King Jeff, Queen Dorothy

SARANAC LAKE – Jeff Branch and Dorothy Metz were crowned king and queen of the 2014 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Friday night before a packed house in the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium.

The Coronation ceremony, organized and hosted by the Saranac Lake Women’s Civic Chamber, marked the start of the 10-day, 117-year-old annual festival.

This year’s theme is “Celtic Carnival,” and there were plenty of signs of it throughout the town hall, from the Tartan plaid dresses, scarves and hats worn by the Winter Carnival pages to the large Celtic Tree of Life banner, painted by Saranac Lake High School art students, that hung over the king and queen’s thrones.

Following a procession by a bagpiper, the ceremony began with an invocation from the Rev. Mark Reilly of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. He said it was an adaptation of a blessing from the Hebrides region of Scotland.

“May this village, ringed by guardian mountain angels, may this town run through with a river’s spirit lively and fresh, find rich satisfaction in a joyful celebration of God’s children gathered, learning anew the art of wonder and awe,” Reilly said.

Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau then stepped to the podium to read an official proclamation declaring the Carnival festivities under way. Like many other speakers during the night, Rabideau spoke highly of the symbol of this year’s Carnival, the Ice Palace, one of the biggest the village has seen in several years.

“What a terrific palace we have this year,” Rabideau said.

Kathy LaTour, a Saranac Lake High School teacher, served as chamberlain. She introduced to the crowd the elementary school students who are this year’s Carnival pages, the high school students on the Carnival Court, and this year’s prince and princess, Jacob Pearson of Paul Smith’s College and Briana Munoz of North Country Community College.

Last year’s king and queen, Lee Foster and Cherrie Racette, were also welcomed to the stage for their last official duty, to announce the new king and queen. Before doing so, however, they thanked the Winter Carnival Committee, those who served in their court and shared some memories of their reign.

Foster said a boy came up to him during last year’s Carnival and asked how he became king.

“I told him it was because I had done a lot of volunteering to help people,” he said. “A couple weeks later, the boy’s mother came up to me and told me that ever since I talked to her son, he had been volunteering all over the place.”

“Winter Carnival has an incredible spirit and joy about it,” Racette said. “It can last longer than the 10 days that Carnival lasts. I believe that if each one of us leaves here and takes that joy and spirit and continues it throughout the year, we can really make a difference. That’s what makes Saranac Lake such an incredible place.”

Racette also offered some advice to the new king and queen.

“Have a blast,” she said. “Enjoy every event you can possibly make it to. It goes by in a flash. Yes, you’re going to be tired, but it’s so worth it.”

Metz, this year’s queen, was born in Malone but has lived in Saranac Lake for 50 years. She worked for the New York Telephone Co., NYNEX and the state Adirondack Park Agency. Some of the many places where she’s volunteered over the years include the Saranac Lake Ecumenical Food Pantry, the Saranac Lake Adult Center, St. Luke’s Church Budget Box and St. Bernard’s Church.

Metz also brings plenty of Irish heritage to her reign, in fitting with this year’s theme. Her maiden name is O’Connor, and her mother was an O’Leary. She’s also an Irish music fan, having traveled to many concerts by Irish singer Danny O’Donnell.

Branch was born and raised in Saranac Lake. He worked in Lake Placid for 18 years as a restaurant manager and chef before taking a job with the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, where he currently works as a vocational instructor in computer technology.

Among his long list of volunteer activities, Branch served as a village trustee for eight years. He’s a member of the Elks Lodge and the Knights of Columbus. He’s helped raise funds for the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, and coaches youth baseball and football. He’ also the current president of the Saranac Lake Pee Wee Hockey Association and a commissioner of the Saranac Lake Youth Baseball and Softball League. A member of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee, Branch is also helps build the Ice Palace each year.

Jennifer Moore, also a teacher at the high school, served as archbishop and bestowed crowns on Branch, Metz, Pearson and Munoz.

Winter Carnival Committee Chairman Eric Foster handed out a series of awards. The Trudeau Award for the person who best exemplifies the spirit of Carnival was given to two people – Andy Flynn and Caroleigh Meserole – who helped redesign the Winter Carnival website this year.

Ampersound music store owner Mark Coleman received the Katee Fobare Service Award, given annually to a business or organization that goes above and beyond the call of duty to support Carnival. Foster called Coleman “a longtime supporter of Carnival, at times taking on the role of unofficial downtown headquarters for the many visitors to Saranac Lake.”

The Don Duso Award, given to a volunteer who helps build the Ice Palace, went to Pat Carnell for her efforts to coordinate and organize the volunteers each year.

The Coronation ceremony also featured performances by the pages, the court and the high school jazz band, led by director Keith Kogut.

There’s a full slate of events today to mark the first full day of Carnival.

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or