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Another Winter - Another Carnival
Winter is a time of rest and relaxation. The beach fronts are quiet and covered with snow and the birds have long since flown south. Towns thin out during the week, and the crowds in local bars and restaurants are cozy and familiar. As winter takes a seemingly permanent hold, and February rears its frigid head, there’s a din of weekend respite – Winter Carnival Season.
Winter Carnivals in the Lake George Area are a welcome gathering of merrymaking in February. Volunteers huddle all year long to plan events, recruit help, and pray for ice. Visitors plan long weekends around the festivities, no matter the weather. Locals look forward to the influx of business and activity as a precursor of the summer to come. Winter Carnival season is a warm fire in the months-long cold.
Lake George Winter Carnival
When the temperatures fall below freezing for the first time, the race for ice is on. The annual Lake George Winter Carnival, a winter tradition, is an event made for ice yet resilient even when there is none. Beginning in 1961, the Lake George Winter Carnival is a mainstay in Lake George. Restaurants plan specials around weekend events. Sculptors carve ice bars in Lake George to delight the carnival-goers. The Lake George Winter Carnival is more than a mere event. It encompasses the whole town for the month of February.
The 2017 carnival begins on Saturday, February 4th, and the first weekend is looking like a doozy. With a laundry list of great events taking place, you’re going to want to get to Lake George Village early. First up are the opening ceremonies, beginning at noon. Held at Shepard’s Park Beach, the opening ceremony is the annual gathering of carnival enthusiasts that officially gets the celebration started. After the opening ceremonies, the Lake George Winter Carnival is off to the races.
If you don’t make the opening ceremonies, make sure you arrive shortly after. At 12:30pm, the first bowls of steaming chili will be served at the Chili Cook-Off. Local restaurants will serve chili anonymously, and carnival-goers get to play judge, taste-testing the entries and voting for their favorites. Past winners include Backstreet BBQ and Mario’s restaurant, so you know the chili will be top-shelf no matter which variations you try.
After you’ve tasted a bowl or two of Lake George Area chili, head over to the Outhouse Races for a real Lake George Winter Carnival tradition. Lasting the test of time, the Outhouse Races have been held since 1983, and continue to be one of the highlights of the carnival. Year-after-year, teams construct hilariously artistic, and hopefully aerodynamic, outhouses. They race on frozen Lake George or on the nearby shore for honor and glory, and only one winner will be crowned. While the winning team is always admired for their speed and ingenuity, the real winners of the event are everyone who witnesses the spectacle.
While the Outhouse Races and the Chili Cook-Off are two highlights of the first weekend of the carnival, Saturday and Sunday both have a full slate of activities to take part in. If you have any room left in your stomach after the chili cook-off, head to the beach and toast a few marshmallows while taking in the fireworks show. On Sunday, watch some real winter action at the Youth Hockey Scrimmage, beginning at 11am. After the game, head on over to the Superbowl Sunday pre-game warm-up and watch the Keg Toss Competition at Shepherd’s Park Beach.
While, at first blush, some of the events may seem to skew toward an older crowd, the Lake George Winter Carnival has always been a family celebration. Most activities, like the arts & crafts every Saturday and Sunday from 11am-2pm, are family favorites. Kids of all ages are welcome to participate, and every weekend offers new activities to enjoy. Family events include scavenger hunts, games, puzzles, snow hockey, and a puppet theater.
If you can’t make the first weekend, don’t fret. The Lake George Winter Carnival is held every Saturday and Sunday in February. Other must see events include ATV, car, and motorcycle ice races, dog sled rides, a human foosball tournament, a chicken wing cook-off, and the Polar Plunge. The carnival is a month-long celebration of winter. Every weekend is worth attending.
And yes, sometimes the lake doesn’t freeze. Fortunately, the Lake George Winter Carnival has contingency plans in place for most of the frozen lake-based events. The carnival has been held every year since 1961 and a little bit of warm weather won’t stop it. It’s as much a part of Lake George Village as the beaches and Prospect Mountain. The Lake George Winter Carnival is here to stay.
Brant Lake Winter Carnival
In a smaller corner of the Lake George Area, the quiet community of Brant Lake is roused from its winter slumber every February by the Brant Lake Winter Carnival. Held on frozen Brant Lake in front of Jimbo’s Club at the Point, the Brant Lake Winter Carnival packs a ton of entertainment into it’s day long wintertime fete!
Organized by the Tri-Lakes Business Alliance and a small group of organizers, the carnival delivers on its promise of winter fun. The fifth annual Brant Lake Winter Carnival is scheduled for Saturday, February 25th from 11 am until dusk. Like most other winter events, the carnival is all about enjoying the season. People stand around bonfires in the snow, warming their hands and sharing a laugh or two. Old friends catch up, and new friends are made in the midst of wonderful and lively events.
A few of the competitions at the Brant Lake Winter Carnival are absolute standouts. The outhouse races, set to kick off at 4pm, are a cherished highlight at the carnival. Prize money for the winning team often reaches several hundred dollars, but the race is always more about the glory of a win. While the outhouse races are a well-known contest, the fry pan toss is unique to Brant Lake in the winter carnival scene. Contestants are broken into men’s, women’s, and children’s divisions, and they attempt to throw a frying pan as far as possible. People vary up their techniques and methods, but the result is always the same: exceptional family entertainment.
Family entertainment has been the name of the game since the Brant Lake Winter Carnival began. According to organizer Cindy Mead, the carnival “brings people into our area so they see what a great place it is to visit.” With a full slate of winter classics scheduled for the day, it’s hard to argue that point. Family-friendly events include broom ball, snowshoe softball, and curling courtesy of the Lake Placid Curling Club. Broomball, an import from Canada, is a game similar to ice hockey. Teams use sticks and a round ball to try and outscore their opponents. Snowshoe softball is pretty self-explanatory, and it sounds like one heck of a workout. The human foosball competition requires teams of six, so bring friends if you plan to compete, or make some new ones when you get on the ice.
The list of activities at the Brant Lake Winter Carnival doesn’t stop there. Some of the other winter classics include sledding, ice skating, and a hockey shootout. There will also be vintage snowmobile rides, snowshoe races on the ice, an ice fishing derby, and a longest icicle contest. The local Boy Scouts will be grilling typical carnival fare such as hamburgers and hot dogs throughout the day. Jimbo’s Club on the Point will be selling alcohol and have a lunch menu available. All-in-all, the Brant Lake Winter Carnival is a solid day on the water, frozen as it may be.
Ice should not be an issue on Brant Lake this year, despite some recent warm temperatures. According to Committee Chairman Brandon Himoff, the ice will be monitored periodically leading up to the event, but as of now ice safety is not a concern. It looks like the Brant Lake Winter Carnival is set to go off without a hitch.
As night falls, the Brant Lake Winter Carnival will come to an end. A fireworks show will cap the event, and Brant Lake will be quiet once again, rightfully tired after a day packed with races, friends and snow. For all those who didn’t quite bring home the top prize, there’s always next winter to look forward to.
When winter is over, the ski trails turn brown and the ice bars melt. Frozen lakes are open water once again, and cozy winter communities transition into bustling summer towns. Waterfront restaurants fill to capacity, the rental marinas are sold out, and the beaches are a sea of swimsuits. The summer is long and warm, but winter is always on its way. And when those first snowflakes fall, and the lakes form a sheen of ice, you’ll know. Winter Carnival Season is here.
Brant Lake Winter Carnival photos courtesy of Brandon J. Himoff.