We all know the hassles of Adirondack winter far too well.
From icy roads to frozen pipes. From brokedown furnaces in the cellar to ice dams on the roof. From cars that won’t start to dogs that won’t go out. When it comes to winter woes, you name ’em and we’ve got ’em.
But my biggest winter hassle is none of those things. It doesn’t happen outdoors; it doesn’t happen physically; it doesn’t even happen here. In fact, it happens at least 1,000 miles away.
And what is it?
It’s all my former SLHS schoolmates who now live in the South: When the mercury here drops out the bottom of the thermometer, they start posting all sorts of snarky comments on Facebook. Actually, they don’t post all sorts of comments, they post the same ones … over and over.
You know the litany, I’m sure.
“While you were shoveling your driveway, I was playing golf.”
“While you were trying to thaw out in front of the fireplace, I was drinking a beer on the deck.”
“While you were hoping your wipers could keep your windshield clear, I was in shorts and tank top, grillin’ in the backyard.”
And so on and so forth, ad boastium.
To hear them tell it, while we’re freezing our dupas off in a desolate ice-scape, they’re cavorting about in The New Eden.
The South as The New Eden?
Well, they do have everything we don’t. Fr’instance, cockroaches as big as bulldogs, hookworm, fire ants, and flea infestations that make the plagues of Egypt look like Amateur Night in the Old Testament.
Plus, of course, there’s gridlock, poisoned aquifers, sweltering summers, and hurricanes that regularly turn their living rooms into full-on wading pools.
Not that I’m knocking them for their choice of settlement; it’s just that they’ve forgotten their humble origins.
And along with that, they’ve forgotten one essential reality of My Home Town’s lifers: We live here because we want to. And we know how to do it well.
For one thing, all of us (except teenage males) know how to dress for the cold, and most of us enjoy being out in it. There’s the usual — skiing, skating, hiking, ice climbing — but just walking in the winter is a delight, especially breathing in cold, pure air. And if you know a more beautiful sight than sunrise or sunset in the mountains, you let me know.
Of course, the big thing those born-again rebels have forgotten is Winter Carnival.
Ten days that shake the town
For those glorious ten days, nothing matters but fun. Forget the world situation or our national politicians (each as horrid as the other); forget the news (nothing good there, anyway) and forget the weather (no bad weather, only bad attitudes). If you want to have fun, there’s fun of every kind and degree to be had. And if you don’t want to have fun, you’re definitely in the wrong place.
The activities are too numerous for me to cover here, but how’s about a partial list?
There are the old standbys – the Coronation and the Rotary Show, both of which pack the town hall to the rafters.
Then there’s the Ice Palace Fun Run, which hosts a big field of runners. And make no mistake, it IS a fun run. When my pal Bill Peer organized it, first prize in each class was an Official Winter Carnival Ice Palace Starter Kits. At least that’s what he called them. We call them ice cube trays.
Of course there are the typical winter sports competitions — skiing and skating. But there are also winter sports with a twist. Among them are snowshoe softball, ultimate Frisbee, inner tube races, and rugby with our Mountaineer hardcores (pardon the redundancy).
Big crowds jam Riverside Park for the Ladies Fry Pan Toss and the Paul Smith’s College Woodsman Team demonstration.
We’ll also have a skating show and torchlight skiing at Mt. Pisgah (if you’ve never seen either, you really should take one of them in).
Beyond all those things, there are fireworks, spaghetti dinners, a scavenger hunt, a pancake breakfast, and bar bands galore (including our perennial party animals, without whom no Carnival would be the same – Big Boss Sausage and the Missing Links).
How many ice palaces do you think there are in the U.S.? In the world? I don’t know, but I do know it’s precious few. And we’ve got ours, right in town, accessible to one and all, day and night, till whenever the big thaw hits.
And there are the ongoing days and nights of camaraderie in a town that my friend Wayne Darrah summed up as, “Where we know everyone, and like most of them.”
A taste of the great times
For the past 70 years or so, my Carnival highlight has been the parade. I’ve always said it takes about half the town to put it on, and I may be understating it. All I know is, find out how many other towns of 4,500 put on a two-hour parade, and do it on a shoestring budget no less.
The parade is best summed up by an interaction I had a few years ago. An old friend, who’d never been to Carnival, wanted to be in it and decided to join the stellar parade unit — The Brothers of the Bush. While we at Hyde’s, waiting to join the procession, she kept looking at unit after unit going by. Finally, she turned to me and said, “Will there be anyone in town left to watch it?”
Rhetorical question, that. Of course there are people to watch it – lots and lots of them, in fact. What I get a kick out of is how many parade spectators are from out of town, and what a joy it is to see them having as big a blast as the rest of us.
As for the former townies who are basking in all their delights south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I say more power to ’em.
I’ll also say a couple more things.
One, when it comes to golf, so beloved by our expatriates, I agree with Mark Twain’s assessment of it – it’s a good walk spoiled. But give me the Blue Line Brewery’s Arctic Golf in Prescott Park. It’s golf as it should be played — in the ice and snow, without having a cart or caring about a score, and for a two-buck “greens” fee.
And last, when it comes to drinking beer, on or off a deck in warm weather? I can take it or leave it. To me, all beer tastes the same.
But when I indulge in the traditional townie sport of sipping a cold — and illegal — one on Main Street while watching the parade? Well, it does nothing for my taste buds, but it sure makes my outlaw heart sing with joy.