‘Even the king sometimes needs a boost’

Winter Carnival King Joe Szwed gets his COVID-19 booster shot from Kinney Drugs Supervising Pharmacist Jeff Miller. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Winter Carnival King Joe Szwed rolled up his sleeve, and his ruby red cloak, to get his COVID-19 booster shot at Kinney Drugs on Saturday.

“Even the king sometimes needs a boost,” he said.

Szwed is in his second year as Carnival royalty with Queen Nancy Howard Heath, since their first terms were interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. He said he’s been fulfilling his royal duties this year thanks to his vaccinations, and believes it’s a public service for the masses to see that even he needs protection.

Szwed likes his royal routine. Often, he’ll leave the house all day to visit children at schools, civic organizations or fellow recreators, bringing Carnival joy all year round.

Ever since he got his shots — soon after the truncated 2021 Winter Carnival — he’s been traveling the northeast, paddling with his Hornbeck canoe and spreading the word of Winter Carnival to everyone he comes across.

“I could not have done this if I was not fully vaccinated,” Szwed wrote in a kingly decree. “I am doing it to protect not only myself, but my family and others in the Saranac Lake area and beyond.”

When the federal government gave booster shots the green light last month, Szwed said he was ready. He’s in his 70s and wants to keep his immunity high.

“720,000 people have died so far in the United States. This is like losing the total number of people living in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and the whole Adirondack Park, (cumulatively),” he wrote.

Szwed was a physician’s assistant for 30 years and a hospital corpsman in the Navy. He gave out dozens of vaccinations for incoming soldiers, who each got a slew of immunizations all at once with a pneumatic gun. After this royal pain in the arm, Szwed said the COVID-19 booster shot was nothing for him.

Szwed said he hopes with vaccinations and a drop in virus cases, Saranac Lake will be ready to celebrate a “Totally ’80s” Winter Carnival in four months.

“I want to see you all at Winter Carnival this coming February!” Szwed wrote in his decree.


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