SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee has a new chairman.
Eric Foster was recently elected to the position by members of the committee. He takes over for Jeff Dickson, who served as chairman since 2010 following the death of Don Duso. Duso had led the committee for more than two decades.
Dickson told the Enterprise that he decided to step down after being chairman of the past four carnivals.
Newly elected Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Eric Foster, left, hands outgoing Chairman Jeff Dickson a plaque of appreciation at the Committee’s March 20 meeting.
(Photo — Mark Kurtz Photography)
"It wasn't a job I ever sought in the first place," Dickson said. "Don had asked me if I would do it because he wanted to retire from the position. I said that I would, and I held the position for four years, and somebody has finally expressed an interest in doing it so I said, 'Great, it's all yours.'"
Dickson noted that new events have been added to Winter Carnival over the last four years, and he believes attendance has grown. He said he still plans to serve on the committee.
"I'm still going to do the program book and some other things," he said. "I'm certainly not disappearing. It will give me a chance to perhaps work on the Ice Palace, which I used to do a long time ago and haven't done recently."
Foster said he was honored to be elected as chairman.
"With Jeff stepping down, there was going to be a need for someone to step in," Foster said. "I have an interest in Winter Carnival overall, so taking on a position to keep things going on the smooth path that they are was something I was interested in. It is a little daunting, but Jeff has done a really good job. Stepping into his shoes is going to be a challenge, so I am going to look to his support going forward, and I think he knows that."
Foster joined the committee after he and his wife moved to Saranac Lake about five years ago. He said they both started out as general volunteers before Foster was asked to take over coordinating the parade, which he's done for the last four years.
The position of chairman doesn't necessarily come with a job description, but Foster said he sees his role as working with the event's many volunteers, sponsors, village workers and community groups to bring carnival to fruition each year.
"There's always challenges," Foster said. "With an event of this duration and this much heritage, there's a challenge to continue the history and the types of events people are looking for, but also look for new ideas of where we can expand and things that would make sense for the community."
Dickson said Foster will do a great job.
"I think he's fully capable of handling the job, no question about it," he said.
The committee increased its number of board members from five to seven at its March 20 meeting, adding one more member at large and a vice chairman. In addition to Foster, the 2014 board includes Cynthia Martino (vice chair), Clyde Baker (treasurer), Evie Field (secretary), and Barb Martin, Jeff Branch and Dickson (members at large).
Possible themes picked
Meanwhile, the committee has named five potential themes for the 2014 Winter Carnival, and local residents will again have a chance to vote on the theme.
Since the end of this year's carnival, committee members collected dozens of theme ideas, some of which were resubmitted from past years and others that were collected fresh from the community this year. With each member casting three votes, the committee said in a press release that five theme ideas rose to the top. In alphabetical order, they are Adirondack Fiesta, Age of Aquarius (1960s), Ancient Egypt, Celtic Carnival, and Wizards & Dragons in the Mountains.
Those interested in voting for their favorite theme from this list can either contact a committee member with their selection or submit a vote on the Winter Carnival Facebook page or through the "contact" section of www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com.
It is a recent tradition in Saranac Lake for readers of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise to vote for their favorite theme in an online poll. This year the poll will be conducted the week after spring break, April 8-15, at www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com. The Winter Carnival Committee will use the poll results to make its final decision on the 2014 theme.
"This year, the community suggested more than 50 theme ideas that came into the Committee through Facebook, emails and conversations," Foster said in the release. "The enthusiasm and imagination were terrific. It was a challenge to narrow the list down. We would like to get the community's view on their favorite for 2014."
The votes will be tallied for the committee's April 17 meeting at the high school, where members will make a final decision. The 2014 Winter Carnival will take place Jan. 31 to Feb. 9.
This year's theme was "Under the Sea." In 2012, the theme was "Space Alien Invasion," and in 2011 it was "Medieval Times."
(Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the Winter Carnival Committee has increased its board members, not overall committee members, from five to seven.)