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Art show, auction to benefit Big Otter Mill

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By John Barnhart

    Friends of the Big Otter Mill will hold an art show and auction to raise money to complete the restoration of the Mill.

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    The  art show will be held at the Bower Center from May 2 through May 5, with a gala and auction slated for May 5. The gala and a silent auction will begin at 5 p.m. with a live action, conducted by auctioneer Joe Pillow beginning at 6:30 p.m. Proceeds from the auction will be split between the artist and the mill with the artist getting 30 percent and the mill receiving 70 percent.
    According to Kristy Milton, president of Friends of the Big Otter Mill, Friends is renting space in the Bower Center for the event. She said they are doing this because the Bower Center provides a nice facility that is centrally located with plenty of parking. It also provides an indoor venue so that there is no chance of being rained out.
    According to Milton, the remaining restoration work on the mill will cost $400,000 and a grant has put them half way there. The gala and auction are part of a capital campaign to raise the rest of the money.
    Milton said there were once more than 300 mills like Big Otter around Bedford County. They were places where farmers could bring their wheat to be ground into flour, their corn to be ground into meal and their oats to be rolled.
    Big Otter Mill’s interior was in nearly perfect condition when restoration work began. Other than bird droppings, everything was as it was when the millers closed its doors for the last time half-a-century before. Along with an interior clean-up, the restoration work has created a landmark that is one of the most photographed places in Bedford County.
    The mill is open to visitors during events held on the mill grounds. It’s also open to tours by appointment by calling Milton at (434) 455-2308.
    Friends are still soliciting art for the auction. People wishing to make art available for sale may call Milton. They currently have a couple of items that have been sold before. One is a painting by Franz Beisser that had been raffled. The winner of the raffle is donating it back to be auctioned. They have another piece that is being donated  back because its owner is selling his house to go live on a boat and needs to radically downsize in order to do that.
    The gala will feature food and tickets at a cost of $25. This price includes two drinks. They can be purchased at the Bedford Welcome Center and Arthur’s Business Service. They can also be purchased on-line at www.lynchburgtickets.com.
    If you wait until the last minute, you will still be able to buy tickets at the door. Milton said Becky Wuergler, who headed up fundraising and restoration efforts at the mill until her death early last year, would never turn away somebody who wanted to buy a ticket at the door for a fundraising event.
    “What would Becky do?” Milton said she often asks herself.