Mountains of Carnival

Packed into the 116th Saranac Lake Winter Carnival were some pretty exciting details.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s what we’ve got right now. You readers certainly can add some “Mountains” to the Winter Carnival range; send them in as letters to the editor, or if you don’t care about getting them published, post them as comments on the online version of this editorial or on our Facebook page.

Palace carvings: Once again, huge thanks to the Ice Palace Workers for saving a structure compromised by warm weather the week before Carnival. Beyond that, though, the amazing ice sculptures on and around the castle deserve great praise. Lead carver Robin Johnson taught himself this skill quite recently, and his quick learning, natural talent and obvious love of the craft are delightful to everyone who visits. He got into this year’s “Under the Sea” theme with a lion-fish’s-mouth tunnel, a riding shark and dolphin, a deep-sea diver cutout to pose in, a mermaid, seahorses, fish flanking the “2013” atop the rear wall and a seashell throne with Neptune (or Poseidon, if you prefer) on one side and an octopus on the other, with tentacles grasping at the seat of power. You could pretend you were Jonah inside a whale’s mouth or the Beatles inside a yellow submarine. These details helped turn one of the smaller Ice Palaces into a gallery of wonders.

Royalty: They were everywhere – which, granted, is normal (wonderfully so), but this year it seemed like more of them were out and about at more events than sometimes happens. Everyone always spots the king and queen, but this year it seemed it was also easy to notice the grand marshal, chamberlain, archbishop, prince, princess, pages and Court. Clyde Baker, who with his wife organizes each year’s Court, went so far as to describe this year’s as “the best group we ever had” in terms of cohesiveness and extend of participation.

It’s worth noting that several Court members are winter athletes and gave up a lot of sports games and practices to do this. Starting next year, Saranac Lake High School will make them choose between Court and winter sports, as an excellent article in the school paper, The Echo, made clear last week. This is a sad change, but one worth trying given the problems they’ve had in past years.

Night life: Winter Carnival is always a party, so the bars are bound to be hopping. Socializing over a drink or two can be pleasant, for sure, but we’re grateful that some local taverns take their hospitality a step further, entertaining their patrons with live music. Some venues take pride in booking a lineup of excellent bands for Carnival, which brings a larger and more diverse group of people out. They’re not just there to drink; they’re there to dance and/or listen contentedly. It’s more fun and promotes a more positive atmosphere; a big night at a bar is less likely to get rowdy and unpleasant that way.

Bands respond in kind. For example, Donna the Buffalo, the best-known act in this year’s late-night Carnival lineup, was clearly inspired by the appreciative crowd at the Waterhole and rocked until 3 o’clock Friday morning. Good times.

Parade: It might seem like an anachronism in the 21st century, but there’s no doubt that the Gala Parade is the biggest single event of Winter Carnival. The floats and walking groups were, as always, creative and fun (see photos on today’s pages 13 and 14), and the crowd – smaller than in recent years, perhaps because some were deterred by Friday’s snowstorm – enjoyed perfect February parade weather: sunny and 15 degrees.

We join the community in congratulating the Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League, whose aquarium float won the Louis Fobare Trophy for best in parade. It was all the more amazing considering that the Dewey parents and staff made it while hosting a multitude of Carnival and Empire State Winter Games events this past week. The float’s subtext was that Dewey’s existing lodge, represented by the fish tank, is too small for all the “ski life,” which is why money is being raised to build a new one. We’ll throw in a plug: Any donation you give to that cause this winter will be matched 50 percent by the Uihlein Foundation. Come on, Saranac Lake: We did it for Alpine skiing at Mount Pisgah; now let’s do it for the local Nordic venue, which is exploding with energy these days. And speaking of explosions …

Fireworks: They’re always good, but it seemed like they were especially so this year – especially the grand finale of Sunday’s Storming of the Ice Palace. Wow. The terrific barrage ended with a few blasts that blossomed like flowers – or, to evoke the theme, sea anemones. What a closer.

Next big Saranac Lake event – Daffest!