First Night knocks ’em cold
SARANAC LAKE — New Year’s Eve was a cold night. Let’s rephrase that: New Year’s Eve was a really freaking cold night.
With wind chill factors reaching 21 degrees below zero, according to Accuweather, First Night guests were in for a freezing holiday But despite the frigid weather, many locals and visitors made it out to some of the performances.
This year’s First Night consisted of 18 performers at 10 different venues around Saranac Lake. From comedians to thespians to live music, First Night offered a well-rounded schedule of events.
Audiences at St. Bernard’s Church experienced a historical moment as President Teddy Roosevelt, or as he liked to be called, “Colonel,” presented a rousing and encouraging speech. This marked Roosevelt impersonator Joe Wiegand’s second stop in Saranac Lake in the past few months. He performed at the Harrietstown Town Hall this past September.
Weigand, as Roosevelt, told audiences of growing up as a weak, sickly and asthmatic child. Then one day his father called him into his office for a private word.
His father addressed him as Theodore, a name his family rarely used for him.
“You have the mind,” his father said, “but you have not the body.”
Roosevelt, determined to have the body, started doing calisthenics and lifting weights. Ironically enough, it was actually the cold weather that Roosevelt’s father used to treat his son’s asthma. Roosevelt would ride through the streets of New York City in the middle of cold nights, allowing fresh air to fill his lungs.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” said Robert Brown, the local man who introduced Weigand. “Everybody loves something about Teddy.”
Comedian and Saranac Lake resident Owen Benjamin had a few things to say about the cold.
“People in Saranac Lake aren’t drunks,” Benjamin told audiences at the Harrietstown Town Hall. “They just drink a lot of beer to stay warm.”
He continued, saying weather like this is hazardous to your health. “You get a flat tire in this weather, and you just die unless you have Madden’s,” a local auto garage and tow company.
The last act of the night, Soulsha, performed their unique blend of Celtic and funk music at the town hall. With African percussion, bagpipes and a brass section, Soulsha offered lively music for a crowd of dancers. The band even joined in at one point, descending from the stage and dancing with the crowd in an almost conga-line fashion.
As the clock got closer to midnight, Soulsha invited people to stay inside and ring in the new year in a warmer environment.
Saranac Lake doesn’t do a ball drop like Times Square. Instead, it does a snowflake drop, but that didn’t happen this year.
When the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department responded to a chimney fire at 15 Canaras Ave. on Thursday, Dec. 28, the truck that would have lowered the snowflake broke down because of the extremely cold weather, according to Fire Chief Brendan Keough.
“Everything froze up on the truck,” Keough said. “To replace it with a new one is almost a million dollars.”
The truck is operational now, but after reading a weather forecast for minus 33 degrees with wind chill, Keough said it was unsafe to extend the truck’s ladder. Even if the truck was working just fine, the cold would still be problematic, he said.
“The truck’s job is to save lives and put out fires,” Keough said. “We love being a part of the event, but it was just too much of a risk this year.”
At the stroke of midnight, fireworks were shot off over Lake Flower. The booming rockets and bright explosions almost made people forget how cold it was. Almost.