Please don’t come for Winter Carnival

“Stay home.” That is what Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Jeff Branch has to say to people thinking of coming to Saranac Lake for our annual frigid festivities.

He’s right. Please, if you are thinking of taking a drive up to Saranac Lake to see the Ice Palace and maybe the fireworks, don’t. If you come up every year, we ask that you take this year off. We’ll be eager to see you next year, when hopefully this pandemic is behind us.

Normally, Saranac Lakers love nothing better than welcoming visitors for what we consider to be the best time of the year. Usually the Enterprise editorial on this day (the Friday that normally opens the 10-day event) is headlined “Bring a friend to Winter Carnival,” or something to that effect.

Hopefully this is the only year “Stay home” is the official Winter Carnival message. This year, though, it has to be.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 450,000 Americans and more than 2.25 million people worldwide — and growing fast. January was the deadliest month yet, both nationally and globally.

Here in Saranac Lake, we have no confirmed COVID-19 deaths. We have had plenty of people test positive for the coronavirus, but relatively few hospitalizations — meaning few people who caught the virus got a heavy enough dose to make them really sick. Everyone we talk to attributes this to local people doing a fairly good job of wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands. These things slow the virus’ spread, leading to fewer and weaker infections. In other parts of the U.S., friends tell us people look at you funny if you walk into a store wearing a mask. Here, people look at you funny if you aren’t wearing one.

Let’s not screw that up. Visitors could easily bring the virus with them without knowing it or meaning to.

Plus, there won’t be that much to see and do this year. Most of the Carnival events have been canceled. There will be no Coronation for a new king and queen; Joe Szwed and Nancy Heath will repeat as monarchs. The Ice Palace will be fully walled — no going inside. You will have to stay in your car if you want to watch the two fireworks shows from River Street, which will be turned into a giant parking lot. (More on that in tomorrow’s paper.)

The Enterprise will continue to cover these things with stories and photos, so you can always follow them here.

There are also Carnival things you can do from home, wherever your home is. The Rotary Show next Friday will be online, kind of a “Rotary Show’s Greatest Hits,” which actually sounds like a lot of goofy fun. The Zoom link is at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88374114640, also found on the Rotary website (saranaclakerotary.org) or the Winter Carnival website (www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com/schedule). The virtual doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7 p.m. People who arrive early can visit with Rotary Club members.

Plus, some enterprising local women have made up a “CarniCard,” which looks kind of alike a bingo card but is filled with ideas for Carnival-related things you can do at home — dancing around with a lawn chair in the snow, for instance. This is exactly the kind of fun, do-it-yourself homegrown spirit that Winter Carnival — and Saranac Lake in general — is all about.

So please, stay home, have fun, and we can’t wait to see you next time around.


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