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Skaneateles Masons welcome visitors to Table Lodge

For centuries, the Free and Accepted Masons has been regarded as a secret society of sorts.

Like any fraternal organization, meetings among brothers are held in confidence, behind closed doors and the inner workings of the organization is not revealed to anyone on the outside.

However, there is one night when all are invited to join together in brotherhood, visit, "eat, drink and be merry," said Master John Covell of Skaneateles Lodge 522 located at 13 E. Genesee St.

Called "Table Lodge," the evening is not a closed Masonic meeting but steeped rich in traditions begun more than 200 years ago in Europe.

"It's a left over from something the Masons used to do hundreds of years ago," Covell said, adding that a lot of Masonic lodges owned taverns and would hold their meetings above the bar.

On Wednesday Nov. 18, Masons from across Onondaga County were joined by District Deputy Grand Master Kevin J. Parker at the Skaneateles Masonic Lodge for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres followed by a formal dinner. Then Table Lodge began and the evening was filled with toasts, drinks and songs.

"This is actually our most fun meeting of the year," Covell said.

Brother Tim Gannon gave the first of seven toasts. According to Gannon, toasts are restricted to those listed in the program. For this year's program, he scoured the Internet to find programs he liked and the cut and pasted them into an overall pleasing program.

Following each toast, the Masons each exuberantly cheered three times saying, "Vivat, vivat, vivat!" before consuming a shot of wine or grape juice.

In response to each toast, certain members of the brotherhood were asked to speak. Following the third toast, Past Grand Master of New York Bruce Widger spoke to the group regarding the health of current Grand Master Edward G. Gilbert, who has spent many months in hospitals battling bad health which started due to problems with his heart.

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