‘Stay home … We’d love to see you next year’

Carnival Committee asks visitors not to come

Seen from an aerial drone, construction volunteers work to finish the Ice Palace Thursday in time for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival to begin. (Provided photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee is asking out-of-town visitors to stay home this year.

Committee Chair Jeff Branch, speaking from atop the Ice Palace on Thursday, said visitors should not travel to Saranac Lake for the 2021 Winter Carnival.

“Stay home,” Branch said, when asked if he had a message for visitors planning to travel from out of town.

The Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is giving that same message to visitors calling and asking for information about the event this year.

“We got word from the Winter Carnival Committee that’s how they wanted to move forward, with that message,” Chamber Executive Director Patrick Murphy said Thursday. “We’ve been communicating that same message.”

The 2021 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace is topped with flags Thursday afternoon after construction was completed earlier in the day. There is a U.S. flag in the middle, a Canadian flag on one end and a Winter Carnival flag on the other. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival is a beloved event — for locals, tourists and former residents alike.

Saranac Lake itself has a rich history tied to health and wellness, fostering innovation in medicine even before the last major pandemic in 1918. With the establishment of Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau’s Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium in 1885, Saranac Lake became a place of healing. It’s out of that history that the Winter Carnival was born in the first place.

Some people who traveled to Saranac Lake to receive treatment for tuberculosis had transformative experiences here, and found themselves wanting to venture out and enjoy this area, regardless of the season. Many of them also had become accustomed to staying out on porches all winter as part of the “fresh air cure” regimen. The first Winter Carnival, a one-day event in 1897, was hosted by the Pontiac Club, an organization formed to promote outdoor sports.

Decades later, the Winter Carnival is more than an event. It’s a time of celebration of what makes Saranac Lake what it is.

Though out-of-towners who love the event may want to travel to experience it again, the committee is asking that people hold off and return next year instead.

A group gathers around two ice chairs for a photo in front of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Ice Palace Thursday afternoon. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“We’d love to see you next year, but we’re trying to discourage anyone from coming up to the area,” Branch said.

For locals, though there won’t be many of the normal events, the Winter Carnival spirit can be seen around town. The Ice Palace is still being built, and the high school is still recognizing seniors, both on the Carnival Court and by displaying seniors’ pictures in storefronts downtown. A group of locals — Heidi Kretser and her daughter Leena, Jen Kretser, Amy Cheney Seymour and Gail Brill — also collaborated on a “Carni Card,” a bingo card-style game that features events inspired by Carnival happenings that families can do by themselves.

“Folks are continuing to honor this community event that pulls the community together,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, for everybody’s safety, we have to be mindful of how we do that.”


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