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Town Hall Theater fundraiser links woodworkers with old cherry planks

SALISBURY — Town Hall Theater officials are giving area woodworkers a plum assignment using some well-seasoned cherry planks. It’s pretty straightforward; use the wood to make a fine piece of furniture or artwork, have it displayed at the Middlebury theater, and then harvest 50 percent of the proceeds once it is sold.
The other half of the sales price will go to the theater to help fortify its operating budget.
“We like to celebrate local talent at Town Hall Theater, and this is celebrating a group of talented people who we don’t know about,” said THT Executive Director Douglas Anderson. “We hope to bring them out of the woodwork, as it were.”
The approximately 70 cherry planks — ranging in length from around five to 18 feet — are a gift from longtime THT supporters Peter and Joann Langrock of Salisbury. The lumber was harvested more than a half-century ago from the Langrocks’ property by then-owners Douglas and Elizabeth Baker. The Bakers had thinned out the mature trees as part of a forest improvement project.
“Doug was very much an environmentalist,” Joann Langrock said.
Douglas Baker had the cherry trees milled into planks, each of them  around two inches thick. But the Bakers never found a use for the wood, and simply stored it in their barn. The Langrocks got the wood when they purchased the farm. They, too, didn’t have a grand plan for the coveted material, which they allowed to season sweetly through the years. They have occasionally passed out a plank or two to friends, and had some bookshelves and a coffee table made with some of the wood.
“We’re not woodworkers,” Langrock explained with a smile. Peter Langrock continues to be one of the most successful and high-profile lawyers in Vermont. Joann has been an avid community volunteer who was part of the THT brain trust during the organization’s formative years.
Joann credits her husband with pitching the cherry planks benefit, following his conversation with an art museum official in Winnipeg, Canada. The curator there, who has become a friend family friend, talked about the fundraising potential of the wood. And the Langrocks have been longtime supporters of the THT.
“Peter proposed it to me, and I brought it up to the THT Events Committee,” Joann Langrock said.
The committee took an immediate shine to the idea, and then it became a matter of hauling the wood to a common spot within the Langrocks’ barn so it would be easily visible and accessible. THT officials will schedule a couple of Saturdays in the future for woodworkers to come down and select their plank(s).
“It is thoroughly dry and it has wonderful shapes,” Langrock said.
Interested woodworkers will be asked to present their project concepts, whereupon they will be granted one or more planks to bring about their creative vision. Anderson hopes the fundraiser culminates in a diverse collection of utilitarian and artistic objects, including tables, chests, cutting boards, chairs and sculpture, to mention a few.
“There are no restrictions,” he said. “Much of the fun in this project will be seeing what the skilled artisans can dream up.”
Plans call for woodworkers to be given ample time to create their cherry wood offerings, which will be displayed at THT next fall and then sold.
“I think it will make a beautiful show,” Anderson said.
He noted there’s no shortage of creativity in Addison County, so he expects some nice entries in the cherry charity challenge. Folks will recall, for example, THT’s “Big Chair Project” in 2014, through which five area woodworkers crafted some Gulliver-sized seats to draw attention to the non-profit organization’s annual membership drive. Four of the chairs were auctioned to raise money for THT.
The cherry wood challenge will be one of three major fundraisers for THT in 2017. There will also be an annual flea market and a triennial auction featuring donated treasures ranging from vacation accommodations to antiques. And as usual, THT will count on vital revenue through its annual membership drive.
Around 60 percent of THT’s annual operating budget is made up by fundraising of some sort, according to Anderson. The remaining 40 percent is derived from ticket revenues and renting out the building.
So with so much of the theater’s budget dependent on contributions, it’s important that special events be creative and exciting. And THT officials believe they have a winner in the cherry wood event.
“It puts the fun in fundraising,” Anderson said.
Any woodworkers interested in securing one or more of the cherry planks should contact Anderson at 388-1436, or at executivedirector@townhalltheater.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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