SARANAC — Bottomless bowls of homemade chili drew folks into the Saranac New Land Trust lodge.
But the organization’s fourth-annual Chili Festival on Saturday also gave attendees the opportunity to check out all the trail-crossed property Plumadore Road has to offer.
The day brought temperatures in the mid 30s with light snowfall and no wind — perfect for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, a bonfire and eating some good chili.
Cars overflowed the lot and lined the road, with a steady flow of people in and out of the lodge.
“Winter’s a good thing, so while it keeps going, we want to enjoy it,” said John Tedford, a Land Trust Board and founding member of the organization.
The Land Trust, a non-governmental, nonprofit organization, cares for 287 acres that include more than 28 trails open to all and funded through community donations.
More than 5 miles of trails are dedicated for snowshoeing, according to the group’s website.
For Saturday’s event, the lodge held a banquet table packed with a buffet of various chili offerings and cornbread; the room was kept warm by a wood stove and everyone’s company.
Snow splattered the floor, and conversations wove throughout the room, mixed in with guitar strumming and singing.
The festival isn’t held solely as a fundraiser, board member Doug Yu stressed, but as a fun and casual social gathering.
This year, no itinerary was put together with tours or nature walks in order to allow freedom for those who attended.
Yu said that because there are so many winter-season events in the Adirondack region, they wanted the Chili Festival to be a relaxing day to engage in what they all love — the outdoors.
And Tedford agreed.
“People like to just get lost and explore on the trails,” he said.
Treasurer Stuart Douglas said the festival turnout this year was just as good, if not better, than in the past, and the trail conditions were the best they had been in weeks.
Douglas said the Chili Festival is just another way the New Land Trust organization involves the community and gives back as well.
Year round, along with those who show up to hike, bird-watch, picnic, ski and snowshoe, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops take on projects there. Other groups make use of the land for educational purposes.
“It’s nice to be here, renewing acquaintances and sharing chili recipes,” trust member Marilyn Kretser said Saturday.
“Everyone in between is here taking part … you have the small ones and then you even have the grandparents.”
She described the event as a celebration of the beautiful weather.
Frank and Cindy Bushey, who are friends of a board member, found the weather perfect for a good workout.
They went snowshoeing before indulging in the buffet.
While it was Frank’s first visit, Cindy had been to the property a few times before, appreciating what the land has to offer year-round.
CONNECT WITH EARTH
Board Director Joe Licari said the group values the property the same way Native Americans view the land: It is not theirs to own, but theirs to use and value.
Former Board Member Jeff Cochran agreed.
The New Land Trust, he said, was established to not only protect the property from development but also as an outlet to connect with the earth.
He described the attendance at the festival as “people coming to relate to the land.
“We want to be holding events that can acknowledge our thankfulness for what the land gives us: food, shelter and water,” he said.
Learn more about the Saranac New Land Trust or make donations at www.newlandtrust.org.