Rotary Show silliness raises funds for youth, community projects

SARANAC LAKE – The Rotary Show dancers have been working hard on their routine for Friday night’s annual Winter Carnival Rotary Show, but whether that hard work will pay off is doubtful.

“We had our dress rehearsal yesterday, and as usual, it went terribly, so that means we’re right where we’re supposed to be,” Rotarian Bill Plumb told the Enterprise Monday.

Plumb, the chairman of the Rotary dancers, wouldn’t reveal what the Rotary dancers will be doing to close out the show, as they do each year. If past practice is any indication, however, the routine will be a bizarre variation on this year’s “Under the Sea” Winter Carnival theme and will likely involve men in drag (mermaids?).

Their performance during last year’s Space Alien Invasion-themed Carnival was other worldly. The dancers were dressed as flying saucers, wearing coats of aluminum foil, coneheads and eerie white masks on the fronts and backs of their heads. After wandering around the stage for several minutes, they stripped down to white dresses and pink tights, and treated the audience to a performance of “New York, New York,” ending with their usual Rockette-style high leg kicks. The crowd cheered wildly.

“Last year was a fun year,” Plumb said. “We hope to repeat that, but it’s hard to reach those expectations.”

A Rotarian since 1992, Plumb says he didn’t realize he was buying into such a strange tradition when he first joined the organization. Now, he can’t imagine Winter Carnival without it.

“It kind of reminds me of being in college a little bit,” Plumb said. “You’re forced to come up with something crazy. It’s kind of the challenge every year trying to meet expectations and surprise people knowing we don’t have any talent. But when you’re into something like that, you don’t want to let it go. It’s just a great tradition.”

The Saranac Lake Rotary Club was established in 1926. The first variety show occurred in 1928. It featured, among other things, a mock wedding with men playing the roles of women, according to Rotarian Ron Keough. He danced in the show for the first time in the late 1960s.

“For the guys that dance, it’s kind of like like a mid-winter break that’s almost like a therapy thing,” Keough said. “You go and dance and have a good time. It’s just a fun thing to do and it raises a lot of money for local youth, and that’s the bottom line.”

The show is a major fundraiser for the Rotary Club, which gives back to the community through scholarships and helping with projects such as the skateboard park and improvements to the Harrietstown Town Hall, Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, Mount Pisgah Ski Center, the Community Lunchbox and the Adirondack Carousel. Last year, the show raised $6,000.

“The dancers always feel like there’s $5,000 or $6,000 for the community to be had there,” Plumb said. “When it all comes down to it, we make fools of ourselves, we feel ridiculous, and at times we ask ourselves, ‘Why the hell are we doing this?’ But we know that if that tradition ever ended – you can’t take for granted that you sell out every year.”

The Rotary Show dancers are just one part of this year’s variety show, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the town hall auditorium.

Steve Borst and Sue Grimm Hanley will provide pre-show entertainment. The Saranac Lake High School Vocal Ensembles will perform under the direction of Drew Benware and will be accompanied on the piano by Tom Delahant. The Improv Group – Matt Sorensen, Stu Rattan and Dylan Duffy – will present “Coming Attractions in Sports.” Adirondack duo George and Elizabeth Cordes will bring new life to musical favorites. The Meter Maids – Cherie LaDuke, Jennifer Scofield, Carla Brassard and Carole Harsh – will offer finger-snapping barbershop quartet tunes. The high-energy band Inisheer, including Joel Perkins, Sue Grimm Hanley, Steve Borst, Erik VanYserloo and Philip Perkins, will perform upbeat traditional music from around the world. And finally the Rotary Show dancers will take the stage to celebrate their 84th anniversary of dancing for Saranac Lake.

The Winter Carnival royal party will also participate in the festivities. Tickets are $13 in advance and $20 at the door. They may be purchased at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Ampersound, Blue Line Sports, Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Coakley Ace Hardware, Community Bank, the Community Store, EcoLiving, Maurice’s, NBT Bank and Post Office Pharmacy.