2010 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward
Contributing Photographer : Andrew Wyatt
In its 113th year of existence, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival has risen far and wide, known to many across the world, as one of the wildest, must see events the country has to offer during the winter months. Hailed as the “Mardi Gras” of the north, the festivities are quite possibly the closest thing one has to Bourbon Street above the Mason-Dixon Line.
And with “Adirondack Cowboy” as the theme, another year of blurred insanity reared its chaotically beautiful head in the heart of New York.
[Article Continues After The Photos]
Friday – Feb. 12
Yanked and harassed to get out of bed around 9 a.m., I awoke hungover from the previous nights endeavors in nearby Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. The sun shining, a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon within my fingertips. The local posse made its way to the Belvedere Restaurant. A legendary Italian establishment, the “Bel” year after year is home to first drinks of the day during carnival (they open somewhere around 8 a.m. or whenever you decide to pound on the door to open up).
Soon, numerous Bloody Mary’s were strewn about the counter, happily consumed amid a joyous and raucous ambiance. Filled with cowboy hats, bandanas, shiny boots and belt buckles larger than a dinner plate, “Whiskey River” echoed from the jukebox. Shots of rum and tequila rained supreme. Cheers and salutes were made to the dozen or so talented locals currently competing in Vancouver. Hordes eventually wandered out into the cold late morning.
It was time for the inner tube races!
With liquor concealed under cozy coats and sunglasses covering weary eyes, hundreds entered the annual mayhem of humanity rocketing down the petite Mt. Pisgah. Few won ribbons, yet all walked away champions in their own right (just for even getting up before noon at least).
The subsequent afternoon became a haze of people, places, and intoxicating things. Before you knew it, the sun faded behind the mystical Adirondack Mountains surrounding the jovial community.
After maneuvering a sardine can of people and countless beverages at Captain Cook’s, I zigzagged my way to the Waterhole. A renowned music venue tucked in the midst of downtown, Hot Day at the Zoo was ready to set sail for the evening.
The well-known bar has come to be known as the headquarters of the gonzo bluegrass quartet. Packed with rowdy, foot stomping locals, and tourists alike, the ambiance aligned perfectly with the overzealous approach of the Massachusetts group.
Charging up the hillside with “One Day Soon” and “Mercy of the Sea”, the rebel yells and string bombardment filled the ear with a cacophony of traditional numbers amid a plethora of original material destined to become the former.
As if caught in a time warp, the clock stated 3:57 a.m. while the group was just ending their encore. Filing out into the crisp early morning, the crowd stumbled towards their humble abodes and into bed, “For tomorrow we do it all over again!”
Saturday – Feb. 13
The next morning proved an arduous task as lifeless bodies rolled out of warm sheets. It was the final showdown of this 10-day test of courage, dehydration, alcohol tolerance, and town pride.
Coffee? Nope. Orange Juice? Only if it involves vodka. Bloody Mary’s? Well, why didn’t you say that earlier?
Leaving the “Bel” around 12:30 p.m., throngs sauntered downtown for the parade. Culminating the entire experience, thousands lined the street, hung from balconies or watched from the confines of warm buildings. Numerous tractor-trailer floats, choreographed dance routines by the Lawn Chair Ladies (local women who gyrate with a piece of summer furniture), dozens of colorful costumes handing out beads and candy.
Drinks were held high and spirits soared even higher.
As soon as the streets cleared, it was a quick jaunt to the post-parade house party with regional sensation Lucid.
The hardest working band in the North Country (Upstate NY and VT), the sextet careens across the gamut of genres with a unique mixture of jazz, rock, honky-tonk blues, and reggae. The melodies entice arms to flail and legs to shake with a reckless abandon. The floorboards seemed to shuffle beneath anxious feet of those lost in moment during “Backwoods” or merely trying to track down the infamous keg downstairs.
It was a forgotten trek back downtown, but eventually a beacon of light, the Waterhole, soon guided us in the right direction for another dose of Lucid at 10 p.m., only to be followed by jam gurus Raisinhead.
That was all I literally remembered, the names of who was playing that night.
I know I had a smile on my face. I know I was among friends and family. I know I had a drink in my hand. I know I had another great year being embraced by the loving arms of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.
And after all, isn’t that was matters most?