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Robin Johnson works on carving one of the several space ships in front of the 2012 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace.  The ice palace lighting and fireworks takes place Saturday at 7 pm. Photo: Mark Kurtz
Robin Johnson works on carving one of the several space ships in front of the 2012 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace. The ice palace lighting and fireworks takes place Saturday at 7 pm. Photo: Mark Kurtz

Most winter fests a go despite the weather

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Winter carnivals fill the February calendar in the North Country. This year, continuing mild weather is proving a real challenge for towns whose annual winter festivals normally punctuate a cold, snowy season.

The WinterXcape Winterfest in Lowville was cancelled when heavy rains washed away most of their snow this week. But despite widespread rain and warm temperatures most festivals are still ago. Trevor Alford reports.

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The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival blasts off Friday with the Coronation at 7:30 pm at the town hall. Fireworks and the Ice Palace lighting follow Saturday at 7 pm. The theme this year is Space Alien Invasion.

Throughout the carnival there will be ski races, curling and of course the annual ice palace. Jeff Dickson, the carnival chair, says the palace will be ready for the opening tonight, but maintaining it may be a challenge.

“There have been years where it’s been substantially rebuilt during the Carnival. And we try to keep the public out of it or away from it for half a day while those repairs are made and then it’s all reopened and everything is fine after that.”

Festival planners in Old Forge have been insulated from the warm winter by their high elevation. This winter carnival kicks off today too.

Mike Farmer, the tourism director of Old Forge said they have been making a lot of snow at McCauley Mountain, where most of the events will take place. He says recent snows have been the “icing on the cake.”

“We did our snow dance and we got covered in here. We’ve had about a foot and a half of snow in the last few days,” Farmer said.

But too much snow can be a problem as well. Vonnie Liddle, the event coordinator for Winterfest in Indian Lake, says in the past heavy snows have been challenging to work around.

Liddle says that this year she’s not worried about snowfall or lack, and the festival should be able to withstand any weather.

“A lot of our events, we have learned in the past, not to really plan too much around the snow.”

Those events include a craft fair, a book sale and activities for kids. The festival takes place the 17 through the 19.

Lack of snow won’t stop the Raquette Lake Winter Carnival either, scheduled for the 18 and 19 of this month. But, Danielle Gagnier, the events coordinator says some extra snow would make it easier for people to snowmobile out to the festival.

“The snow would bring in more people but we can still run all our games and our events without it.”

The Raquette Lake Carnival boasts a ladies frying pan toss, cross cut sawing contest and games for the kids.

For two regional festivals the concern isn’t lack of snow, but lack of ice. The Lake George Winter Carnival and the Tri-Town Winterfest have had to adjust their plans.

Planners for the Lake George Winter Carnival had to get creative with the placement of their attractions. Most normally take place on the frozen lake, but had to be moved inland due to lack of ice.

But this won’t stop monster truck rides, outhouse races and the polar golf tournament. The Lake George carnival has events planned each weekend in February. Co-chair of the carnival Tito Manalvo says the show must go on.

“It is still wintertime and the community needs things to keep them busy in the month of February,” said Manalvo.

Meanwhile thin ice on the St. Regis River could scuttle plans for the Tri-Town Carnival’s snowmobile race for a second year in a row. Chairman Allen Fukes says that last year the river was more slush than ice.

“Hopefully that’s not going to happen this year, but um right now there’s not much snow on the ice.”

There is still a chance the river ice could thicken in the next week before the Tri-Town’s festival, located outside Helena on the St. Regis River, opens. Regardless both carnivals will continue as scheduled.

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