May 21, 2018
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Three-day festival in Canaan aims to raise money to buy Grange Hall

By Alex Barber, BDN Staff

CANAAN, Maine — A rescue effort is already in full swing. It’s not for a person, but for a building.

Last year the Canaan Grange lost its charter from Maine State Grange, which was going to put the building on the market.

Kathleen Perelka and a local group she heads stepped in to try to revive the Grange Hall and restore its place in the community.

“What we’re trying to do is get more interest in the building and to buy the building,” said Perelka, president of Friends of Canaan Grange Hall. “We want to buy the building so that the state Grange can never sell it out from underneath the feet of the people of Canaan.”

The Canaan Grange lost its charter because it did not hold a meeting for 18 months, said Master of Canaan Grange Pam Clark.

The Maine State Grange has allowed the Friends of Canaan Grange Hall to buy the building and its contents for $30,000. The nonprofit Friends group is organizing a three-day festival to raise money to buy the property.

A three-day art show will begin Friday with 12 to 14 local artists selling their work for $100 apiece, with 25 percent of the profits going toward the fund.

John Piotti of the Maine Farmland Trust will speak at 5 p.m., followed by a light meal and a showing of the film “Meet Your Farmer,” about small and sustainable farms in Maine.

On Saturday there will be a Harvest Meal, with all foods coming from within a 25-mile radius of Canaan. A contradance and music by the Gawler Family will follow.

Five musicians will take the stage starting at noon Sunday. An ice cream social is set for 1 p.m.

The National Grange is the oldest agricultural organization in the U.S., according to its website.

Granges were established in the late 1800s to provide a social and educational outlet for farmers, said Perelka.

But as the number of local farmers declined, so did use of the Canaan Grange.

Since the Grange lost its charter, a revitalization has occurred at the hall. Beginning in June, a farmers’ market has been held every Monday outside the building. The hall also has been rented out for many recent meetings.

The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry oversees granges across the country. It’s largely a private group.

“It’s similar to the Masons,” said Clark, the master of Canaan Grange for the past year and half.

Perelka said people in the community were more interested in preserving the building than Grange membership.

“The Grange has a lot of rituals and ceremonies that not a lot of people want do anymore,” said Perelka. “The State Grange can use the upstairs and do their thing as long as they want to.”

The building has meant a lot to Perelka, a former town selectman.

“We had all of our major events here,” she said. “Eighth-grade graduation was a big deal. Anything anyone wanted to do, they would either use the Grange or Town Hall.

“You could drop a marble on the floor and it wouldn’t roll. This building is in amazing shape for the age that it is,” she said.

Perelka said her group already has raised $2,000 toward the total needed.

“We have a very small head start,” she said, laughing.

Friday’s dinner is $5, while Saturday’s dinner is $8. The dance is $5 and Sunday’s ice cream social is $5. All other events are free, but donations are welcome.

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