SARANAC LAKE - Like an army of little green men, local businesses, organizations and groups were hurriedly putting the finishing touches on their alien- and space-themed floats and rehearsing their routines Friday in preparation for today's Winter Carnival Gala Parade.
"We're in float panic mode right now," Dan Reilly of HomEnergy Services told the Enterprise over the phone Friday afternoon. "When you called, I was just stapling together material for the top of one of our flying saucers."
The parade, the biggest event of the 10-day carnival, gets under way at 1 p.m. Floats, marching groups, bands and other performers will move down Broadway, from its intersection with Ampersand Avenue, through downtown and onto Main Street, where the entries will be judged by this year's royalty in front of the Harrietstown Town Hall.
Rotary dancer Space Ronny, a.k.a. Ron Keough, enters the Harriestown Town Hall auditorium Friday night during the annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Rotary Club Variety Show Friday night.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Winter Carnival parade coordinator Eric Foster said the parade could be one of the largest the village has seen in a while, which he credited to the popularity of this year's "Space Alien Invasion" theme.
"This is a big year," Foster said. "There are 85 units. Looking over the last couple of years, that's more than what we've had in the past. What's nice is the entries are spread across schools, businesses, community groups, and everyone is really embracing the theme this year."
While some people the Enterprise contacted Friday were reluctant to reveal what kinds of parade floats and routines they've been working on, a few were willing to provide a preview.
"We have flying saucers, and we have aliens emerging from flying saucers," Reilly said. "We have special effects: a smoke effect and an alien ray gun effect. We'll be using fairly substantial air cannons that we made, which required a couple air compressors."
Reilly said his team used vinyl sheeting and mylar, reinforced with duct tape, to decorate their float.
"We've got a hundred dollars of tape on that float, not to mention pounds of staples," he said. "We've been working on this for a month. It is a lot of work, but we have a blast doing it."
Across town, the float built by staff and residents at St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment and Recovery Centers was sitting on a flatbed trailer parked outside the facility's maintenance garage. It features a city of multi-colored skyscrapers under attack from a flying saucer and a big green alien in a black robe.
"The name of our float is 'Attacking Addiction,'" said Barbara Catalano of St. Joseph's. "It's a city named Addiction, and we have an alien and spaceship attacking the city. We're also going to have lots of little special effects."
"We came up with the concepts and got the residents involved, and had them use their innovative skills to take it further," said Michael Navarra, a counselor at St. Joseph's. "What they get out of it is a new experience. They get to work together as a team, and it builds camaraderie between the residents."
Staff at St. Joseph's are hoping for a repeat of last year, when they won the Louis Fobare Memorial Trophy for best in parade with their dragon-themed float. Last year's theme was "Medieval Times."
Groups that will be marching in today's parade have also been gearing up, and in some cases rehearsing, for the event all week. Among those is a new entry this year called the Canoodlers, a Saranac Lake-based, conehead-wearing, canoe-paddle-carrying drill team.
"We've been working on our routine," Canoodler Gail Brill said. "We're going to take down the Lawn Chair Ladies this year. That's the plan. Lawn Chair Ladies, be careful. We're coming."
Preparations for the big event were taking place along the parade route Friday. Crews hired by local restaurant owner Paolo Magro put up a large tent in the Sears parking lot, which Magro also owns, for the Paul Smith's College alumni reunion. Village Department of Public Works crews dropped off barricades in several locations as Main Street, Broadway and several other roads in the downtown will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning at noon today.
Village Police Chief Bruce Nason asked Carnival goers to stay on the sidewalks during the parade, and he also urged people driving through the village to watch for pedestrians.
"There's a lot of people on foot, especially during the parade and near the Ice Palace," he said. "We want everybody to come and have a good time, and be safe."
In addition to village police, Nason said officers from the Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Malone village police departments, the Essex and Franklin county sheriff's departments, state police and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be on hand to help with parade duty.
Those who weren't getting ready for the parade Friday were out enjoying the many Carnival events on the schedule. A huge crowd showed up for the morning's inner tube races at Mount Pisgah, which featured races between local school kids and adults. Children's skating races were held midday at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
The Harrietstown Town Hall was packed Friday night for the popular Rotary Club Variety Show. The audience was treated to performances by the Winter Carnival pages and court, the Saranac Lake High School Vocal Ensembles, musicians Steve Borst and Sue Grimm, juggler Eric Geoffrey-Belcher and swing-jazz band Crackin' Foxy.
The Rotary Dancers closed the show with an out-of-this world performance. As the theme from "Star Wars" played in the background, they entered the auditorium wearing flying saucers, coats of aluminum foil, coneheads and eerie white masks on the fronts and backs of their heads. After wandering around the stage for several minutes, they stripped down to white dresses and pink tights, and treated the audience to a performance of "New York, New York," ending with their usual Rockette-style high leg kicks. The crowd gave them a standing ovation.
Ever present at all these events were Winter Carnival King Tim Fortune and Queen Kelly Morgan.
"From the beginning, Kelly and I agreed to go to as many events as we could, and we actually made up some," Fortune said while watching the inner tube races. "We went to Uihlein (nursing home in Lake Placid) to visit our fathers. We went to Will Rogers (retirement home) and saw those folks. We went to the basketball game. It's been exciting."
Morgan said she was looking forward to the parade.
"Everybody I've talked to is very enthused," she said. "I think they've built some great floats, the marching units sound like a lot of fun, the kid's costumes - I think it's going to be great."
Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Dickson said Carnival has gone off without a hitch so far.
"The weather finally cooperated," he said. "It will be cold (Saturday) but not as cold as they were originally predicting. It'd be nice to have some more snow, but all in all, things seem to be going well."
The National Weather Service predicts cloudy skies today with snow showers likely in the morning and high temperatures in the lower 20s. Temperatures are predicted to drop to 7 below zero tonight, and on Sunday, the final day of Carnival, the NWS predicts mostly cloudy skies, a 40 percent chance of snow showers and highs around 14 degrees.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.