Saturday during the 4th Annual Caroga Arts Collective Christmas Tree Lighting event.

For the first time in the 100-year history of Sherman’s Amusement Park, the vintage 1920s carousel, normally a summer-only treat, spun its wooden horses for riders of all ages dressed in winter hats and coats on Saturday.

Sherman said his company didn’t serve any alcohol on Saturday, but he came out to volunteer and support the CAC’s annual winter gathering, which featured a real horse-drawn wagon ride sponsored by Caroga Lake View Store and Dockside Eats, a bonfire, a live musical performance by the Caroga Arts Ensemble, as well as Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus for the tree lighting.

“We’re just helping out, doing coffee and hot chocolate — this is more of a kid-centric thing,” he said.

Sherman said Stump City Brewing provided its farm-brewed beer for the CAC’s summer concert series, but his company is now in the process of getting all of the New State Liquor Authority approvals to operate a full-bar at Sherman’s in the future.

Stump City Brewing recently received an $87,000 “agricultural loan” from the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and a $25,000 microenterprise grant, which Sherman said the farm-brewery is using to purchase a “canning machine” and additional beer kegs to help the company expand its sales outside of Fulton County. He said the company currently has about 4 part-time employees, and the conditions of the CRG loan and grant include creating 1 to 2 additional jobs.

Sherman said last year Stump City Brewing has brewed more beer each of its years of existence since 2016 and now has a “five barrel system,” with the capacity to ferment up to 20 barrels of beer at a time. For 2021 Stump City brewed about 150 barrels of beer, up from 100 barrels in 2020.

Sherman said he foresees Stump City Brewing growing at the same time as it partners with the CAC for the Sherman’s Amusement Park summer musical concert series.

“In due time, it’s going to be full-bar inside, at least during events, maybe something more in the future,” he said. “This is a big property, and there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of legal stuff. There’s a lot of little rules, and things have to be sectioned off, and you can’t let people wander too far off. As far as alcohol, we’re going to be exclusive. We’re a farm-brewery, so we try to stick to New York state products, but, as far as liquor and wine — we obviously don’t make those — so, we’ll be bringing in other breweries, and hopefully it will be a New York state-centric-bar-thing. Last year, it was kind of thrown together, but it should get better every year.”

Growing event

Getting better every year is something the CAC seems to focus on with the 8.6-acre Sherman’s property located at Route 10 and Route 29A. Kim Hart, vice president of Fultonville Machine and Tool Co., is a member of the board of directors for the CAC and helped organize Saturday’s tree lighting event.

Hart said the wintertime event has grown each of the last four years, a time during which the nonprofit CAC finally, after years of legal and political squabbling with the town government — acquired Sherman’s for $1 on Dec. 31, 2019 from Gloversville-based attorney George Abdella, through his corporation Balboaa Land Development.

“The first year was just the tree inside of the information booth inside of the parking lot, and then the second year was a tree inside [the pavillion], then the third year, last year, with COVID — we had a drive-through and lit the big tree for the first time,” she said. “We don’t blast it [to let people know we’re holding this event], so it’s been an organic growth of people. They just keep coming. We don’t even know how they know.”

Hart said reopening parts of Sherman’s Amusement Park for the members of the CAC has been a labor of love, as they’ve worked to bring back to life the venue that many consider the heart of the Town of Caroga.

“Instead of kids going by and seeing it all boarded up and hearing about the memories, now we’re creating new ones,” she said. “This is the first year we’ve been able to have rides on the carousel, so all during the summer concert season adults, who rode it when they were kids, and their children and grandchildren have been able to ride it.”

Courtney Hisert, of Fort Plain, was one of the people who came to the free-admission tree lighting event Saturday to make new memories with the members of her family. She said she brought her daughter Quinn, age 8, and niece Paislee Grems, age 4, out to ride the carousel, so they could have a similar experience to the ones she had as a kid and because her father Larry Voght, Caroga’s Highway Superintendent, encouraged them to come out.

Quinn rode a white and black striped Zebra, chosen because it was “the tallest”, and Paislee rode tan horse with a flowing white mane and both enjoyed some hot chocolate with marshmallows after the ride was over.

“It’s nice to see Sherman’s back open,” Courtney Hisert said. “My parents have told me about how this place used to be booming back when they were younger.”

The park’s carousel and ferris wheel are still owned by Abdella, who has allowed them to be used by the CAC as part of the quitclaim deed he signed over to them. The CAC was the only organization Abdella was willing to allow to own the park after taking it back from the Town of Caroga after the politics soured surrounding his complex donation agreement for the property in 2014.

The CAC was formed in 2016 and 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 capital campaign goal to build a new amphitheatre, the first step towards transforming the venue into a world class musical performance venue and community center, similar in concept to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

CAC President Kyle Price said his organization is hoping to raise another $2 million before September in order to move forward with its plans for the location.

“Right now with Sherman’s we’re working on a schematic design phase with our architect LTRW [Architecture and Preservation of Albany] and we’re hoping to publicly promote the fundraising campaign around May,” Price said. “If all goes well with our plans, we’re hoping to have the ground ready by September and October, and that’s depending on all of the donations coming in for the capital fund.”

He said right now it is seeking all of its local approvals for the site as it prepares to move forward. He said the CAC still has an agreement in place from a large anonymous donor who has agreed to match donations towards the effort to build the amphitheater up to $10,000.

Price was there at the park Saturday for the tree lighting, which he said has turned into a great community event that has helped to reintroduce the park to many people living in the region.

“It’s been a huge community effort, and it’s been so fun to have the carousel running in the winter,” he said.

By Jason Subik

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