Three things occupied
my mind last week: the 117th annual Boonville-Oneida County Fair, the 2nd
annual Great American Irish Festival, and Mr. Paul Keesler.
Observations and thoughts:
The fair was one of the best I've ever attended. The weather cooperated,
people from around Oneida County and beyond turned out in force, and the
governor put in another visit.
This was the second time in three years Gov. Pataki made the trek to
Boonville. He arrived via helicopter at 2:15 Friday afternoon, went directly
to the fair office, asked for a place where he could work for a few minutes,
and was given Newell Wagoner's office.
During the governor's 45 minutes of work, he made a series of telephone
calls and met in private with Oneida County Executive Joe Griffo, who later
described the governor as being in a "reflective mood."
The governor and his entourage toured the fairgrounds for 75 minutes, time
enough to visit several exhibits, and eat a sausage and pepper sandwich at
Egnaczyk's, while Bernie Bailey, who staffed a stand at the edge of the
midway, gave the governor two lemonades, something that made it on that
night's television news, channels 2 and 10.
"I was a celebrity for 20 seconds," Bailey said later.
In the cattle barn, someone congratulated Pataki on his tenure as governor.
Pataki said, "It isn't over yet. I've still got a year and a half to go,"
something he has been saying over and over since announcing he wouldn't run
As for the second annual Great American Irish Festival, I need to point out
that I was correct. (I'm so seldom right about anything I need to make a big
deal of it when I am.) I predicted right after last year's festival, which
attracted about 7,000, that it would get bigger and better this year.
It did. The festival expanded to Friday evening and an estimated 10,000
attended the two-day event at the Herkimer County Fairgrounds. They were
treated to non-stop music, food, beverage, and numerous vendors selling all
And at the Knights of Columbus booth, sitting on the front counter for all
to see, was a framed photograph of the late Ray Durr, Boonville's own, a man
who did much to promote many people and many things, including last year's
inaugural Great American Irish Festival.
I now make the same prediction I made after last year's festival.
As for Paul Keesler, I should have known something was wrong. I hadn't
gotten one of his e-mail messages in quite some time. He was very good about
sending me, and others, the installments of the book he was working on and
which is available online. He was also good at staying in touch.
The name Paul Keesler might ring a bell if you are a veteran at Griffiss.
Paul worked there when the Griffiss Business and Technology Park was
Griffiss Air Force Base. Paul was employed by the Federal Aviation
Administration for 33 years.
Or Paul's name might be familiar if you are a camper, canoer, hiker or enjoy
fishing. For 25 years Paul was publisher of New York Sportsman Magazine,
which he founded with his wife Janice.
Janice died in 1987. Paul was lucky, though, because he found Gert. They
were married in 1991.
Or you might know Paul's name because you read one of his books, or saw him
on the television show I host, or because you are a member of one of the
historical societies Paul belonged to, or maybe you attended one of the
classes he taught at Mohawk Valley Institute for Learning in Retirement at
He was a good man. He worked hard. He accomplished a lot. He leaves a lot.
Paul Keesler died July 27th. He was 67.
Joe Kelly is the editor and publisher of The Boonville Herald & Adirondack
Tourist and THE GRIFF.