LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Last year, the end of the summer in the village of Lake George was one of relief, as officials and business owners celebrated high traffic despite the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down many events.
Now, after their second post-pandemic summer, that relief came again this week, as one of those lost events revs its engines for a return.
“As I look out my window here, I see five, six, seven, eight nine, ten motorcycles in about ten seconds,” said Gina Mintzer, President of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, in a phone call on Monday.
The Americade motorcycle festival is returning to the village this week, with an opening presentation at 5:30 p.m. Monday, starting a week of thousands of riders exploring the Adirondacks and paying visits to the village businesses that Mayor Bob Blais says have seen one of the busiest years on record.
“This summer, by all indications, has been if not the biggest, one of the biggest in village history,” Blais said.
That’s a statement measured by a few metrics, including word from downtown businesses, data from the town water pumps, and occupancy numbers.
It’s also been a huge summer for events. Charles R. Wood Park hosted new or returning festivals almost every weekend through the whole summer, and next year looks even bigger.
“We’re achieving our goal of having that festival space booked solid, almost from the middle of May to the middle of October,” Blais said.
This week, that festival commons will be one of several locations playing host to Americade. The park will be the home of the festival’s all-outdoor expo space, while some other events are being held at the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center.
This year’s Americade was moved from a hoped-for summer date in order to give riders and vendors alike more time to build confidence in making a trip across states to an in-person gathering on such a scale.
Americade organizer Christian Dutcher wasn’t available to speak on Monday, but Mayor Blais shared some thoughts from his work with Dutcher, village officials, and Warren County.
Blais was told that despite the busy year in the village at large, attendance this week will likely be down from normal.
“It sounded as though he might even be disappointed in what the attendance is,” Blais said. “But nevertheless, the show appears to be as large as it’s always been.”
Blais said he was told COVID-19 concerns surrounding the Delta variant had indeed been cited as a major concern for some Americade regulars who chose to hang back this year.
That said, he was quick to point out the differences between Lake George’s event and the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, which was linked to over 100 coronavirus cases last month.
“This is a touring motorcycle event,” Blais said, “and I know that the promoters and Americade committee have made very careful preparations. They’re keeping large gatherings to a minimum, and they’re also insisting on masks and social distancing.”
Any new exposures can affect the region outside of Lake George. Warren County has been in the conversation in terms of keeping things safe. County health educator Dan Durkee agreed that the encouragement of masks was huge, but said the size of the event shouldn’t be discounted, even if Americade management felt it to be on the small side.
“We’re talking about an incredibly diverse group, coming from an incredibly diverse number of directions,” Durkee said. “It’s hard to know exactly what we’re getting.”
Durkee also pointed out that coronavirus isn’t the only potential danger that riders – and locals – should worry about this week. September is a very different time of year from June, as the sun starts to set earlier.
“We just need people to be aware of the amount of motorcycles that are going to be out, especially after dark, now,” Durkee said.
Any year, Americade draws thousands of new motorists into Warren County who aren’t normally on the roads. That means plenty of new capacity for accidents, and Durkee says one or two are expected.
“This year, I think that darkness is going to complicate things even further, with daylight being done as early as 7 p.m. – which is hard to believe,” Durkee said.
If and when accidents do happen, COVID isn’t irrelevant to how they’ll be handled.
“I wonder what the capacity of hospitals is right now to handle crashes,” Durkee pointed out.