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Winter Carnival’s fantastic four finalists

The Winter Carnival Committee voted on the top four theme ideas for next year’s carnival Tuesday night, carving the list of ideas down from its original 146. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Out of 146 Winter Carnival theme ideas, only four remain: “Masquerade,” “Totally ’80s,” “Worldwide Carnival” and “Video Games.”

The Winter Carnival Committee met Tuesday night to begin the process of choosing a theme for the 2021 Carnival, and had an extensive list of ideas to choose from, collected from the group’s Facebook page. The committee is seeking comment on the remaining four theme ideas on its and the Enterprise’s social media, and will vote on the final theme April 21.

Jeff Branch explained that some of these ideas would not be able to be considered, for a variety of reasons. No repeat themes are allowed, with a 20-year window. No themes deemed “political” will be considered, which can range from “Global Warming” to “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” because the rail-trail discussion in the area is so hot.

Ideas must be easily adaptable to floats and costumes, need no explanation and transcend generations. They cannot violate copyright — Peanuts, Harry Potter — they can’t be too scary, and they can’t present any potential issues with the parade, Ice Palace or Carnival events.

Committee members are trying to pick a theme with as little drama as possible.

This past Carnival’s theme, “Myths and Legends,” was pitched at this meeting last year by Julia Walkow, then a second-grader, who loves to learn about mythology.

The process of whittling down the list to just a few options takes a lot of discussion. Concepts were debated, fleshed out and tested for weak spots Tuesday night. Some ideas were merged. Much discussion about the “true meaning” of themes was had. No one wanted to see an idea diluted or misinterpreted.

As Branch read all the themes out, the committee responded. Some ideas elicited shouts of approval and conversation. Others, concern and shaking heads. The theme “Birds and Bees” drew peals of laughter, but the consensus was that though that theme might draw national attention, it probably was not “appropriate.”

All the talk remained amicable, though, and at the end everyone said they were satisfied with all the top ideas.

The pitches

The first theme pitched was a repeat of a former theme that never came to fruition. Melissa Uhlik gave the idea of “Fiesta,” to some cheers and lots of discussion. “Adirondack Fiesta” was supposed to be the 2018 Winter Carnival theme, but under criticism from some that the theme would be insensitive, it was changed to “Adirondack Festival.”

Nancy LaBombard said she was Carnival queen that year and had loved the idea of a fiesta; she wanted to give the theme a second chance.

Mark Kurtz said that this idea would be controversial, no matter what. Someone else said it was “too soon.”

This idea eventually transformed into “Worldwide Carnival,” a celebration of all cultures of the world. There are two directions this could go: directly celebrating different nations and cultures, or incorporating elements from carnivals around the world.

The “Worldwide Carnival” idea got 16 votes.

Committee member Barbara Martin has been pitching “Masquerade” for a while, and said she would love to see all the masks and costumes people would come up with for the parade. This theme got nine votes.

Branch said “Totally ’80s” has been on the idea list for years now. It always makes the top five but never has been selected. Corey Hoffman said some of the hair salons in town are pulling for this one, because big hair would be in vogue. This one got 15 votes.

“Video Games” got the most votes, 17, and was pitched by Enterprise reporter Griffin Kelly.

Kelly delivered a short presentation to the committee, pitching his idea. He said most people have played a video game of some sort, and that there are many costume, palace and float ideas that can be created around the concept. He handed around a sheet with pictures of video game costumes: Link, Pac-Man, even Pong.

Martin said this idea was different than any recent Carnival themes.

When the concern of “violent video games” was brought up, Branch said the “Space Alien Invasion” theme in 2012 had some aggressive costumes, and that Walkow, who picked this year’s theme, proudly showed off a severed Medusa’s head on her Greek-myth-themed float in the parade.

Branch said whatever the result of any polls held before the committee chooses a topic, those results are informal, and the committee has the last word on what the theme will be.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said 2017 was the year of the intended “Fiesta” theme, which was switched to “Festival.” While the decisions were made in 2017, it was the theme of the 2018 Winter Carnival. The Enterprise regrets the error.)

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