SARANAC LAKE — The Winter Carnival Ice Palace is built. Lights are staged inside the turret walls. 

And Mayor Clyde Rabideau has challenged Plattsburgh’s City Council to a snowball fight on Sunday.

Saranac Lake’s Celtic Winter Carnival is ramped up and ready, promising wintry rounds of fun, games and fanfare for 10 days straight.


In a contest challenge sent spontaneously on Tuesday, Rabideau, a former Plattsburgh mayor, invited some friendly fire with ice.

“I invite you to The Capital of the Adirondacks — Saranac Lake — this Sunday to join ‘The Mayor’s Snow Ball Toss Challenge’…in the ‘Government’ division,” Rabideau said in emails to Plattsburgh city lawmakers.

“It’s a single-elimination tournament format … and the winners get prizes plus bragging rights.

“The Saranac River ends in your city, so you must come to where those precious waters emanate,” Rabideau cajoled.

On Wednesday morning, Plattsburgh Mayor Jim Calnon’s assistant, Beth Carlin, said the challenge from Saranac Lake had just arrived.

Calnon isn’t able to go — he has other obligations this weekend, Carlin said — but city councilors were considering the invite.


Crews in Saranac Lake had completed palace construction days in advance of the carnival kickoff.

The finished structure features an ice dragon carved by sculptor Robin Johnson. A maze behind the palace connects to the inner throne room with a “mole-hole” tunnel, a popular feature, especially for children.

Jeff Branch, former village trustee, helped build the icy edifice with the Ice Palace Workers (I.P.W.) Local 101, a volunteer “union” that cuts, moves and lays giant blocks of ice each year.

With air temperatures pressed to 24 below zero, the last blocks pulled from Lake Flower came out 19 inches thick.

The unique buzz-saw-on-wheels invented for harvesting ice here goes only 11 inches into the frozen lake.

“We use the old hand saws to finish each block,” Branch said of the process.

Palace workers cut about 2,800 blocks in total, weighing from 500 pounds, at first, to 800 pounds as the cold dove deep into the water through the past few weeks.

“The coldest day was 24 degrees below zero when we started. It’s really not that bad when you dress warmly,” Branch said. “We had a great year for it really; you couldn’t ask for better weather.

“What’s the difference between zero and 20 below?” he chuckled.


To chronicle Ice Palace construction this year, Branch used a time-lapse-photography application on his cell-phone camera, capturing images in sequence to create short videos. 

The videos have been posted regularly on the I.P.W. Local 101 Facebook page, drawing rave reviews.

“I have a mount; sometimes I set up above a palace wall, sometimes from my car,” Branch said.

“The short sequences are about 30 seconds each, but the long one, with everything spliced together, will show the complete construction. It gives people an idea of what we do down there. 

“We want people to see the palace and come visit.”


Organizers are taking applications for entries for the gala parade, set for Saturday, Feb. 8, and putting finishing touches on other events. 

The Winter Carnival committee named well-known Saranac Lake artist Ursula Wyatt Trudeau as grand marshal for the parade.

And the official carnival headquarters has opened on River Street, with maps, information, buttons, posters and schedules.

Email Kim Smith



The official Ice Palace lighting ceremony is set for 7 p.m. this Saturday, with fireworks over Lake Flower.

The public can meet Ursula Wyatt Trudeau at the Grand Marshal Reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Red Fox Restaurant, 5034 Route 3, Saranac Lake. The reception is free and open to the public.

The Gala Parade is on Saturday, Feb. 8, with floats, bands and marching groups lining up at noon.

Winter Carnival headquarters is at 141 River St. and will be open from now through the entire 10-day event, which runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 9. It will be staffed from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The IPW - Local 101 Facebook page is at

More events are listed in the Press-Republican Community Calendar today.

A complete schedule of events is online at

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