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Event to raise funds for Big Otter Mill

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By John Barnhart

    Big Otter Mill will hold its annual Spring Festival Saturday, May 19 from noon to 4 p.m.

    The event features BBQ by the Master Masons’ Association. According to Kristy Milton, chairman of the Big Otter Mill Foundation’s board of directors, this is a group representing six area Masonic lodges. Milton said this group has been the regular food provider, always BBQ, at the event.
    The Spring Festival is one of the Mill Foundation’s two annual fundraising events, the other being in the fall and featuring Brunswick stew. It’s all part of a drive by the Mill Foundation to raise $400,000 to complete restoration of the mill. They have, so far, raised $270,000,
    “We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Milton said.
    This summer the Mill Foundation will relocate a stream bed away from the mill’s foundation. That will be done in June.
    “We have made tremendous progress,” Milton said.
    Milton cited construction of a pavilion, getting electricity to the mill and restoration of the mill wheel. Although water comes from a different source — a recirculating pump system — than it did 70 years ago, the wheel turns the mill’s machinery like it did back when the century old mill ground and rolled grain for local farmers.
    The mill was abandoned in the early 1950s and Milton said that it’s a testimony to the community that it sat empty for 40 years and nobody bothered anything. Before restoration work began, the mill mostly looked as if the millers had gone home one evening and never came back. According to Milton, it probably is one of the most complete water-powered mills from the first half of the 20th century in existence.
    Milton said the Mill Foundation’s next project is to get funds to create a walking tour of the mill that can play on a smart phone app.
    Along with BBQ, the Spring Festival will feature music by the Steve Freeman Band, a silent auction and tours of the mill.
    BBQ costs $10 for a plate, $12 for a quart and and $35 for a whole butt. preorders may be placed by calling (434) 660-1587.