Daffest continues to grow in its third year

SARANAC LAKE – Daffest has expanded to include new events in its third year, even if its not taking up as many weekends as it did in its first two years.

A pie-eating contest, a 5K run and a Kentucky Derby hat contest are some of the newest additions to the schedule for the daffodil-themed event, which runs from Friday, April 26 through Sunday, May 5. The festival will span two weekends this year, instead of the three it occupied last year.

“The third weekend it was hard to engage people with graduations and mother’s day,” Daffest lead organizer Cherrie Sayles said Monday. “A lot of people were opening their camps and doing other things. So we decided two packed weekends is better than what was kind of a straggler third weekend.”

The event gets under way Friday with historic walking tours, a Daffest welcome event at the Blue Moon Cafe, wine tasting at Saranac Lake Discount Liquor and the “Try Mine” Pastry Contest and Daffest Derby reception and equipment check, which runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Harrietstown Town Hall.

Daffest’s anchor event takes place at 11 a.m. Saturday when the second-annual Daffest soap-box derby races will be run on LaPan Highway. Kids in four age groups will race down the hill to the Main Street intersection in either homemade cars or cars built from soap-box derby kits. Last year’s races drew more than 100 competitors.

“This year I’m sure it will be more than that,” Sayles said. “We have 44 registered so far, but you know, everybody waits till the last minute.”

The Festival of the Blooms will be happening in Riverside Park, near the finish line of the derby, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It includes live music, baked goods, fly fishing and canoe and kayak demos, wagon rides and face painting.

The pie-eating contest, which kicks off at 3 p.m. in the park, will feature competitors sponsored by local businesses, each of whom paid $100 to enter. The winner will receive $500. Sayles said the idea came about in conversations with Lauralee Kunath of DJ’s Rustic Restaurant.

“She said what can we do for an event, and we started throwing ideas around, and they jumped in with that,” she said. Lauralee is a rock star. She went right to town and started getting the word out. Rick Gonyea (who’s competing for Sayles’ real estate business) started blowing it up on Facebook and taunting people, and it’s taken off from there.”

DJ’s is making the blueberry pies for the contest, Sayles said.

“(Kunath) is weighing them to make sure they’re exactly the same,” she said. “It’s no hands, you’ve got to smash your face into a pie. It’s one pie, whoever eats the fastest. If there’s a tie, we’ll have to have an eat-off.”

The second weekend of Daffest actually kicks off before the weekend, on Thursday May 2, with a tour of Wigmore Garden on Oseetah Lake and live jazz by LeGroove at the Downhill Grill.

Friday, May 3 will feature the second-annual Daffest Jail and Bail, where people can have their friends and family “arrested” by Daffest “police” and brought to jail (last year it was the Downhill Grill). To get out of the slammer, they’ll have to pay $25 in “bail” for 50 daffodil bulbs to plant at their home or donate to a village park.

The Saturday, May 4 schedule is highlighted by a new event, the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce’s 5K Zoom in Bloom. The run and walk will begin at 9 a.m. at the Adirondack Carousel.

“It will be up through the historic district on Park Avenue and down through AMA campus,” Sayles said. “That will be a beautiful run. We have more people signed up for that than we do the Derby right now. They were hoping for 200 people and we’ve got them from as far away as Cazenovia.”

Another new event on the schedule will take place the same day. The Kentucky Derby Hat Contest is set for 4 p.m. at Captain Cook’s Bar and Grill. Prizes will be awarded for best derby hat.

Sayles said more than 11,000 daffodil bulbs were planted last fall. That means a total of 73,000 have been planted since the event began three years ago.

“Last year they came up early and I was scared to death they were going to be gone (by the time Daffest started),” Sayles said. “The ones in my backyard are ready to pop. North Country (Community College) has three little clumps in bloom. They were the first in bloom. They probably have 3,000 planted up there. The Wigmore Garden tour looks like it’s going to be in perfect full bloom for the May 2 tour. (Riverside) park has a little more to go, but with a couple more days of sunshine I’m sure we’ll see them popping.”

Sayles said she’s been trying to get the word out about Daffest around the North Country through television, print, radio and online advertising. She’s hoping for a strong turnout.

“It’s a great shoulder season event,” she said. “This is only the beginning. I think it could be huge and a life-long event here in Saranac Lake that’s going to keep getting bigger.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or cknight@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.