By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
To highlight the community's support of the casino proposal at Thruway Exit 27, Montgomery County is organizing a parade rally in the city of Amsterdam Tuesday, July 1.
The "Yes Casino" parade will start at the William B. Tecler Arts in Education magnet school parking lot at 5 p.m. and proceed to Shuttleworth Park prior to the Amsterdam Mohawks game.
"The more we can get out the message that we are a community that overwhelmingly supports this will help us in the long run as we move along in the application process," Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort said.
The parade is being held a day after applications are due to the state Gaming Facility Location Board for one of four gaming licenses.
Casino developer Clairvest Group Inc. is proposing a casino and resort on a 512-acre parcel in the town of Florida and city of Amsterdam, and is among 18 entities vying for a license in the Catskills, East Southern Tier and capital regions. The Montgomery County site is one of five areas in the capital region being targeted for a potential casino.
Area residents have rallied around the casino proposal. Many voiced their support at public hearings that were held last week when the casino development team, Florida Acquisition Corp., presented its plans to both municipalities.
"There is a tremendous amount of support here and we want to demonstrate that to those making the decisions at the state level," Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Kilmer said.
He said Montgomery County is the only community in the region to completely support a casino in the area.
The chamber, which is helping to organize the event, has publicly backed the casino with the board of directors approving a resolution of support in February. The resolution is among several being submitted with the casino application Monday.
"We want to be supportive of anything that helps the region in terms of economic development," Kilmer said. "The parade would certainly show the community's resolve."
Ossenfort's spokesman Andrew Santillo said the idea was born this past week, when residents began to call and e-mail the executive office asking how they could show their support.
"We got folks from the city and the chamber [of commerce] and put our heads together on how to let the public voice their support," Santillo said, adding the parade is also a chance to hear people who weren't heard at the meetings and have some questions about the project.
Ossenfort said he will be at the event to answer any questions and is prepared to speak about the project if necessary.
Flyers that were distributed by the city recreation department via e-mail Wednesday encouraged everyone to participate in the event. Local businesses and organizations, custom cars and motorcycles are welcome. Local sports teams are encouraged to wear their jerseys. Video and picture testimonials will be taken and posted on social media.
Those who attend the parade will get a free ticket into the Mohawks game.