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A great weekend for hometown pride

We had the privilege of attending a couple of events this weekend that brought out the community spirit of, first, Lake Placid and then Saranac Lake.

The Lake Placid Hall of Fame induction dinner is always a big deal. The Conference Center dining room was packed with people there to celebrate great local athletes, public servants, business people and volunteers.

These four things — athletics, public service, business and volunteerism — really get at the heart of Lake Placid. Everyone who spoke about growing up here talked about getting out as children on skis, skates, etc. Inductee Francis Thaire Bryant was lauded as an enterprising ski shop owner who spent long hours making sure ski bus visitors were greeted with gear and a smile, and that kids had skis whether they could afford them or not. Mayor Craig Randall, another inductee this year, was hailed not only for his civic leadership but for his decades of work at the Bank of Lake Placid, devotedly finding ways to fund local enterprises. Pat Barrett, before he led one of America’s biggest rental car businesses and then the New York state Republican Party, fell in love with Lake Placid as a young bartender. He spent his later years as a very effective volunteer, leading the board of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority as it overhauls the 1980 Winter Olympic venues. And Billy Demong stirred the crowd Saturday with his informal yet invigorating speech about how the entire area, from Paul Smiths to Vermontville to Saranac Lake to Lake Placid, are a team that helped him be a five-time Olympian and 2010 gold and silver medalist in Nordic combined skiing — and how they are helping use that legacy to build bigger winter sports programs that will shine still brighter in generations to come, from the Paul Smith’s College VIC to Mount Van Hoevenberg.

Then on Sunday night, it seemed like half of Saranac Lake came over to Lake Placid to watch the world premiere of “Ice Palace: a Love Letter” at the Palace Theatre. It was a raucous, joyous crowd, cheering and hooting and hollering from before the lights went down to the end of the question-and-answer session afterward.

And it was a wonderful film, fully deserving that kind of adulation. It perfectly captured Saranac Lake’s unique sense of humor and its willingness to work incredibly hard, in the craziest weather imaginable, for something that, like an palace made of ice, will provide public enjoyment for only a few days before it melts back into the lake.

And Saranac Lakers love it, with a passion that’s hard for any town to match.

“Ice Palace: a Love Letter” focuses especially on the volunteer Palace builders, the prisoners who help them and the people who spend weeks building floats for the Carnival parade. The portion on the Moriah Shock inmates was especially poignant.

This is a great piece of journalism, and we urge everyone to see it when it returns during Winter Carnival in February, and then when it becomes available on streaming and DVD. You never know; it might find traction nationally.

“I think it has universal appeal,” first-time filmmaker Mark Burns said Sunday night. “And Saranac Lake, I think you’re going to have people coming to help you build the Ice Palace.”

If so, they’ll know what they’re getting into, because Burns’ film gives a very accurate depiction of Saranac Lake — which also happens to be inspiring.

Much of America is craving the kind of community we have here in the Adirondack towns and villages. It’s good to celebrate and appreciate that.

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