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AMBUCS sweetens up State Fair staple

Published on -6/16/2014, 3:03 PM

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By Kathy Hanks

The Hutchinson News

There were sounds of cracking and popping as several members of AMBUCS lifted a building on a recent night.

Superheroes they don't profess to be, but just 12 weeks from today the Kansas State Fair will be in full swing, the club members have begun renovating the civic organization's ice cream stand.

Concessionaires will be sprucing up their buildings for the 2014 fair, which runs Sept. 5-14. But, lifting a building is much heftier work, something the Hutchinson AMBUCS volunteers are realizing.

The crew began a week ago with a simple renovation project on the booth that is known for its Blue Bunny ice cream served in freshly made waffle cones. They quickly discovered a serious case of rot, mold and termite damage.

To tackle those problems they gutted the building, including the floor and interior walls, and internally braced the building so it could be raised using hydraulic jacks.

Then a handful of people lifted the building and placed it on blocks. The plan is to pour a new concrete floor. There will be new steel siding and roof, plus new signage.

The idea of renovating the stand came to Paul Hardenburger, a rather new member of the service organization known for working to create mobility and independence for people with disabilities. He was volunteering in the booth during last year's fair and discovered the building needed some structural improvement. A construction engineer, and vice president of MegaFab, Hardenburger volunteered to head the project. Together with his wife Rebecca, who owns Salt Creek Interior Designs LLC., they came up with a plan to refurbish the space, which includes changing traffic flow.

With a budget of about $30,000 they are counting on volunteer labor for a portion of the work. Even spouses and children have turned up to help. Hardenburger said the generosity from a variety of local businesses selling supplies at cost, as well as donating items including the Dumpster and electrical supplies, and labor, has been helpful to keeping expenses down.

Denny Stoecklein, fair director, was excited to see the renovation work. He said keeping up the concession stands was a responsibility of those owning buildings on the grounds.

"AMBUCS is making an investment," Stoecklein said. Along with AMBUCS, privately owned stands include the Carousel Cafâàö¬©, two pink Sugar Shacks and the Pronto Pup stands.

Permanent structures like AMBUCS are becoming rare on the fair grounds. Stoecklein said when the fair began implementing its master plan it moved in a different direction, trying to clean up things and getting rid of the smaller, older stands. Instead, concessionaires now rent spaces in Cottonwood Court.

AMBUCS bought the building in February 1988. While it doesn't own the land the building sits on, the organization is responsible for maintaining the structure.

"It had been a Baskin Robbins and before that Leon Shartz sold fried chicken there for years," said Fred Conner, a club member. It has become the club's main fundraiser, some years bringing in a profit of about $20,000, which helps fund the therapeutic tricycles known as AmTrykes provided for children with disabilities.

Over the years the building has had some refurbishing, but nothing like the current project. Hardenburger said bringing it all together is like a puzzle. He has a schedule which he says must be met in order to be completed by fair time.

A lot of sweat and toil was going into the project on a humid evening after the volunteers had finished their day jobs. The end goal is to get people to buy ice cream at the fair.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News

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