The long-running Saranac Lake Winter Carnival returns to its traditional 10-day schedule this weekend, kicking off on Friday and running through Sunday, Feb. 13.
Last year’s carnival was pared down because of the pandemic. However, this year’s schedule is packed with winter sporting events like downhill ski races, as well as live music, scavenger hunts, parades, and, of course, the Ice Palace.
The Winter Carnival is in its 123rd year and is one of the longest-running carnivals in the eastern United States, according to organizers. An all-volunteer group called the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee has put the festival together each year, planning months in advance.
The theme for this year’s event is “Totally ‘80s” and the main attraction is the Ice Palace, which is built by volunteers on the shore of Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay with thousands of ice blocks. Construction started in late January and continued earlier this week.
New this year near the palace, there will be a Winter Carnival History Hut and Gift Shop featuring photos and memorabilia of carnivals past. The shop, which will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, will sell buttons and posters.
“It is critical to keep the history of Winter Carnival preserved for future generations,” said Winter Carnival Chairman Jeff Branch.
Another festival highlight is the carnival button/poster designed by “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau. The Saranac Lake native has been designing the buttons for the carnival since 1981. The design for this year’s celebration features a DeLorean car, with flaming tire tracks in the background, as well as two figures rocking 1980s-style clothes. Buttons are available at several Saranac Lake businesses.
Most of the Winter Carnival events, like the Ice Palace, are free, though some have a nominal fee. For more information visit saranacelakewintercarnival.com.
Here are some festival highlights:
- The Winter Carnival Royalty Coronation will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and will be live-streamed by the Women’s Civic Chamber, with a watch party at Riverside Park Bandshell (Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St).
- The lighting of the Ice Palace and opening fireworks display kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the State Boat Launch.
- Gala Parade lineup begins at noon on Saturday, Feb. 12, with registration at the Nice ‘N Easy Mobil and the parade steps off at 1 p.m.
- Throughout the carnival, the Adirondack Artists’ Guild (52 Main St.) will feature a “Totally 80s” art exhibit featuring works produced during the 1980s.
In Lake George, the month-long Winter Carnival kicks off this weekend as well. The carnival began in 1961 and it runs every Saturday and Sunday in February.
The opening ceremony is slated for noon on Saturday on MacDonald Pier in Shepard Park, followed by a chili cook-off featuring dishes from restaurants around Lake George.
The outhouse races, perhaps the most popular part of the carnival, start at 1 p.m. Saturday. Teams compete with decked-out outhouses for $2,000 in prizes.
At 4 p.m. Saturday the Lake George Winter Carnival parade begins at Fort William Henry, traveling North on Canada Street and concluding at Amherst Street. There will be a hot chocolate bar at the Shepard Park Amphitheater starting at 5:30 p.m., followed by fireworks over the lake at 7 p.m.
Continuing on Sunday, there will be a Sundae Fun-day and Karaoke/open mic starting at noon at Shepard Park. Throughout the day, there are wood- carving demonstrations scheduled, as well as pony rides, a Dog’s Got Talent Contest, children’s activities, horse-drawn sleigh rides and more.
The following weekends’ events include ice diving demonstrations, a BBQ cook-off, car races on the lake, ATV races and cornhole games. Many of the events are weather-dependent. For the full schedule and information on any ticketed events visit Lake George Winter Carnival on Facebook.