SARANAC LAKE - The 113th Saranac Lake Winter Carnival got off to a rip-roarin' start last weekend, and the festivities are far from over.
Carnival chairman Jeff Dickson said in a Feb. 8 interview that, based upon attendance at last weekend's activities, this year's Winter Carnival is "going very well thus far."
Hundreds packed the Harrietstown Town Hall the evening of Feb. 5 for the Winter Carnival coronation ceremony, the inaugural event for the 10-day festival.
And even more were in attendance, it seemed, for the ceremonial lighting of the Winter Carnival Ice Palace Feb. 6.
A crowd of at least 300 gathered along River Street and cheered loudly as, just in years past, colored flood lights illuminated the old-west-fort-themed palace and fireworks exploded overhead in a lengthy, prismatic display.
"It was a very large and enthusiastic crowd, and they seemed to really respond to the show," said Dickson, "and people seemed to appreciate the tribute to our former chairman, Don Duso."
Duso, who passed away Jan. 10 at the age of 78, was named Grand Marshall of the 2010 Winter Carnival posthumously in honor of his decades of volunteer service organizing the annual event. He had chaired the Winter Carnival committee through 2009, his 23rd and final year.
The lighting ceremony paid tribute to Duso with a stationary pyrotechnics display that put the words "Thank you Don" up in lights atop the Ice Palace along with the image of an American flag. Duso, a Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Chief with more than 50 years of service, was a Korean War veteran.
"We understand that there will be at least one wedding in the Ice Palace this year," Dickson added," and that's always fun when that happens."
Volunteers made an especially timely effort to construct this year's Ice Palace, parts of which had to be scrapped after unseasonably warm temperatures in late January caused areas of the partially-constructed structure to melt.
"It's clear that they did a wonderful job salvaging most of it," said Dickson, noting how changing temperatures from the past few weeks are evident in the varied thickness of blocks that comprise the Ice Palace walls.
"It's just kind of an interesting contrast as you make your way up," he said. "Obviously, it came out great."
Winter Carnival royalty arrived on the scene to initiate the lighting ceremony, including this year's queen, Carol Reyell.
"The only thing that marred it in the slightest way was that our king was not able to attend," Dickson said.
Frank Carmelo, this year's Winter Carnival king, reportedly fell and injured his ankle shortly after attending the Ladies' Fry Pan Toss in the afternoon Feb. 6. Carnival organizers have wished him a speedy recovery in hopes he can continue his duties for this weekend.
If all goes well, Carmelo will be back on his feet in time to appear in the Gala Parade, a culminating event for the Winter Carnival.
"It's one of the largest gatherings in our community during the year," said Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce director Sylvie Nelson, who said the parade draws more than 10,000 people to the downtown area. "We're always very proud of the parade."
Dozens of groups participate in the parade, which encourages residents and visitors to come out in their best costume in line with the annual theme. This year, it's "Adirondack Cowboys"
"We expect it to live up to its usual standards," said Dickson, noting there are several bands lined up to play and plenty of floats entered in the parade.
The floats remain a surprise until the day of the parade, even to festival organizers. Still, Dickson expects most of them to reflect this year's theme.
"With the theme of Adirondack Cowboys, we're really looking forward to what people have thought of," said Nelson.
Those who attend the parade should make sure to bundle up, Nelson said, as temperatures are likely to fall into the single digits or lower.
Line up for the parade will begin at noon Saturday, Feb. 13 with the official start of the parade scheduled for 1 p.m. The Winter Carnival concludes Sunday, Feb. 14 with a 7:30 p.m. slide show presentation at the Ice Palace.
"We encourage everybody to come out," Dickson said. "We expect a great parade and the slide show and fireworks at the closing ceremony are always well received."
For a full schedule of Winter Carnival events and more information,visit www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com or call the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at call 891-1990.