Time for an annual Olympic Festival

Multiple groups hold a variety of popular events throughout the year in Lake Placid, but it’s tough to nail down one that village’s entire local-resident community can rally behind and call its own.

We hope that can change in the future with an annual Olympic-inspired festival.

The village has a slew of events on the calendar each year, anchored mainly by sporting competitions that attract people from out of town: the Ironman triathlon, horse shows, marathons, hockey tournaments and camps, the Can-Am Rugby Tournament, the Summit Lacrosse Tournament, winter sports competitions, the Lake Placid Loppett and the Empire State Winter Games. Annual cultural events include the Fourth of July celebration, I Love Barbecue Festival, Lake Placid Film Forum, Holiday Village Stroll, Maple Weekends, festivals at the Olympic venues and a variety of musical, theatrical and dance performances.

All this activity is great for business, but no single event evokes the community’s spirit in such a way that it sets a fire in the heart of every local person, sealing a bond they can all feel between them.

It seems nothing can replace what the Olympics did for Lake Placid. That shared sense of community, volunteerism, pride and neighbor-helping-neighbor attitude is still here, but it’s not as prominent as it was during the build-up to and hosting of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games. It leaves Placidians with a somewhat fractured state of mind.

It would be nice to rekindle that magic every year rather than pining for the good old days. Other communities do that with annual events, like Saranac Lake’s Winter Carnival.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Why not build upon what’s already been created?

It’s time to create an annual Lake Placid Olympic Festival.

Every four years, no matter where the Winter Olympics are being held, the Lake Placid business community does a great job of promoting this as New York’s Olympic village. This year is no different. The “Sochi in Lake Placid” campaign has a memorabilia show, an Olympic art show, a public trivia game, local Olympian trading cards, a Winter Challenge at the Olympic venues and big-screen TV Olympic broadcasts in public spaces. Everyone is invited to participate.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Lake Placid Business Association help plan, promote and host these Olympic celebrations. Why not do it annually and involve more segments of the community? We’re not saying have a huge rollout like “Sochi in Lake Placid,” but have something the entire community can call its own.

This year, Lake Placid Middle/High School alumni and faculty will mark 71 years of tradition with their annual Winter Carnival Feb. 6-8. This is an important event for the school, yet those not involved with the school always feel like they’re on the outside of the snow globe looking in on the fun. Perhaps the Winter Carnival could be part of a much larger Lake Placid Olympic Festival.

We’re not suggesting that the school overhaul its Winter Carnival or change the name, or that Lake Placid build an ice palace and duplicate the 10-day celebration in the village next door. We’re saying these separate groups can combine efforts, work together and do something annually to celebrate our Olympic heritage.

As our society relies more heavily on electronic gadgets for social activity, and as we plod through the business of hospitality and hosting events year-round to survive in this active resort town, the concept of community is put on the back burner and routinely forgotten. It even begs the question, “Does the concept of community even exist in Lake Placid?”

The answer is yes. You see in the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. You see it in the schools, youth organizations, fire department and ambulance service. There is a great deal of community pride in Lake Placid. You may not see it walking down Main Street, but it’s here nonetheless.

It’s time to harness that sense of community and marry it to our Olympic heritage to create the Lake Placid Olympic Festival. But as we do, let’s not focus on how this will be good for business. That’s a given. Let’s design this event around the community, just as the 1980 Games – the last small-town Olympics – were designed around the athletes. We can still invite the world to come to our party.