By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — SARANAC LAKE — With the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival in full-swing, the first weekend proved busier by far than in past years.
A marked uptick in visitors and travelers flocked to the village last weekend, which is typically not the most hectic period.
“Some of our merchants told us it was the busiest (carnival) day in memory, which says a lot,” Mayor Clyde Rabideau shared on Monday.
Village officials normally bolster ranks for the onslaught of some 20,000 spectators on the second weekend, anticipating jovial locals and participants who sign up for the Gala Parade, carnival games and races or come as spectators.
But last weekend at the Ice Palace site on Riverside Drive, the mayor said, “traffic was backed up for a half-mile in each direction with hordes of pedestrians trying to cross (the street).
“We usually have traffic control for the second weekend, but good weather, great publicity and the growing popularity of family events brought a huge crowd to Saranac Lake for this the first weekend.”
‘BUSIEST DAY EVER’
Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason told the Press-Republican there were no problems due to the big crowd.
“Saturday was very, very, very busy. We had to set up a pedestrian area for people to cross and just (to be) careful for people’s safety. These are family events, and it was nice to see so many people out.
“We hope just as many come for the parade. It’s good for people to come see what we have to offer.”
Carnival foot traffic extended through the village.
In a news release on Monday, Little Italy restaurateur Paolo Magro characterized Sunday as “the busiest day I’ve ever seen in all my years in business here.”
Little Italy is directly across from Riverside Park in the heart of downtown Saranac Lake.
CROSSWALK SET UP
“It was a challenging day in the village in many ways, as a large fire (at Broadway and Bloomingdale Ave.) and a major water main break on Park Avenue consumed almost all village personnel through most of Saturday,” the mayor said in a statement.
Rabideau and Trustee Tom Catillaz established the makeshift crosswalk, ushering people safely across the road in front of the Ice Palace.
“Saranac Lake Police arrived a couple of hours later and maintained control well into the night, as record crowds gathered to watch fireworks in the early evening,” the mayor said.
He seemed to adopt a more-the-merrier take on traffic at carnival this year.
“This is a great sign for Winter Carnival growth, as we all profit from it in many ways, so we will be better prepared in the years ahead for this expansion.”
The Celtic Carnival continues all week with unique events planned in Saranac Lake.
Festivities here coincide next weekend with the Empire State Winter Games, with events in venues in Tupper Lake, at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, in Lake Placid and at the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center at Paul Smith’s College.
More than 1,000 athletes will be here with family and friends to participate in some 20 events.
Nason said Saranac Lake Police will set up detour signs to direct traffic to Winter Games venues around the parade routes. A Kiddie Parade is a highlight down Main Street here on Sunday.
Amid the carnival flurry, Saranac Lake’s mayor was hosting a special Olympic Send-Off party at the Harrietstown Hall in the village on Monday.
Nine area athletes, including several born and raised in Saranac Lake, are set to compete in Sochi, Russia, for the XXII Olympiad, which starts on Saturday.
Email Kim Smith Dedam:firstname.lastname@example.org
The celebration continues through Feb. 9. Here's part of the schedule.
3:30 p.m.: Scavenger Hunt for Middle School Students, Saranac Lake Youth Center.
4 p.m.: High Tea, Left Bank Café, $.
5:30 p.m.: Grand Marshal Reception, Red Fox Restaurant, cash bar.
6:30 p.m.: Royalty Dinner, Red Fox Restaurant, $.
8:15 p.m.: Firemen's Broomball, Saranac Lake Civic Center.
10 p.m.: Blind Owl Band, Waterhole.
4 p.m.: High Tea, Left Bank Café, $.
6 p.m.: Curtis Lumber Snowshoe Races, all ages, Dewey Mountain, $, call 891-2697.
10 p.m. to 2 a.m.: Karaoke with Keith King, Romano's Saranac Lanes.
10 p.m.: Sophistafunk, with Groovestick opening, Waterhole, $.