LAKE GEORGE - Thick ice, a full slate of action-packed vehicle competitions, new family-oriented events and lots of people who sought to escape from their troubles - have all been credited for the Lake George Winter Carnival tallying perhaps the most successful edition in five or six years.
"The word is out in the community that this has been the most successful Lake George Winter Carnival in a long time, Carnival official Ed Kokalas said Monday. "If we could plan on weather like this, we could rebuild into how it used to be decades ago."
The task is almost accomplished, considering the crowds that watched the car racing and other events on the frozen lake this past weekend, and the enthusiastic reception a variety of new events have enjoyed this year.
Races have enrolled more competitors, more spectators have joined in the traditional Polar Plunge, and new events like the lakeside bonfire, children's petting zoo and tethered hot-air balloon rides have drawn more people, Kathi Kokalas said.
But another factor is at play in the Carnival's success this year, she said.
People have been eager to shake off the prevailing "doom and gloom" over the economy, she said. Getting out to enjoy winter events provides a precious escape from sitting at home watching the economic news or reading your 401k statement, Kokalas said.
The prevailing tendency to conserve money has kept people from taking long trips, and since Lake George is close by and most all Winter Carnival events are free, it's been an attractive destination, she said.
This weekend was exciting particularly because of the array of racing vehicles - and the curvy racetracks were moved on Sunday closer to the crowds in Shepard Park and on the lakeside walkway, she said.
Saturday, the action was a little too exciting, as a race car slid out of control and hit a flagman, who was transported to the hospital, but did not sustain serious injuries, she said.
In Sunday's chili cookoff, winning first place was restaurant JC Montana's, followed by Prospect Mountain Diner. both are local venues that are leading in the series of cookoffs. Fort William Henry placed third with their savory Reno Chili. Seven other spicy and creative concoctions were entered in the competition, she said.
The demonstrations of Frisbee Golf by the Beckler family of Stone Bridge & Caves provided fun for all ages, she said, as spectators tried their hand at the sport.
The Polar Plungers ignored the frigid weather and brisk winds and submerged themselves in the icy water each afternoon, she said.
"It's amazing people would do this," she said. "You should have seen the crowds on MacDonald Pier watching the pain of the plungers."
Sunday, a drawing for a brand-new child's snowmobile worth about $2,500 produced a local winner - Autumn and Michael Shaunessy of Lake George, she said.
We called them up on a cell phone and they were so shocked," Kokalas said. "They just couldn't believe they won."
She said the crowds on Sunday appreciated all the activities, particularly those geared for families.
"It was a beautiful sunny day, providing an incredible finish for a great month of Carnival weekends," she said.