LAKE GEORGE - In an effort to boost both tourism and seasonal spirit in Lake George Village, municipal officials are planning to develop two festive holiday offerings beginning in winter 2011: a First Day arts and culture celebration and a holiday lights spectacular.
Mayor Robert Blais has begun building support for the first fest, to be patterned after First Night Saratoga, and Lake George officials Vinnie Crocitto and Ray Perry are working on launching Lake George Holiday Lights Spectacle, a display and recurring show of synchronized holiday lights and sound in downtown Lake George.
The two concepts were unveiled Monday, Jan. 10 at the Lake George village and town board meetings.
Blais said he envisions that First Day Lake George could involve various musicians and performers in various venues around Lake George on New Year's Day like Saratoga annually does New Year's Eve. That First Night Saratoga event, which drew about 14,000 people this year, is New York State's largest New Year's Eve celebration outside of Times Square in Manhattan.
Blais sent a letter out to local businesses to garner support, and he said Monday he's received enthusiastic response.
He said he dreamed up the idea after seeing the crowd of more than 5,000 in Lake George Jan. 1 for the annual First Day Polar Plunge, and thought these thousands of visitors - and local businesses owners - would enjoy it if a variety of attractions were developed for future years to keep them in the village all day long.
"This could be a huge weekend for Lake George," Blais said. "We now have 5,000 people annually here in the village for the polar plunge - should we just let them go home after the swim? No way!"
Blais said the Lake George Arts Project could sponsor the event, assuring its artistic integrity as well as its success. He said the event could be a fundraiser for the group, which now sponsors the acclaimed annual Lake George Jazz Weekend.
Holiday lighting show - all season long
While Blais was talking about launching the New Year's Day fest, Perry and Crocitto proposed to their respective boards the lights-and-sound spectacle for the village, to be presented in recurring weekend shows between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
The Holiday Lights Spectacle would feature lavish, extensive lighting displays in both Shepard Park and on buildings opposite the park on Canada Street. The tens of thousands of lights would not only offer an ongoing display, but be computer-controlled to be synchronized to recorded music for recurring 15-minute shows, three to four nights per week, they said.
Such shows, like in Florida's Hollywood Studios and the city of St. Augustine, annually draw tens of thousands of people, Crocitto said.
"A festival of lights like this could draw people from hundreds of miles away," Crocitto said. Crocitto and Perry showed a DVD recording Monday of such a festival to their respective boards, which responded with enthusiasm.
Crocitto said that during the holiday season, decked-out trolleys could run between Lake George and the outlet malls on state Rte. 9 in Queensbury to shuttle shoppers into the village for the light shows.
Perry said such a festival of lights could be a major boost to tourism.
"This could draw national attention to Lake George," he said, predicting it could be launched as soon as next November. "It could be a wild success."
Perry said it would be a vital boost to Lake George businesses in an off-season.
"This could breathe new life into Lake George," Perry added.
Perry and Crocitto said the lighting display and shows could be bankrolled by occupancy tax receipts. Perry suggested garnering corporate sponsorships - General Electric, he said, would be a natural backer. Crocitto said the cost of the lighting and infrastructure could be bonded by the two municipalities and paid off over several years.
Crocitto estimated the cost of the display and shows and at $50,000 or so annually, with the sum being split between the village and town, and paid for in occupancy tax receipts.
"It will put heads in beds," he said of the anticipated overnight stays.
Wheeler's lights pledged to Village
In a separate but related matter, Charles Wheeler of Lake George has offered to donate his extensive holiday light displays to the village. Through a local newspaper, he had sought to donate them to a family, but decided that since those responding didn't have appropriate landscaping to accommodate them, Blais reported, Wheeler decided to give them to Lake George Village to boost the municipality's annual lighting display in Shepard Park.
Village officials expressed enthusiasm for the donation, and said the display would be welcomed by residents and visitors alike.