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Winter Carnival 2021

Ever since it was announced that Winter Carnival events were minimized this year, I’ve heard someone or other, either in person or on social media, carping about it.

And every time their sad refrain reaches my jaded ears or eyes, my gorge rises.

Dig this: The last thing anyone in My Home Town needs to be subjected to is that defeatist doggeral.

First of all, the decision wasn’t just a smart one — it was the only one. Hosting the second-oldest (and the best) Winter Carnival in North America is something we can all be proud of. But the same could never be said for having the Adirondacks’ biggest 10-day virus super-spreader.

And thus Carnival is a shadow of its former self.

Or is it?

I, for one, refuse to think so. And if you think it is, you need some major attitude readjustment.

First, we have our Ice Palace. I’m afraid that over the years, too many of us have taken our palace for granted. But we’d better not, especially since you can count the number of U.S. ice palaces on one hand, literally, since there are only four others. And this year’s, in my not-the-least-bit-humble opinion, is not just another palace but the most beautiful one we’ve had in a long time.

Second, we’ll have the fireworks. Honestly, I’m not much of a pyrotechnophiliac and never have been. But to watch them from atop Blood Hill, on a crystal-clear February night, with the whole village laid out before me? Not only is it a thing of rare beauty, but since few others watch from that vantage, I have the place practically all to myself. And beyond that, when the fireworks are over, it’s a 30-second walk to my car, and then I’m outta there, Jack.

Next, we have our Garry Trudeau buttons. Of course, they’re the perfect Carnival adornment, but they’re a great gift for expat townies as well. There’s also a great Trudeau poster for this year’s bash, and while I doubt they’ll sell out, y’all better hustle yours just in case they do. Moreover, the button and poster profits go into subsidizing Carnival, so you can rock townie chic and at the same time feel like the big-shot philanthropist we all know you are.

No Rotary Show this year? Guess again, cuz there sure will be. It’ll be a virtual show, and while I know none of the specifics, I can guarantee it’ll feature the finest out-of-step drag queens the Blue Line has ever seen.

Finally, a muy alternativo suggestion from las hermanas Kretser, et al: On Facebook they posted a DIY Carnival card, with all sorts of safe and socially distanced activities you can do on your very own to celebrate Carnival. It is a perfect example of creativity and what this year’s Carnival should be all about.

When less is more

So here’s my take on “Mask-erade”: Yes, there are fewer activities this year — far fewer, to say the least. And there’ll be a lot less socializing than ever. But so what? Ultimately, we’ve lost nothing.

It’s not like your health has failed, your dog died, or your wife ran off with the Fuller Brush man (or to be politically correct: Your significant other partnered with the Fuller Brush person).

Yeah, we’ve lost some things … but we still have all the important ones.

We still have the mountains and the snow. We can still ski and skate. We’ve got our friends and family. In short, we have what really matters about Carnival — its spirit.

It may come as a surprise, but Christmas isn’t about getting presents, and Thanksgiving isn’t about stuffing your gaping maw till you’re bustin’ out at the seams. Why, you could even celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without getting hammered (though if you did it without “Danny Boy,” you’d be naught but a black-hearted swine, I’d say). Maybe we’ve made holidays about things, but that’s not how they were intended, and there’s no reason we can’t ignore the externals and instead focus on what really matters.

For example, if Valentine’s Day rolled around and there was nary a box of candy, a flower, or a schlocky card with hokey poetry around, what would you do?

Number 1: Tell your sweetheart wudn’t nuthin’ you could do, and them’s just the breaks of the game?

Or Number 2: Would you draw your own schlocky card with your own heartfelt hokey poetry, make crepe paper flowers and bake a batch of Betty Crocker brownies?

If you chose Number 1, read no further, because you’re already beyond the reach of enlightenment, let alone redemption. Oh yeah, and when you get home, give my sincere sympathies to your long-suffering co-dependent.

Rollin’ in the dough

And now, after all that, you might ask what, if anything, am I doing to celebrate Winter Carnival 2021?

Glad you asked.

It’s not what I’m doing, per se, but what WE’RE doing — we being The Brothers of the Bush. Our group, dedicated to the celebration of facial hair and its attendant joys, have been in the last 12 parades, copping honors and accolades I’m too modest to name. This year, while the parade is gone, the brothers aren’t. Neither is our irrepressible Carnival spirit, and though we can’t strut our stuff down Broadway this year, we can make our presence known, which we’re doing by minting Carnival 2021 Bupkes Bucks.

In Yiddish, bubkes means beans, as in “It ain’t worth beans.” In other words, something worthless … like Brothers of the Bush “money.” But even though Bupkes Bucks aren’t redeemable in gold or silver (just like U.S. currency), they are delightful to look at (un-like U.S. currency). And how could they not be, since they’re designed and drawn by our official group cartoonist, Br. Mike Cochran.

In keeping with our own 2021 theme, “Curtailed Carnival,” one side of this year’s Bupkes Bucks will feature our mascot, Curtis the Clowning Cur. The other side will honor the Adirondacks’ least-known hermit. He was a 19th-century recluse known only as Bareass Benny, having earned his sobriquet for being the only four-season nudist in Adirondack history. And as with all other years, the bills will have our mottos, “Grow it, don’t mow it,” and “We’ll tickle your fancy,” and some other messages and mishegas, too.

Once the bills are printed, they’ll be given out by the group’s bag men, Br. Bruce Young, Br. Russ Defonce, Br. Joe Dadey and yours truly, to any and all who want them, till the supply runs out.

They’re enjoyed by kids of all ages, and how could they not be? After all, in addition to giving you a chuckle or two, they’re almost worth the paper they’re printed on.

On a serious note

It’s a fact we are now living in a dark time. How we can best deal with it, however, is a matter of opinion.

Many people want to meet grimness with grimness, symbolically standing still, hands locked, head bowed, lips moving in silent incantation, as if joy and laughter are now inappropriate, maybe even sacrilegious. And if that’s how they want to behave, then they can have at it.

But that’s not for me. My freak flag never flies at half-mast. Give me foolishness, fun and frivolity — bring out the clowns, the characters and the cut-ups. You can keep your dark colors and dirges; I’ll take tie-dyes and “Truckin'” every time.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that dispels darkness is light. And if my crew of crazies and I can turn on even one light, more candlepower to us.

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