Bikes and balloons put less stress on law enforcement than expected in dual-event weekend

Lake George americade

Bikes on Canada Street in Lake George, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

WARREN COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In Lake George, they came by road. In Queensbury, they came by sky.

This year’s Adirondack Balloon Festival settled into its usual autumnal dates with a new neighbor on the calendar. The annual Americade Bike Rally in the village of Lake George roared into the same weekend, a decision that officials in Warren County say went well.

“Hosting two of our signature events in the same fall weekend could have been challenging,” said county tourism director Joanne Conley on Tuesday, “but event organizers did a great job of making Americade and the Adirondack Balloon Festival as safe as possible for all involved. Even though both events had to re-invent some aspects of their activities, attendees of each were thrilled to experience a sense of normalcy that came with taking part in these tried and true annual events.”

Re-invention is the right word for it. In Lake George, a smaller and off-season Americade filled outdoor spaces like Beach Road and the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center with bikes, riders and vendors.

“Attendees and the motorcycle companies both said that it was a great event, and they were very pleased that we were able to make it happen despite all of the challenges 2021 threw our way,” said festival organizer Christian Dutcher.

One potential for concern with the events overlapping stemmed from police presence. Americade attracts thousands of new motorists to cruise through the village and into the Adirondacks and Vermont.

That means plenty of potential for accidents; in a conversation last week, Warren County health educator Dan Durkee said that there is at least an accident or two every year, and wondered if an earlier nightfall in September could compound that danger.

Those problems become more complicated when Americade isn’t the only high-traffic event going on. On Friday, Adirondack Balloon Festival organizer Mark Donahue said he worried whether police would be spread too thin, between Americade and the congestion that the balloon festival could bring to the roads around Queensbury’s Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

And he wasn’t alone.

“Mark is correct; we had significant concerns going into the weekend,” said Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr on Tuesday. “Both stretch our resources very thin each year, so we worked diligently to secure additional resources and hope for peaceful events.”

That work meant direct collaboration with New York State Police, who provided several officers to keep an eye on the roads. And at the end of the day, those roads stayed safe.

“I am finding the more we plan and prepare, the luckier we get,” said LaFarr.

Donahue was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

The other potential danger from both events was the spread of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Those concerns were what kept Americade’s events outdoors and its crowds smaller, and what limited the Adirondack Balloon Festival to half its normal size.

The Adirondack Balloon Festival even lost some balloon pilots, as Donahue said a surprising number were counted out by default because they had not been vaccinated.

Those changes in themselves, though, served as both reminders of the virus, and insurances against it.

“We were very pleased with the support we received from both events,” said Warren County Health Director Ginelle Jones. “We have not seen any COVID-19 cases that appear associated with either event, but we urge those who may have been in crowded settings to assume they were exposed to COVID-19, monitor for symptoms, stay home if feeling ill and get a COVID-19 test if feeling ill.”

Both events featured signs encouraging mask use throughout the weekend.

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