LAKE GEORGE - This weekend, the Lake George Winter Carnival opens with the zany traditional outhouse races, a variety of children's activities, a Radio Disney family show, and the long-standing "Polar Plunge" into the frigid waters of Lake George.
Thousands are expected to attend the Carnival, an annual festival held since 1961 in Lake George Village over the four weekends in February.
Carnival organizer Kathi Kokalas said the ice on the lake was thick enough this year for virtually all activities and fair weather was predicted. It nearly doubled in thickness over the past week, she said.
"This weekend's going to be a great, fun, family event for a lot of different reasons," she said. "I hear the weather's going to cooperate too."
In addition to a full slate of both family activities and vehicular sports, this weekend's Carnival offers a substantial new offering: Radio Disney.
Aimed at youth, the participatory show will include group dancing, karaoke and games for attendees from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Outhouse races, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, will feature teams, sponsored by local taverns, dragging outrageous homemade outhouses on a course down the ice atop Lake George. The fastest teams in various categories have traditionally enjoyed bragging rights for months in their hometown hangouts..
Both Saturday and Sunday, activities include tethered hot air balloon rides starting at 8:30 a.m. - weather permitting - and a variety of children's activities and fun games on the ice from noon to 2 p.m. A giant ice slide in Shepard Park is available during daylight hours over the weekend.
The Carnival also includes a new Skydiving Swoop Competition daily over the frozen lake.
Also returning are tethered hot-air balloon rides, along with a new balloon "walk-around" for children that want to experience one close-up. This will be set up in the parking lot of King Neptune's tavern, inside which there will be crafts and games. These activities join the pony rides at the Children's Petting Zoo, offered Saturday noon to 2 p.m.
Saturday also offers a Chicken Wing cook-off, with tasting and subsequent judging from noon to 2 p.m at Shepard Park Beach.
Registration for the outhouse races are held at Duffy's Tavern beginning at 10 a.m. Race officials can be reached at 668-5323.
And what would Winter Carnival be without its trademark Polar Plunge? The event features dozens of brave swimmers dashing into the frigid lake - a favorite spectator event set for 3 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday. The Plunge is preceded at 2:30 p.m. by the Snowmobile Water Skip, in which a sled pilot careens over open waters for 100 yards or more, defying gravity that could sink his snowmobile into the icy waters.
Those who are interested in formalities can attend the Carnival's opening ceremonies, set for noon at Shepard Park beach, complete with a skydiving patriotic salute.
In addition, a wood carving demonstration is held both Saturday and Sunday, noon to 2 p.m. Also featured is an encampment of military re-enactors, assuming roles of soldiers from the French & Indian War and wearing clothes and preparing food from the 1700s.
To find out more details about the events, see: www.lakegeorgewintercarnival.com