SLVFD plans return of Thanksgiving Ball

Event dating back to 1890s returns after more than 20 years

SARANAC LAKE — After a long hiatus, the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s Thanksgiving Ball is returning this November, and Chief Brendan Keough said he’s looking to bring the event which dates back to the 1890s back to its former glory.

“The Ball is back,” Keough said.

The ball will be held on Nov. 10 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Hotel Saranac ballroom. Tickets go on sale Oct. 1.

This time of revelry dates stems from the earliest days of the department, after the combination of the Woodruff and Miller hose companies in 1891, according to SLVFD member Jim Stinson, who has been researching the history of the event on the Historic Saranac Lake Wiki.

The long-standing tradition lasted for more than a century — into the first years of the new millennium. It “lost steam” around the time of the sale of the Hotel Saranac, but Keough said he’s not really sure why they stopped it.

Now, Keough is thrilled to bring it back.

“The timing was right,” he said.

In 14 years as the department’s chief, bringing back the Thanksgiving Ball has been one of his checklist items. He has fond memories of attending them.

“It’s a good time,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a very good time.”

It’s a time to get together to enjoy food, dancing, laughter and drinks, he said.

He’s booked the band “The New York Players,” a high-energy 10-piece band from Albany with an expansive brass section, to lead the party.

“Swing big or go home,” has been Keough’s motto.

There will be a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, a beer bar and desserts donated by a local bakery.

The event is a fundraiser for the department. Keough said they are always looking to purchase new educational equipment and turnout gear.

Tickets cost $75. They can purchased online from a link the department will upload to its Facebook page on Oct. 1, or in person at the firehouse at 100 Broadway. Keough said the event will have a limited capacity.

The Hotel Saranac is sponsoring members of the department to be all paid for. Keough said this is a “thank you” from hotel owner Fred Roedel III for the department’s assistance pumping out a flood in the hotel basement.

“They had like a million gallons of water in the basement when Fred first bought it,” he said, adding that Roedel had been looking for ways to thank the department ever since.

Fire department members will be decked out in formal uniform regalia. For the public, semi-formal dress is the code.

There are not many photos from Thanksgiving Balls of the past.

Keough didn’t know of any. Inquiries to Historic Saranac Lake and the Saranac Lake Free Library netted no results. And cursory views of Enterprise clippings in the records room and online scans on New York Historic Newspapers website came up empty for photos.

The primary record of the event through the past century-or-so has been through newspaper advertisements and brief articles.

Keough chalked this up to camera phones not existing in the past, and people just having too good a time to think about taking many pictures.

A plaque of history in the Hotel Saranac lobby mentions the department’s Thanksgiving Ball.

Keough said a link to purchase tickets for the ball will go live on the department’s Facebook page on Oct. 1.


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