Wildlife-themed Saranac Lake Winter Carnival comes to a close

Aggie Pelletieri, dressed as a deer, jumps for joy as she marches with the Kiwanis Club of Saranac Lake float in the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade Saturday. Kiwanis won two trophies: one for best civic/volunteer group float and the Louis Fobare Memorial Trophy for the best float in the parade. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — The Winter Carnival Gala Parade always has a wild atmosphere, but Saturday’s parade took it to another level.

A menagerie of colorful and creative Adirondack critters marched down Broadway and Main Street, greeted by throngs of furry and friendly onlookers – one of the biggest crowds some organizers say they’ve seen in years.

“We looked down from the judge’s stand at one point, and none of us could remember seeing crowds this large in a long time,” said Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Branch. “It was several people deep on the sidewalks, people in every nook and cranny, people on the roofs. It was a good crowd this year.”

The parade was also one of the longest in recent years, with roughly 80 groups walking or hauling floats. Other than the fact that it started late, Branch said everything went as planned.

“We had a little snafu at the beginning of the parade,” he said. “We had an emergency call. Somebody got hurt, but the good news is there’s like 100 EMTs, volunteer firemen and police there, so she was taken away and put in an ambulance and hopefully she’s OK. Other than that, it’s been fun.”

A music fan clad in not much more than an eagle mask and somewhat angelic wings goes crowd surfing Saturday night at the Waterhole during a set played by the band Bella’s Bartok. The Waterhole featured a lineup of music that started right after the Winter Carnival parade and lasted until the wee hours of Sunday morning. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

The “Adirondack Wildlife” theme of this year’s carnival sparked plenty of creativity. The Soma Beats dancers stood out in their elaborate and beautiful snowy owl costumes. The Canoodlers, who do dance routines with wooden canoe paddles, dressed as buck-toothed beavers. The Lawn Chair Ladies were butterflies. The Wild Center had a float that featured animal puppets and, at its rear, a mama and baby bear hibernating under a tree.

There were two large twig-built bird nests in the parade. One was a bald eagle nest containing a pair of “chicks” on a flatbed trailer, entered by Charlie’s Inn in Lake Clear. The other, part of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy’s entry, was a giant osprey with moving wings perched in a nest atop Mark Wilson’s Toyota Prius.

The parade entries drew rave reviews from the crowd.

“The costumes were just fabulous,” said Maureen Graham, a first-time visitor from New Jersey. “It was just so creative. I was surprised at how many people were involved in it, and how long it was, and how everybody carried out the same theme.”

“I couldn’t believe so far up north here there could be so many people involved in such a community event,” said Graham’s friend, Linda Pallack of Tuxedo Park, New York. “Very creative ideas. It was just amazing.”

Fireworks streak into the night sky in this photo Sunday from the side of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace. The fireworks display and the half-hour slide show that preceded it officially brought the 2017 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival to a close. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Even locals who’ve seen plenty of parades in the past said they were impressed with the imagination people put into their animal costumes and floats.

“It was a lot of Adirondack wild things walking up the street,” said Deb Lennon of Saranac Lake. “I loved the (Soma Beats) ladies that were dressed like the birds. They were my favorite, and of course the Canoodlers, and the Lawn Chair Ladies. It was great. And it was warm, compared to other years.”

Temperatures hovered in the low to mid 20s most of the afternoon, with no wind and no precipitation — a big improvement on last year’s double-digit subzero temperatures and one of the reasons why organizers believe parade attendance was so high.

“A little warmer makes a difference,” said David Martin, director of the Rochester-based Hit Men Brass Band, which has been in the carnival several times over the years. “I say warmer but it was still 20 degrees. Last time we were here it was 3, so this made it nice for us.”

Martin said his group keeps coming back because they like the “party atmosphere.” The small-town atmosphere of carnival is what stood out the most to Jonathan Driller, who lives near San Francisco, California.

St. Bernard’s School mascot Bernie is the drummer for the “Blackfly Bug Band.” (Enterprise photo — Don Hare)

“This is an amazing community,” he said. “It’s so welcoming and so supportive of everybody here. Coming from a big city in California, this is just a breath of fresh air. This is the real America.”

The final weekend of carnival included numerous other events, like snow rugby and volleyball, cross-country ski races, the Casey McHugh Pond Hockey Tournament and the Kiddie Parade. The festivities came to an end Sunday night with the annual carnival slideshow and fireworks over the Ice Palace. The snow was coming down steadily at the time, a fitting end to this year’s winter-ful carnival.

“I think it’s going to be remembered for the good weather, especially after last year,” Branch said. “And the wildlife theme, it seemed to really click. We had a lot of great costumes, a lot of great floats. People really seemed to get into the theme this year, which really helps carnival. It helps the spirit.”

St. Bernard’s School students dressed as insects and played kazoos in a “Blackfly Bug Band” while parents wore bug nets and carries flyswatters. The Saranac Lake Catholic school won the trophy for the best school walking group. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Saranac Lake High School sophomore Ali Finn plays flute with the marching band. At left is freshman Jackson Small; freshman Iyleeh Rose is at right. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Paul Smith’s College Veterans Club enjoys a fire on their float. They won second place among school floats. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Nelle Aaron and her father Ken carry big teddy bears in backpacks as they march with Petrova Elementary School, which won second place among school walking groups. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

“Child-life preservation” is the theme of Northern Lights School’s float, which included a landscape of snow-capped mountains and cute kids. It won the trophy for best school float. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

North Country Community College’s group offers free hugs. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

A costumed child waves from a float. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

A girl smiles and clutches her teddy bear while walking in the parade. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

A child wears a coonskin cap in the style of Davey Crockett. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Liam Patnode, 7, is happy to shake hands with Tigger. (Enterprise photo — Don Hare)

Someone in a squirrel mask watches the parade. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

These parade spectators’ costumes include red checked shirts, fur hats, white tutus and pine cone earrings. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Parade spectators wear owl costumes. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Kids and adults watch the parade, one holding a moose antler. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Two parade spectators dressed as butterflies and one as a caterpillar pose for the camera. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Broadway is packed with people watching the 2016 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Animal hats were in vogue this Winter Carnival, such as these matching bear hats worn by Lora Couture and friends. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Parade spectators cheer atop the Madden’s Transfer and Storage building. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

The Wild Center's float features animal hand puppets. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

A pair of bears hibernate in their lair in the very back of the Wild Center’s float. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Porcupines Andy Walkow, left, and his daughter Julia Walkow, talk with spectators while marching with the Nature Conservancy. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

The Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy’s entry included a nesting osprey with moving wings and tail. Co-creators Mark Wilson (driving) and Peter Dupree are in the car controlling the moving limbs. The Nature Conservancy won the trophy for best business group float. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Michelle Brown dresses as salamander eggs and Erin Walkow as a porcupine in the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy's parade entry. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Scott Patnode rides his tiny bike in the parade every year. This year he dressed as a beaver. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

A woman dresses as the St. Pauli Girl beer mascot as the Gimps celebrated alternate holidays, Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day, in the parade (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

A fox-costumed person marches with the Episcopal Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, which won the trophy for best civic/volunteer group float. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

The float from St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers shows an Adirondack mountain scene filled with wildlife. (Enterprise photo — Don Hare)

Zoe Smith and the Soma Beats dancers, wearing elaborate snowy owl costumes, boogie down Broadway during Saturday’s Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Gala Parade. Soma Beats and Bucket Ruckus teamed up and won the trophy for best independent walking group. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Theresa Hartford, left, and Johnna McDougall of Soma Beats dance while dressed as snowy owls. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Winter Carnival Queen Anita Meserole and King John Wamsganz wave from the royal float. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Bigfoot guards the royalty float. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

A man in a loon costume, with the Biodiversity Research Institute’s Adirondack Loon Center, gives out candy on Broadway. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Lawn Chair Ladies, dressed as butterflies, smile while doing choreographed dance moves on Broadway. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

The Kranker family of Saranac Lake — Schuyler as a moose, his sister Summer and their father as an angry chef — won first place among independent group floats in Saturday’s Gala Parade, the peak event of the annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

A tree — possibly an ent, a fictional tree-like creature from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” — walks with the Kiwanis Club of Saranac Lake’s float in the parade. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Roger Steinbrueck fires a confetti cannon on the Kiwanis Club float (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

The Historic Saranac Lake and Trudeau Institute entry in this year’s parade pays tribute to Martha Reben of Saranac Lake, whose 1950s book “The Healing Woods” was a national best-seller. The parade group dressed as Mr. Dooley, Reben’s pet duck. Their float also honored Fred Rice, the Adirondack guide who drew Reben to try wilderness therapy for her tuberculosis. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

A real horse wears fake deer antlers with the Wild Riders group. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

A parade spectator shoots a basket in the interactive Log-A-Load float. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Not all of the wildlife seen at Saturday’s parade is native to the Adirondacks — for example, these giraffes and dinosaur riders. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

A person in a bald eagle costume hugs, or perhaps pretends to attack, a parade bystander. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Dusty Grant drums with Bucket Ruckus in a bald eagle costume. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

The Cycling Murrays, hailing from Massachusetts and Vermont, are a staple of the Winter Carnival parade (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Charlie’s Inn, of Lake Clear, won second place among business floats for its giant bald eagle nest. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

The Canoodlers, who wear old-fashioned orange life preservers and do dance routines with wooden canoe paddles, dress as beavers for this year’s parade. They won second place in the competitive independent walking group category, edging out the ever-popular Lawn Chair Ladies. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

A mountain man joins the Boy Scouts parade group. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Fish were among the artistic animal masks worn by the group from BluSeed Studios and Saranac Lake ArtWorks, which won the first-place trophy for business walking group. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)