December 6, 2021

Country music park hosts barbecue fundraiser

Photo by Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Matthew Darling, right, hands Gloria Dunham a bag of barbecued chicken Saturday at the Cortland Country music Park & Campground. The chicken was sold to raise funds to maintain the park and campground.

Ed Kowalski, the president of Cortland Country Music Park’s board of directors, stood next to a grill billowing smoke from grilled chicken Saturday and explained the difficulties of being a nonprofit.

“Being a not-for-profit is a great thing, but on the other it’s rough because you don’t have a lot of money left over at the end of the fiscal year,” he said.

Kowalski and other volunteers helped sell barbecued chicken Saturday to raise funds for the Cortland Country Music Park and Campground and the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame.

The park, which usually has dances and dinner shows along with hosting campers, has had to cancel all dances and shows because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said. Also, only seasonal campers, or people who will stay for a whole season, can stay at the campgrounds, per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders.

Because of that, the park has had to look for other ways to supplement its income, like the fundraiser. Still, Kowalski felt good about Saturday’s event.

“It’s working great,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll sell all halves.”

Two hundred 200 chicken halves were grilled, he said. While the event was supposed to start at noon, guests showed up earlier.


Photo by Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Ed Kowalski, far left, and Jared Darling, cook chicken Saturday at the Cortland Country music Park & Campground.

“I can’t wait,” said Stacey Godkin, right after buying some chicken.”It’s the first time this year I’ve had it.”

She said that she was buying chicken to help support the park so it can survive once the virus passes.

“I want to see it open back up,” said Gloria Dunham of Freeville. She likes the park’s dances and goes to them throughout the year.

Still, there’s no timeline to reopen, said Merle Matts, the hall of fame’s director.

According to Cuomo’s reopening phases, the park would fall under Phase Four for reopening, which includes areas of entertainment, recreation and education, according to the state’s website. The state began Phase One on Friday, which involves construction, manufacturing and certain retail that can do curbside service.

Other fundraisers may take place until the park can reopen, Matts said.

“We’re hoping that we might be able to do some entertainment by maybe July, if we’re lucky,” he said. “We’ll just play it by ear.”