All hail the King and Queen!
SARANAC LAKE — The Winter Carnival King and Queen, who were crowned at Coronation Friday night, received their crowns in recognition of their extensive histories of volunteering, leadership and taking care of the Saranac Lake community.
King Marty Rowley and Queen Patti Ploof have decades of volunteering between them, from leading community groups to helping local businesses move; and from coaching youth sports to making sure countless local children all have gifts at Christmas.
Both also spoke highly of the local community as a whole, saying their efforts are only a few of the countless acts of kindness going on every day.
Rowley said he was “humbled” to learn of his selection. He sees his volunteer efforts as being a bit lesser than others.
“I sometimes feel that maybe I don’t deserve it. That there are others out there who do harder volunteering than I do,” he said.
He does a lot of volunteering, that part is clear from the list on the Carnival announcement of his kingship, but he said he’s doing “fun” volunteering — it’s not stuff like hospice work.
“I usually try to help people out but also have fun,” Rowley said.
He finds volunteering to be fun in and of itself.
“I get back. It’s not pure altruism. I feel good when I help people. I feel good to be involved. I feel good to be part of an organization or effort,” he said.
Rowley moved to Saranac Lake from Long Island 19 years ago.
“When I moved up here around 20 years ago I had two goals. I wanted to build my retirement house and I wanted to become a full-time volunteer. I’ve lived a good life and I wanted to give back wherever I could and whenever I could. And I came pretty doggone close to being full-time.”
He had been involved with Habitat for Humanity for around 35 years, so when he moved here, he joined the local chapter for a number of years.
He also got involved in another type of building — the annual construction of the Ice Palace. After one season with the IPW 101, he learned he had “ice water” in his veins. Naturally, he became part of the Carnival Committee and has now been its treasurer for a number of years.
He helped build the Historic Saranac Lake’s cure cottage porch and the Community Store building.
He’s been with the Adirondack Carousel since the day it broke ground. He was the first operator at the carousel and is now its board president.
Rowley said the day he joined around 182 people in helping move Mark Coleman’s Ampersound music store from Woodruff Street to Main Street was “one of the best days in Saranac Lake.”
On Oct. 30, 2011, based on a suggestion from Tim Fortune, the community lined the sidewalks along a 816-foot stretch of downtown and formed a bucket brigade-style line to hand instruments, equipment and ephemera from hand to hand, moving nearly the entire store in under an hour.
“It just showed the way the people in the village want to help each other,” Rowley said.
The same thing happened when photographer Mark Kurtz moved his store and when the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation moved.
Rowley moved to the Adirondacks for the solitude and quiet of nature, but moved to Saranac Lake for the community. He first visited the Park as a teacher leading a group of students on snowshoes on a land sustainability study to the Newcomb VIC.
He had never experienced things like the dry, fluffy snow and subzero temperatures he got there and he fell in love with the area. At a time in his life when all of his friends and family from Long Island were moving south to retire, he headed north. After years of vacationing, he bought property on a lake in Forestport, but it wasn’t the right place for a full-time home for him.
“I would have been the only person on a little lake for most of a year,” Rowley said. “I kept exploring and I kept coming back to Saranac Lake. I just love the community. It’s a very volunteer-oriented community. There’s art, there’s music, there’s beauty, there’s bliss.
“There’s enough people to make it a village, but not enough people to have traffic jams,” he added with a laugh.
As king, he said he will be an “ambassador for the village and our way of life.” That means embracing the cold, volunteering and creating art.
“Stay involved, stay busy,” he said.
Ploof said she was “shocked” when she got the call about being Queen.
“It’s something that I never thought about happening,” she said. “You know, you do the things you do because you think it’s the right thing to do; you don’t really think people are watching.”
But people have been watching over the years as she has been a Girl Scout leader, a commissioner for Saranac Lake Youth Soccer Association, a Mount Pisgah host patrol, a “dance mom” with Mountains in Motion, and a cheerleading coach for PAL football, as well as running fundraisers for the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, American Cancer Society and March of Dimes and co-organizing the annual Holiday Helpers toy drive.
Ploof could not do an interview with the Enterprise earlier on Friday because she was out running errands for some of her elderly friends, braving the sub-zero temperatures so they didn’t have to.
“Sometimes you just go out looking to do things and sometimes things come to you to get done,” Ploof said.
She got involved in several organizations through raising her kids — Eban and Mikayla.
When she went to sign Mikayla up for Girl Scouts, they were informed there was no leader for the local troop.
“I was like, ‘It’s OK, maybe next year,'” Ploof said. “But she had this look on her face like, ‘But, but no. I want to do this.'”
So she became the leader of a troop of 20 little girls, including three with special needs.
“Looking back, I was like, ‘What was I thinking?'” she said.
Again, when Mikayla was in soccer, the leader — Susan Olsen — thought about ending her term. She told Ploof to take up the mantle and told her that it wasn’t too much work and that she would like it. That was only half-true.
“She was really downplaying what was involved,” Ploof said with a laugh.
In 1980 Ploof was helping raise money for Holiday Helpers through her job at the state prison Adirondack Correctional Facility. When the prison made its donation to the organization, its leaders invited her down to see the gift give-away day.
She said her children had “everything they needed and more.” At the give-away, she saw families who did not have enough. She was drawn in by the organization’s goal of filling a need and has been involved ever since. This annual toy drive has become very close to her heart.
Through her role organizing Holiday Helpers, she said she gets to see volunteers and selfless people all over, and the event gives them an outlet for their altruism.
“I think that people are imminently kind to begin with and sometimes it just needs to be drawn out of them,” Ploof said.
Her basement is already filling with toys for next year’s drive.
Ploof was at Grand Union the other week getting her granddaughter popsicles — a strange treat for the winter season — when she bumped into a family in the parking lot who waved her over and told her they had just bought a load of toys for the next Holiday Helpers.
Another friend saw toys on sale at Walmart and cleared the shelves for next year.
“I think that if we all lend one little hand then we start making everything a little better,” Ploof said. “And the more you help out, the more you want to help out. … I get so much out of it. My heart is full when I help people out.”
It’s an infectious feeling, she said.
“I got to tell ya, I think this is one of the most caring communities, and I can say that because I’ve never lived anywhere else,” Ploof said. “I always feel that it’s not just one person doing things; this whole community is amazing.”
She was “blown away and in awe” this week seeing the fast work of the IPW 101 building the Ice Palace.
Ploof loves Carnival, and though she’s not one for venturing outside in the bitter cold, she will be out this weekend to fulfill her queenly duties — though she’s looking forward to when the weather warms up a bit.