Children’s Games reveals mascot, asks for volunteers

The Lake Placid 2019 winter International Children’s Games Organizing Committee reveals the events mascot, Bernie the Bear, and an informational meeting Thursday night at the Conference Center. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

LAKE PLACID — Say hello to Bernie the Bear.

The Lake Placid 2019 winter International Children’s Games Organizing Committee held an informational meeting Thursday night at Conference Center to inform the community about the event, ask for volunteers and reveal the mascot. About 80 people attended.

The ICG is a winter sports event from Jan. 6 to 11 that will draw between 500 and 600 student athletes ages 12 to 15 from 33 different cities around the globe to compete in sports such as Alpine skiing, biathlon, hockey, speedskating and more. Cleveland and San Francisco have hosted the summer games in 2004 and 2008, respectively, but this will be the first time a U.S. city hosts the winter ICG.

Lake Placid’s economy revolves around successful sporting events and tourist attractions, and ever since the 1932 Winter Olympics, that success has been fueled by volunteerism. Each year, events such as the Ironman triathlon, the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament and the CanAm Rugby Tournament require plenty of local volunteers. The upcoming winter ICG is no different.

“We have an active and generous community,” said Eileen Mowrey, executive director of the Lake Placid 2019 ICG committee. “I think the people here appreciate the idea of international exchange.”

Chelsea Smith, Jake Reynolds, Aiden Smith and Audrey Higgins-Lopez attend an informational meeting at the Conference Center Thursday about the upcoming Lake Placid winter International Children’s Games in January 2019. The four competed at the 2016 winter ICG in Innsbruck, Austria. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Mowrey said the committee is looking to fill about 176 volunteer positions for the games. These folks would greet visitors at the hotels and sports venues, provide information and help direct people around the village.

“The volunteers are what holds it all together in the end,” she said.

Head of volunteers Sue Cameron looked at the attendees and said she saw plenty of familiar faces in the crowd, but that those people can’t do this forever.

“We’re trying to energize a new generation of volunteers in Lake Placid,” she said.

Cameron and Mowrey said that if people do want to volunteer, it would be best to sign up for three shifts.

German Olympic biathlete Andrea Burke speaks about the importance of event volunteers at an informational meeting at the Conference Center Thursday about the upcoming Lake Placid winter International Children’s Games in January 2019. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“We want the visitors to feel a sense of community and see the same faces wherever they go,” Cameron said.

“Three shifts might seem like a lot,” Mowrey said, “but we’ll keep you warm and happy.”

People interested in volunteering can find more info at lakeplacid2019.com

There is a different mascot every year for the ICG. It’s usually a symbol representative of the host city. For Lake Placid, that symbol is Bernie the Bear, an anthropomorphic black bear. The choice of animal fits because more than half of New York’s black bear population lives in the Adirondacks. In many languages, “Bernie” translates to “strong as a bear.” Because the ICG has both boys and girls competing, Bernie is gender-less, so it doesn’t relate to one athlete more than another.

Other guests at the meeting Thursday night included Chelsea and Aiden Smith, Jake Reynolds and Audrey Higgins-Lopez, a group of Northwood School students who competed at the 2016 Innsbruck, Austria, ICG. The Smiths and Reynolds went for Alpine skiing, and Higgins-Lopez went for freestyle skiing.

People gather at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Thursday night for an informational meeting about the upcoming Lake Placid winter International Children’s Games in January 2019. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

“Everyone was super friendly and welcoming,” Aiden said of the Austria games. “We had the opportunity to build a lot of friendships.”

“I still stay in touch with some of the kids I met over there,” Reynolds added.

“All the teams, no matter where you were from, got together and hung out,” Chelsea said. “It was really cool.”

It’s been said at previous press conference, but the ICG for Lake Placid is less about the economic impact and more about the international exchange.

“This event connects student athletes around the world and helps put Lake Placid on the map as welcoming community,” Mowrey said. “Creating those connections for out youth is imperative.”

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