Celebrate being alive at Winter Carnival

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival was launched 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, socialize, play sports, eat, drink, flirt, what have you — celebrate being alive, in other words.

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 three years after this village was incorporated (and two years after this newspaper started publication). Saranac Lake was a new, booming, cosmopolitan place then, and 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 showy, and more community-oriented — as Saranac Lake is in general these days. Nevertheless, it’s still a big deal. Its oldest traditions still glitter with the same magic, its newer activities are wacky and fun, and the good mood is infectious (while the TB, thankfully, is not).

It all begins tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Harrietstown Town Hall, with the announcement and Coronation of the king and queen. “Myths and Legends” is the theme this year, suggested by a local elementary school girl. It’s a fun theme with lots of variety. We’re excited. We hope you are, too.

Welcome to the good times.