A Scottish take on ‘Celtic Carnival’

With Old Man Winter unleashing a deep freeze on us, it’s not too hard to believe that the annual Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake is only four weeks away.

Now’s the time of year when volunteers start clearing snow off the ice of Pontiac Bay (letting it freeze deeper in preparation for Ice Palace block cutting), when locals are asked to nominate community benefactors to be king and queen (the deadline is Jan. 16), and – this is when the excitement really gets humming – when we get our first glimpse at Garry Trudeau’s new button.

And another wonderful button it is.

We plead guilty to loving all Mr. Trudeau’s pins, which he’s designed for every Winter Carnival since 1981. Every year’s pin has its critics – and we can already see where this year’s objectors will come from – but we’re not among them.

This year’s button may be controversial due to its interpretation of the “Celtic Carnival” theme. Thousands of Irish descendants in this area – including our own managing editor, Peter Crowley – had assumed the dominant motif would be from the Emerald Isle, but no. Mr. Trudeau instead went Scottish, with bagpipes and tartans. To mediate between the Celtic nations, perhaps, he made it a green tartan and threw in a four-leaf clover for good luck – gambling that the local Irish won’t go too hard on him.

We don’t think they will, though. Sure, there’ll be some good-natured grumbling over pints, but remember that the Scottish Highland parade bands from Canada are such an iconic part of Carnival that this image is perfectly fitting. We can already hear the blast of the bagpipes and the crack of the drums, just from looking at this pin. Therefore, we urge the proud Irish-Americans of the Saranac Lake area to wear this button gladly, reveling in their multi-faceted Celtic heritage.

Meanwhile, we’re happy that Duke has ended his nephew Zonker Harris’ seven-year run as the Doonesbury cartoon character on this year’s pin. One could have reasonably suspected Zonker would make a return, given his new career as a pot farmer and this year’s green-tinged Carnival theme – perhaps Zonker smoking amid a field of shamrocks? Now that would have been controversial.

Duke is smoking, too, but not with his normally omnipresent cigarette holder. Instead he’s puffing through the bagpipe; the smoke pluming out of the drone pipes is a clever touch.

Duke was originally a caricature of “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson, something Mr. Thompson apparently hated. The character has had many careers, all of them dubious – this according to his Wikipedia page: Rolling Stone writer, governor of American Samoa, ambassador to China, manager of the Washington Redskins, National Rifle Association lobbyist, smuggler, drug dealer, medical school founder, condom manufacturer, cruise ship captain, maximum proconsul to Panama, arms smuggler, Kuwaiti bar owner, David Duke campaign manager, JFK assassination photo forger, orphanage founder, black-market Beanie Baby dealer, bodyguard, bounty hunter, presidential candidate, stem cell trafficker, mayor of an Iraqi city, New Orleans hurricane exploiter and a lobbyist for dictators and oil companies.

This is Duke’s second appearance on a Winter Carnival button. The last time was in 1986; then the image included a snowball whizzing toward his top hat.

Happy Carnival!