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Lake George Winter Carnival canceled

LAKE GEORGE — The upcoming Lake George Winter Carnival was canceled on Tuesday over safety concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic, dealing a blow to local businesses that have come to rely on the event to boost sales in the winter.

February’s festivities would have marked the event’s 60th anniversary, but growing safety concerns coupled with state-mandated policies put in place to stem the virus’ spread made hosting the event impossible, said Louis Tokos, one of the event’s organizers.

“Unfortunately, we saw this coming for the last month or two,” he said. “Our posture is that we lean in a direction of being safe, not only for all our volunteer members, but also for all the visitors that will be attending.”

The Lake George Winter Carnival is organized by a group of 24 volunteers.

Tokos said organizers typically begin planning the event in August, but have held off this year due to the pandemic.

The monthlong event typically attracts thousands of tourists each weekend in February, providing a much-needed boost to local businesses in the Lake George region that remain open after the summer tourism season ends.

Some businesses, Tokos said, open just to take advantage of the large carnival crowds.

But current guidelines cap outdoor gatherings at 50, and since the event is considered non-essential, Tokos said there was no getting around the limit.

“The COVID-19 guidelines set forth are so stringent that it’s almost an impossibility to handle the crowds that the Lake George Winter Carnival brings in, and as most people know, we’re a non-essential event,” he said.

News of the cancellation was yet another blow to business owners like John Carr, who operates Adirondack Pub & Brewery on Canada Street, and has come to rely on revenue generated from large events in the village.

This summer, Americade and the Adirondack Nationals Car Show were forced to cancel because of the pandemic. Both events attract upward of 50,000 tourists each, who pack restaurants and retail shops and fill hotels in the village and beyond.

“It’s going to be a big loss for the community in the wintertime,” Carr said.

Carr said he understands why the carnival was canceled, but noted the event is typically the one time his business is profitable during the winter, which helps make ends meet until the summer tourism season picks up again.

“Winter Carnival, if I’m being honest with you, that makes February profitable,” he said. “Without it, if you look at the other months of the winter, they’re not profitable.”

Village Mayor Robert Blais said he wasn’t surprised to learn that Winter Carnival was canceled, but also raised concerns about the impact it would have on local businesses.

“It’s a big economic boost to the businesses that stay open year round,” he said. “Those four weekends, for some of them, makes the whole winter worthwhile.”

For Shawn Quirk, the owner of King Neptune’s Pub, the carnival is “everything” during the quiet winter months.

Quirk typically closes his establishment for two months beginning in November, but reopens in January. The Winter Carnival in February is his busiest month until tourism picks up.

“Winter Carnival is everything for us in February. For the whole village and the people who remain open during the winter,” he said.

Tokos, meanwhile, said canceling the Winter Carnival was far from easy, but noted safety is paramount.

He added organizers are now looking toward 2022.

“We’re just going to move forward and plan for the 2022 season,” Tokos said.

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