The Winter Carnival celebration begins with the coronation of the King and Queen of the Winter Carnival: Local citizens who have been chosen for their substantial contributions to the well-being of the Saranac Lake community through their volunteer work. Joining the King and Queen are a Prince and Princess (elected at the two local colleges) and a Court of Royal Lads and Lassies (elected at the local high school). Completing the Carnival royalty are six Pages (selected at the local elementary schools), a Chamberlain and an Archbishop, who tend to such things as proclamations and the crowning of the royal couple. The first official duty of the newly-crowned “royals” is to mingle with the “common folk” at a Royalty Reception following the coronation.
We’ve Produced a special K&J show with exclusive commentary and interviews from Coronation through the First weekend of Winter Carnival to the Storming of the Ice Palace – Have a listen;
The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival began as an integral part of Saranac Lake’s history as a renowned health resort. Back in the late 1800s, the village was a thriving logging community nestled deep in the Adirondack wilderness. Its pristine setting provided healing and rejuvenation for hundreds of sufferers of tuberculosis from all over North America. In the course of “taking the cure” here, many patients experienced a renewed passion for life, and took every opportunity – in every season – to explore the natural beauty that surrounded them. The long, cold Adirondack winters with snow-covered mountains and ice-encrusted lakes provided the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, sledding, and skating. In order to break winter’s chill and to promote “outdoor sports and games”, the Pontiac Club was formed in 1896, and a year later, they sponsored the first “Mid-Winter Carnival”. This first Winter Carnival was a two-day affair that featured skating races, a parade and an “ice tower” – features that have been, in one form or another, part of every Carnival since.
The original “ice tower” soon evolved into an “Ice Palace.” The Ice Palace was an outgrowth of the village’s ice industry, which, in the days before electric refrigerators, harvested ice from local lakes for use in ice boxes across the country and around the world. Despite some refinements in machinery, the Ice Palace is still constructed in much the same manner as it was in 1898, the first year it was built.
About six weeks before the Carnival, an ice field is marked off on Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay. Once the ice reaches a suitable thickness, the ice is partially cut using a saw that was designed and built locally in the 1940’s for the harvesting of refrigeration ice. It is essentially a huge circular saw blade mounted on a sled and driven by a gasoline engine. The saw can cut to a depth of approximately eleven inches. Since the ice often reaches depths in excess of 20 inches, the cutting process must be completed with large hand saws that are relics of the traditional ice harvesting process. The blocks taken from the lake are two feet wide and four feet long, are anywhere from one to two feet thick, and accordingly will weigh between four and eight hundred pounds!