Plans laid for Winter Carnival Mobile Museum
SARANAC LAKE — It was sweltering inside the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee’s Mobile Museum on Wednesday as the committee planned the construction they hope will turn the structure into a home for the annual event’s legacy.
The large box they stood inside was completely empty — the walls were bare, studs protruded, and the floor was plywood — but committee members, squinting their eyes deep in thought, envisioned historic posters, ice saws and memorabilia all over. They want to fill it with 123 years of Winter Carnival history.
The building will sit on the shore of Lake Flower and will house a Winter Carnival museum and gift shop. It will be open during Carnival, of course, but the committee hopes to find a group to run and staff it all year long.
The museum is Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Branch’s passion project. It was made possible with a $20,000 donation from former Wall Street executive Barrie Wigmore and his wife DeeDee, who live in Saranac Lake as well as New York City.
Committee members were making big decisions Wednesday, ones that will likely last for years.
Each decision — the lighting, the walls, heating and cooling — had to fit two purposes: mood and function. Each idea was vetted heavily.
Someone would introduce an idea. It would be debated, altered and agreed upon.
Branch said they’ll have to make decisions and start work on finishing the building soon. It can’t stay in the Carcuzzi Car Care Center parking lot for too long.
He hopes they’ll be able to get material donations and at-cost prices for labor.
Though a lot of the conversation on the details was dry, members were visibly excited for what they hope to turn the building into.
“This will be fun,” committee member Liz Murray said.
During Carnival, the Mobile Museum will sit on state land at the edge of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s boat launch parking lot, between the new public restrooms and Lake Flower.
In the summer it will be on village land between the parking lot and the Ice Palace site.
The doors and windows will face the waters of Lake Flower, or rather — the ice, as committee Secretary Nancy LaBombard pointed out.
Branch said he’d like to completely close off that lot to parking in future Carnivals, saying parking there is always a “nightmare.”
Branch said because the structure was built using thicker wood than usual, there is essentially no weight limit for what it can hold.
“It will be strong enough to hold anything,” he said.
Members said they plan to make the museum compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Branch said he’d like to get a florist to maintain flower boxes on the outside. He said appearance will likely be the biggest concern when the Carnival approaches the village for a permit to be on the land.
Branch said the cost of finishing the cottage is a “scary number” but also that the finished product will be a “revenue generator” for the Carnival.
“You’ve got to do what you got to do,” LaBombard said.
He estimated to finish it — wiring, insulation, HVAC, flooring, walls — will cost $5,000 to $7,000.
Others thought that estimate was low, considering the drastic price hikes on everything from wood to plastic which have recently been brought on by COVID-19 and other world events limiting supply lines.
Carnival organizers plan to have a rotating catalog of historic artifacts on display.
Ice Palace Workers 101 Director Dean Baker said he has access to an old ice-cutting saw. Branch said Ray Scollin has original buttons and brochures from the first Carnival in 1898. Branch also said he knows someone with film footage of Winter Carnival parades in the 1970s he wants to convert into digital files.
Historic Saranac Lake is also collaborating with the Carnival committee and members said it has offered to store, catalogue and document artifacts when they’re not on display. The organization has its own collection of Winter Carnival items and is planning an exhibit showcasing Carnival history, too.
Organizers are envisioning digital displays showing slide shows, movies and film from Carnivals past inside the museum. Branch said he’d like visitors to follow a “timeline” through the building, following history.
The store will take up a small portion of the building, just enough room to display everything. A storage shed out back will hold the rest of the wares.
Barbara Martin is the committee’s reluctant museum curator.
“They’re throwing it on me,” Martin said, laughing.
Other members said they know she’ll do a good job.
Committee members said they’ll have to consider getting liability insurance.
“Now we have assets that don’t melt,” Branch said.
The committee is searching for people with historic items who are willing to loan their memorabilia to the museum.
Member and now-retired Carnival photographer Mark Kurtz said they’re borrowing HSL’s mentality that they’re just the caretakers of these artifacts, but they’re owned by the community.
Anyone interested in having a Winter Carnival artifact put on display at the museum can contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.