SARANAC LAKE - Organizers of this year's Under the Sea-themed edition of Saranac Lake Winter Carnival know it will be tough to outdo the success of last year's Space Alien Invasion theme, but they're working hard to make the event another big hit.
"If this theme is embraced and creates opportunities for ingenuity and flights of fancy anywhere near last year's, I'll consider it a success," said Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Dickson. "Last year's was wildly successful, and I can't hope that we will top that, but I hope we'll match it."
The 116th edition of carnival kicks off Friday with the coronation of carnival royalty at the Harrietstown Town Hall, when 2012 king Tim Fortune and queen Kelly Morgan hand over their crowns to their successors. The 10 days of festivities that follow will include some of the big events carnival goers love and expect - the Ladies' Fry Pan Toss, the Rotary Club Variety Show and, of course, the Gala Parade.
Volunteer workers sort the ice in Pontiac Bay to be used for the 2013 Winter Carnival Ice Palace.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
But there are also some new arrivals to the schedule this year, like the Mayor's Snowball Toss Challenge. Organized by village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, the competition will feature a horseshoes-style single-elimination tournament where two-person, co-ed teams toss snow balls at a bulls-eye 60-feet away against another team, attempting to score points by landing the snowballs in a 5-gallon bucket or within two concentric circles around the bucket.
"I got an email from (Rabideau) that said 'I have a great idea. Is it too late to add another event to Winter Carnival?'" Dickson said. "I said, 'For you, mayor, it's never too late.' It was kind of just an acknowledgement that the mayor is the mayor, and the mayor comes up with stuff, and the best thing we can do is let the mayor do what the mayor does."
The Snowball Toss Challenge will be held in Riverside Park at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3, although participants are asked to show up at 12:30 p.m. to register.
Other noteworthy additions to the lineup this year include "Tales from the Sea," stories of a group of Norwegian sailors who came to Saranac Lake to cure from tuberculosis during World War II. Hosted by Historic Saranac Lake, the event will be held in the Saranac Laboratory Museum at noon on Thursday, Feb. 7.
A downtown movie night has also been added to the calendar on the following night, the same night as the Rotary show. It will be held at 6 p.m. in Berkeley Green.
"They have not yet announced what the movies will be, but I understand it will be short subjects and features so that people who want to get to the Rotary show (at 7:30 p.m.) won't have to get up and walk out in the middle of anything," Dickson said. "There are a number of things like that where groups are taking advantage of the presence of winter carnival to have an event, hoping it will draw a larger crowd."
One event that won't take place this year is the Meineker Memorial Ice Skating Show, which celebrated its 25th year during the 2012 carnival.
"I don't know any of the reasoning behind it, all I know is that it is not happening," Dickson said.
A new percussion band from Canada will be joining the parade lineup this year, Dickson said. He said it will be tough to beat the number of entries in the parade from last year.
"Last year was the largest, in terms of the number of entries, that anyone on the committee, some of whom go back a long ways, can remember," he said. "It would be nice to match it this year."
It takes about $55,000 to put on Carnival each year. The revenue to make it happen comes from contributors, sales of advertisements in the Winter Carnival program book, and button and poster sales. Dickson said fundraising is going "quite well."
"We always are concerned and we always seem to be OK, and I think that's the case this year," he said. "Guideboat Realty has emerged as our major sponsor this year. Cape Air continues to participate as does Adirondack Bank, NBT Bank, and AMA (the American Management Association) has emerged as a significant sponsor this year for the first time in several years, and everybody else seems to be pulling their weight also."
Carnival is organized by a group of dedicated volunteers, led by Dickson who is in his fourth year as chairman. He took over in 2009 after the death of long-time chairman Don Duso.
Dickson said he feels like he's hitting his stride.
"Generally yes," he said. "There's always little wrinkles that show up. That is part of the task. I will say this though, I am not chairman for life like Mr. Duso was. That is not going to happen."
One of the biggest changes in the last few years has been the committee's embracing social media and the World Wide Web. The carnival has an active Facebook page with 4,200 followers, and its website is regularly updated and maintained. Dickson said the committee has made those kinds of changes, and added new events, while still keeping with well-honed carnival traditions.
"The number one thing that drives us is it's such a cool event and without people willing to make it happen, it doesn't happen," Dickson said. "Number two is there's no reward like seeing people's smiling faces. The final thing is that it's actually fun. The committee tries not to take itself too seriously."
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com