The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival began 114 years ago as a one day event in this small village in the Adirondacks, and is now a ten-day extravaganza of parades, games, music, the famous ice castle, and lots and lots of snow.
Every year has a theme, and for 2011 is was “medieval times”. The parade included princesses, knights on horseback, witches, dragons, and yes, a Trojan rabbit. I accompanied some friends in a group calling themselves The Gimps, a crowd favorite, who of course dressed as sock monkeys. Were there sock monkeys in the dark ages? Let’s say probably.
This year’s Carnival ran from February 4 through the 13th, bookended by the two parades and fireworks shows. We visited at the tail end, which is probably the best end since everyone is desperate to enjoy what’s left of this huge party. It’s really pretty crazy; hundreds of people descend on this three square mile village, and I’d say at least three square miles of alcohol are consumed. I have to give a shout out to the Saranac Lake police and fire departments, who do a great job of keeping things orderly and safe. I’m sure that’s no easy job, and they handle it well.
Most of my photos are of the parade itself; we headed up early Saturday morning to catch that, and I followed the Gimps to a few watering holes before we finished up the party at the very hospitable Hotel Saranac. So, I missed most of the other festivities, but you can see more from last year’s event. I did get a chance to spend some time at the ice castle at night, which is gorgeously lit as you can see at the top.
A little shop talk: I took most of the parade photos with a 50mm lens, which is a dicey proposal. A general purpose zoom is really ideal unless you have a lot of freedom to move around, which I didn’t; step away from the edge of the roped off street and you won’t get back in. I do have a 19-35mm zoom that I used for the 2011 Santa Speedo Sprint but that wouldn’t quite give me enough reach here. So, I’m stuck in one place at one focal length, and that makes it a challenge to get a variety of shots from individual closeups to wider views of the groups in the parade. I think I did a good job, but I had a secret weapon: I stood next to a kid. Paraders coming up to give him candy gave me great opportunities for closer head and body shots. Thanks, kid!
If you can make it, and especially if you can find a place to stay (try booking now but even that’s a little late), you should check out the Carnival in 2012. You definitely won’t be disappointed, and during a time when it can be a little hard to find outdoor things to do if you don’t ski, it’s a great little escape. See you next year!