Lions in furious rush to get ready for fair

Stand: The Glenwood organization does battle with the clock as the group prepares for the annual event in West Friendship.

July 31, 2002|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

For nearly 50 years, the Glenwood Lions Club has run a concession stand at the Howard County Fair -- it's the charitable club's biggest moneymaker.

But in these last few days before the gates open Saturday, while others put the finishing touches on their booths, the Lions are frantically trying to construct one.

"It's going to be awful close," said Bill Barnes, a 15-year Lions veteran and the excavator who tore the old booth down to prepare for the new one.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Howard County edition of The Sun on Wednesday about the Glenwood Lions scramble to complete construction on their Howard County Fair snack bar misspelled the name of the project's overseer. The correct spelling is Larry Sames. The Sun regrets the error.

If club members don't get the construction finished, the occupancy permit issued and a positive inspection from the county Health Department, they won't open.

That means they will miss out on the $20,000 to $25,000 they usually earn at the fair, which will run this year from Saturday through Aug. 10.

That money makes up more than 90 percent of the donations they receive, which typically are used to help those with sight or hearing problems, said Lions President Herb Coss.

"It's the money that we give for scholarships to Glenelg High School, the money we give to Boy Scout troops and some athletic leagues," he said. "If we don't open up, we won't have it to give away."

The 32-by-32-foot structure belongs to the fair's board of directors, which paid $35,000 to put it up.

But the Lions, who will use it throughout the year during other fairground events, are responsible for completing the inside, which includes an exhaust system, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical wiring and the necessary kitchen appliances.

"We've had multiple contractors in here at the same time," said Larry Sans, a retired engineer and four-year Lions member who is acting as the project's overseer. "It's a pretty intense schedule."

Plumbers are tripping over equipment from the fire prevention team. Electricians are working side by side with heating specialists, and grounds workers are asking when the mess will be cleared so they can spread grass seed.

Running out of days

"That's the only way it's going to get done," Barnes said. "We have to do it all on the same days because there aren't many days left."

A series of misfortunes and so-so planning have knocked everything out of whack by about three months, Coss said.

The county building permit was not issued until the first week of July, leaving about five weeks to build. It was held up because of problems with the proposed design.

It also took more time than expected to decide on a layout. That held up pouring concrete for the floor, which held up everything else.

The building's open room has a crisp, white interior filled with shiny stainless-steel equipment. It's like a regular restaurant, serving egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and ice cream.

Starting over

The old building had no air conditioning, no indoor customer area and a list of complaints from the Health Department, which prompted the decision to start over. Coss said it was easier to build new than meet the department's demands.

"The old building was totally worn out," he said. "It was impossible to seal it, the floors were a porous concrete and there was no stainless steel.

"It had outlived its usefulness."

The Lions have spent about $85,000 fixing their new digs. Most of that money was left to them by a former member in his will.

Sans hopes to finish the work and get the occupancy permit today in preparation for tomorrow's health inspection.

"If nothing goes haywire, we'll be OK," he said.

If something does go haywire, the lines will be longer at the remaining food booths, according to Vaughn Turner, the fair's vice president.

"Others will have to take on [the Lions'] load," he said. "They're also the only ones who serve breakfast. If they don't open up, we won't be offering anyone breakfast."

Feeling optimistic

But Coss doesn't think that's going to happen.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "Two weeks ago, I would have said we had a 25 percent chance of getting it done, but now I think were in the 99th percentile of `gonna make it.'"

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