LAKE PLACID — By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Holiday celebration weaves ancient tradition into new when Lake Placid turns up the cheer next weekend.
Special gifts are being tucked behind every door, treats made for every table, and packages at every hotel in preparation for Lake Placid's Holiday Village Stroll.
And this year, the Lake Placid Yule Log Hunt begins anew, hearkening back to the early 1900s, when Snobirds came to the Lake Placid Club to race through the streets in colorful capes in search of the hidden log to start the Christmas fire.
Village Stroll, a three-day weekend jam-packed with myriad things to do, began as a celebration three years ago. It has grown into a destination event, according to retail, restaurant and lodging proprietors.
Some of the buzz comes from the busy schedule planned.
Some of it comes from the festooned streets themselves.
But most of it rises from an atmosphere of festive cooperation among Main Street businesses and most every town and village organization or group.
"Five years ago, the village business community started to plan for a single weekend, pulling together different events scattered across December and through the holidays," explained Jim Williams, a member of the Holiday Village Stroll committee and vice president of radio station WSLP.
"It's grown every single year. And we've added new activities to broaden our range even further this time. Most are family-oriented, but we started hearing last year that couples would love to come to Lake Placid in early December."
It is a usually quiet time before the holiday vacation crush, when barely a room remains open here.
"The first year when we pulled it together, we were looking for something for everyone to enjoy in what is an off period," explained Mary Jane Lawrence, marketing director at the Mirror Lake Inn, who helped conjure Village Stroll's magic. "Christmas and the week after are the busiest time of year here."
But what has taken over is the community itself.
"The collaboration in the community is really the overwhelming tone of this event, without exception," Lawrence said.
"There really isn't a business, an organization, a club or many individuals that are not involved at some level or another. It is incredibly thrilling."
Live music, entertainment, a Jingle Bell Run around Mirror Lake — with bells on — and the revival of the Yule Log Hunt are some of what's new in store.
Santa's arrival is met with the lighting of the village Christmas tree and caroling.
The vast majority of holiday events are free, Williams said, including making gingerbread houses, skating and skate rentals on the Olympic Oval, holiday craft-making, a special showing of "The Polar Express" at the Palace Theatre, performances at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, art exhibitions, music and general making merry.
"It is just old-fashioned holiday fun," Williams said.
"Shopkeepers do special events up and down Main Street. Restaurants — nine of them — are doing free samples on Main Street on Saturday. Lodging properties are offering holiday packages. It's a tremendous cooperative effort."
Pulling together is what one cadre of Yule Log hunters will do on Saturday afternoon when they find the special 6-foot log hidden in the woods.
"It's the first time in over 50 years Lake Placid has done this," Williams said.
Darcy Norfolk, manager at AdWorkshop, helped coordinate the weekend's hectic schedule, and she turned up a letter Godfrey Dewey wrote in 1951 outlining the Yule Log Hunt ceremony.
In it, Dewey said the tradition had started 40 years before, around 1911.
A "Master of Merry Disports" — played by Dewey himself in the earliest years — led the crowd in red and green capes through the village streets.
"After the log is found, everyone pulls on the long rope to bring it back, with the finder making a try at riding the log at the start (it's a good deal like a greased pig)," Dewey wrote.
In the early 1900s, the Lake Placid Club built its fire in a hearth at the Agora Theatre. And once lit, everyone recited an ancient rhyme, wishing for prosperity in the coming year.
Norfolk said that in renewed Lake Placid tradition the fire will be built in Mid's Park.
"They will cut the log in half by hand."
And, as in years past, half of the log will be set aside for next year and kindling cut from the wood sent to other communities to use in starting a Yule Log Hunt next year.
"High Peaks Resort is in charge of this event," Norfolk said of the restored tradition.
The hunt begins at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.
See the entire schedule at: lakeplacid.com/holidays. And updates are made daily on the Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll Facebook page.
Email Kim Smith Dedam at: email@example.com