Lake Placid Central School needed a lift and the students, faculty and staff delivered with a truly upbeat Winter Carnival considered by many to be one of the best in years with really great leadership provided by the freshman and senior classes.
Now held for the 69th time, the Winter Carnival is considered the oldest of its kind in the country. The only damper was lack of snow, curtailing the always-popular class snow sculptures, which traditionally are carved and displayed on the Oval. When I was back in 7th grade, my class developed its lock on that particular activity, thanks to a strong creative team including Ronni Raymond, Arti Torrance, Pam Torrance, Steve Ortloff, Mike Rand, myself and several other willing hands. I remember being out there all night working on our ever-more-elaborate structures. And after I transferred to Northwood, I always came back to help my friends beat back would-be challengers.
Where the US Rink is now, back then we had two ski jumps and the demanding start and hairy finish of a cross-country ski trail that looped up and over where the eastern Crown Plaza Parking Lot now lies. As is still true today, fierce hockey games were held in the Olympic Arena. Still true, and in many ways to be expected, is the variety of events insuring every kid has a chance to participate, and the fiercely competitive class competitions.
Mary Kelly and the King and Queen
"The Winter Carnival was started back in 1943 by Bob Connolly, Doris Kane and Hicky (aka Elizabeth) Warner, the school dental hygienist," said Connie Bonsignore. "I joined the effort two years later when I returned to Placid. I was involved until I retired in '72. I was given the responsibility of organizing the sports; the art teacher was in charge of the snow sculptures; Bob was the organizer; Doris was in charge of the crowning and all the Saturday stuff; and Hickey, who wasn't tied to any class, filled in wherever needed. Howard Page was very involved too. He and I are the only ones still alive from the old days. I'm 94 and he is 96."
"It was a great educational experience for the kids because they were involved in every aspect of organizing the event. They gained great insight into how things were put together from the sporting events, to the music and art activities. They loved it. The snow sculptures were very popular as they gave kids an artistic outlet. They would guard their sculptures to protect them against the other classes. I think that part of the program has to be brought back."
"I'd start organizing back in October," Bonsignore continued. "That's when I would get in touch with all the schools coming. Local families put up the visiting kids; it was an opportunity for kids from our town to meet other kids. Everybody had a great time."
"I have been involved 15 years," said Jeanette Dugan. "No other school has this. No other community celebrates all the students this way."
"It's an opportunity for the students to have some fun and blow off some steam," said Dan Mayberry. "When I first got here we were asked, 'Why don't you help organize this aspect?' and before we knew it we and Cora Clark were organizing the whole event. You could say we were Shanghaied, but in a good way."
"I want to keep the tradition going," said Jeannette. "Organizing it is a bit of a relay race, but everybody participates, from someone who loves to eat pie, to someone who skates. The students look forward to decorating the hallways."
"They all love broom-ball," said Dan.
"We did not have enough snow to make snow sculptures this year," said Jeanette. "It's a shame and a loss, because this involves another group of students. Still, this is one of the best years for sportsmanship and involvement. I give kudos to the seniors because they lead by example. They made it happen."
"The freshmen won the sportsmanship award," said Dan. "They reached out and helped the sophomores with their cleanup chores. This was one of the best Winter Carnivals we have ever had."
Back when I was a student, and still today, the jewel and grand finale of the Carnival was the crowning of the King and Queen of Winter, two students who best stood for the highest ideals of their class, and of their school. I had a chance to talk with the finalists for King and Queen before the winners were announced. I asked them how they were feeling.
"I feel pretty good," said senior John Morrison. "It's nice to feel the school actually likes me."
"I am feeling OK," said Nick Read. "It is an honor to know that people like me."
"I feel the same," said Lucas McLean. "It is an honor to be one of the four."
"Were you ever King of Winter Carnival?" I asked Butch Martin.
"Yes, in 1970. Marcy Wilson was the Queen," he said. "It means everything. It will take a little while for it to really hit the winners, but I remember coming down from the hockey game. I wasn't sure I was going to make the ceremony. I remember everything about the event, it was really something special."
"The kids had a fantastic time, from the kindergarteners, to the middle schoolers to the seniors," said Principal Katherine Mulderig. "They had so much fun. They all represented the school really well. I love the sense of community."
"I feel wonderful," said Danielle Balestrini about being crowned the Queen of Winter Carnival. "I feel great. It was so unexpected."
"The Winter Carnival is flat out charming," said Superintendent Dr. Randy Richards. "It was so heartwarming the way the freshmen helped the sophomores. You've got to take Mr. Mayberry at his word, one of the best ever. It's a great tradition they have here."
"My goal is to keep this tradition alive," said Cora Clark. "It's such a wonderful experience for the kids. I think it really hits home when they come out into the gym, and find it filled with people."