Big crowds, comfortable weather expected for today’s Gala Parade

Northern Lights School parent and board member Michael Williams attaches a tree to the school’s “mountain mosaic” float for today’s Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

SARANAC LAKE — Expect to see plenty of warm, furry mammals and other Adirondack critters roaming wild at today’s Winter Carnival Gala Parade.

In fitting with this year’s carnival theme of “Adirondack Wildlife,” many of the parade’s walking groups, floats and other entries will be celebrating what makes the Adirondacks a special place.

“The parade is going to be very theme specific,” said Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Branch. “From looking at the entry forms, we’ve got loons, moose — you name it. It seems like people are really embracing the theme and going all out.”

Branch said there will be approximately 70 to 75 entries in the parade, which he said is a little higher than normal.

Among the entries, Northern Lights School has been working on a float that school board member and parent Michael Williams described as “mountain mosaic on a flatbed trailer.

Andy Walkow, left, and Erin Walkow of Saranac Lake show off the sign and signpost the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy will carry during today’s parade. The signpost lists places the organization has protected in the Adirondacks, like Boreas Ponds and Lake Lila. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

“It will be 3D mountains created out of whatever we have around: sheets, blankets, tarps and 2-by-4s,” he said. “The kids are all going to dress up in various wildlife costumes, paint signs and hold them up, if it’s warm enough for their appendages.”

The weather shouldn’t be a problem today. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid 20s with a 70 percent chance of snow. That’s a 40-plus-degree improvement on last year’s parade, when frigid temperatures limited the number of entries and spectators.

“Last year, I think Northern Lights was the only school that went ahead, despite the weather, because we want to let people know we’re a part of the community,” Williams said. “And, of course, carnival is just a great scene for anybody who lives up here.”

The parade will feature plenty of groups that work to protect and preserve habitat for Adirondack wildlife, or educate the public about it, like the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, the Wild Center and the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge.

The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy has entered a walking unit designed to highlight the places the organization has protected in the Park, like Lake Lila, OK Slip Falls and Boreas Ponds. It’s the first time it has participated in the parade.

“The theme was perfect for us to play a part in it,” said Erin Walkow, senior donor relations manager for TNC’s Adirondack Chapter. “Some staff will be dressed up. We have porcupines, bears, a snowshoe hare, an owl, a fox, a bird watcher. We have a salamander egg mass. Our message is wildlife needs wild places.”

A number of local businesses will also be represented in the parade, like Taylor Rental of Saranac Lake. Their float is based on the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.”

“Let the wild rumpus begin!” pronounced Brad Idzik, the company’s general manger, quoting a line from the book. “We just thought it would be a fun idea that people can relate to. We’ve got a bunch of young kids that are going to be on our float, mostly our employees’ children. There will be some costumes. I know there was some mask-making going on and things like that.”

Idzik said Taylor Rental has been in the parade each of the last five years, since the company started its Saranac Lake location.

“What else is there to do in the middle of February?” he said. “I think it’s enjoyed by just about everybody. The crowd and the community certainly enjoys it. Per the carnival, it’s just a great way to break up the winter monotony.”

In addition to the floats and walking groups, the parade will also feature plenty of music. The Saranac Lake High School Marching Band, Quigley Highlanders Pipes and Drums, the Blues Brothers Band and the African Urban People’s Percussion Ensemble are among the entries. Following the parade, the bands will each take the stage in the auditorium of the Harrietstown Town Hall.

The parade starts at 1 p.m. and goes down Broadway to Main Street, finishing in front of the town hall where the entries will be judged by this year’s royalty. The parade will be led by Grand Marshall Barbara Rice, co-owner of Rice Furniture and chairwoman of the Franklin County Legislature.

Branch said he’s expecting to see a lot of people on the streets.

“After the crowds we experienced this past weekend, I think we’ll see huge crowds this weekend,” he said.