The best time of year for Saranac Lakers

Tonight begins the best time of the year for Saranac Lakers. Winter Carnival has long provided a fun break from a long, cabin-fever-inducing winter.

Coronation, which launches the carnival tonight, is almost surreal in its small-town-ness. Saturday’s fun events include the Ladies Fry Pan Toss, Arctic (mini) Golf, bake sales and exhibitions by local curlers and woodsmen. And then there’s the Ice Palace, our stunning showpiece.

And that’s just the first weekend. Mid-week, a new Nordic skating event debuts on Lake Colby, and the figure skating show returns at long last to the civic center. Plus there are loads of concerts and much, much more.

Then begins the second weekend, starting Friday, Feb. 8 with winter games and the Rotary Show, which puts a weird vaudeville spin on Coronation’s vibe. Saturday’s Gala Parade is always a highlight, drawing thousands of people from all over, followed by partying through the fireworks that night.

If you haven’t been here for it in a while, come this year. Bring a friend. Bring two.

The Enterprise is always the essential, go-to source of Carnival information. A guide to the activities and the royalty is tucked inside today’s paper; you can pick up extra copies at our office. Yesterday’s Weekender section featured a great live music lineup for Carnival this year. The paper’s main section carries Carnival news every day, and to pull it all together online, we have a Winter Carnival news category on the homepage of our website.

Tomorrow’s newspaper will announce the new king and queen, and Monday’s issue will be full of photos and news of the weekend’s activities. And we’ll keep covering Carnival events all week. We’ll publish tons of photos in print, but on top of that we’ll post plenty of photo galleries on our CU website,

Winter Carnival was started in 1897 by the Pontiac Club, which was established to promote healthy outdoor sports and games in the spirit of the village’s fresh-air cure for tuberculosis.

TB was a disease that largely affected young people, so many of these survivors were in their 20s. They had spent winters sitting out on cure porches: bundled up, inactive and sick. When they got better, they were ready to stretch their limbs and socialize, play sports, eat, drink, flirt, what have you — celebrate life.

That spirit lives on, and so does the spirit of community building. People here often hibernate in winter and don’t see their neighbors and friends as much. Carnival is a great chance to break that isolation, and people are eager to be friendly.

Winter Carnival was born shortly after this village was incorporated. It was a new, booming, cosmopolitan place. At the time, Carnival’s grandiosity was ambitious on the level of the then-new winter fests in Quebec City and St. Paul, Minnesota.

These days it is less ambitious and more community-oriented, as Saranac Lake is in general now. Nevertheless, it’s still a big deal. The traditional highlights still glitter with the same magic, the newer activities are wacky and fun, and the good mood is infectious (while the TB, thankfully, is not).

Welcome to the good times.