LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Another February done, and another tradition recognized on Lake George. The 60th annual Lake George Winter Carnival was a success.
“It was a great turnout,” said Lou Tokos, one of the carnival’s current organizers and a 30-year face of the four-weekend event. “On Saturdays, you could barely even move.”
Crowds of people visited the village and stepped out on the lake for four weekends of ice races, cookoffs and more, over four weekends in February. This year’s carnival was the first the village has been able to host since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tokos says expectations were exceeded. He estimates at least 40-to-50,000 visitors over four weekends.
Those visitors were in for snowmobile and 4×4 races on the ice, among other adventures. Some activities did just fine with the unusual weather this February saw, which included periods of rain and some days of temperatures in the 40s and 50s before dipping back down below freezing. One unfortunate casualty was the planned return of dogsleds to the ice.
“Conditions have to be fairly specific for these races to run,” said Tokos, speaking about events on the ice at large. “Too much snow, or lack of snow, can create problems.”
The dogsleds were planned to visit Lake George on the carnival’s second and fourth weekends. The first visit was canceled due to a run-in with kennel cough, and the second was called off by conditions on the ice. The trainer who used to bring dogsleds to Lake George stopped doing so due to safety concerns around holes left by ice fishing, which could trip dogs up and create a safety risk. The dogsled visit planned for the final weekend this year fell to the same concern.
There were some other issues – sanctioned car races were called off on the carnival’s second weekend, because vehicles traveling the ice in the week in between created tread marks as rain fell and slushed up on the frozen lake. At night, the slush froze like that, creating more road bumps than some events could safely handle.
Those issues didn’t stop a huge fourth weekend, though. The foot of snowfall on Friday wasn’t an issue, with a windy weekend on the lake blowing much of the fresh powder out of the way. The usual 12 to 15 local restaurants joined for battle at Shepard Park for a mac and cheese cook-off, won by Bebob’s Backstreet BBQ.
It was also a busy month for the nearby Ice Castles attraction at Charles R. Wood Park – when it could be open, at least. The castle’s closure for the season was announced last Friday, after several closed days throughout February stemming from those same weather days that caused issues on the ice. The castle is not affiliated with the carnival, but Tokos appreciated the neighboring event all the same.
“Any event brings in extra traffic,” he said. “Extra traffic for us is extra traffic for them, and vice versa.”
This week, the volunteers and staff who hold the carnival are taking some time to recoup. Pretty soon, though, it’ll be time to start thinking about year 61.
“We hope to be able to continue with the same sanctioned races,” said Tokos, who first connected with the carnival 30 years ago as a snowmobiler himself. “The thing is all of those events are ready to come back.”