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The pleasures of summer in a small town

July 15, 2012
By JOE HACKETT - Outdoors Columnist ( , Lake Placid News

Among the many pleasures of an Adirondack summer are the numerous opportunities it provides to revisit old traditions. Whether it's at a barbecue with family and friends, a reunion of school mates or a competitive sporting event, I always enjoy an occasion to "catch up" on things.

These annual events also serve to highlight some of the most unique and important aspects of growing up in a small town where everybody knows your name. Although locals often joke about such familiar community connections, they remain an important and yet rapidly diminishing aspect of life in small town America.

Due primarily to the transient nature of the American work force and the need to relocate for employment opportunities, there are very few places left in this country where students still go through school with the same group of classmates from kindergarten to high school graduation. It is an intimacy we often fail to appreciate in our youth, but such longtime relationships are later amplified with age.

Article Photos

Photo by Joe Hackett
A variety of boats gather on the shore of Lake Flower in Saranac Lake for the fifth annual Runabout Rendezvous on July 7.

Summer is a season that offers a timeframe for folks to travel, and fair-weather days present ideal opportunities for them to gather in the outdoors. Ranging from picnics to parades to sporting events or campouts, there are always a variety of seasonal gatherings that allow visitors and locals to share memories, and to catch up on topics ranging from what the kids are doing to how the fish are biting. Summer is a time for sharing old memories and creating new ones.

Over the past few weeks, the village of Saranac Lake has served as a host to several events that provided a reconnection with the community's past. One such event was the 50th annual Willard Hanmer Guideboat Races. Although the friendly competition did not draw as many participants as it once did, the event served to keep alive a spirit from the days when guideboats were common and everybody knew how to handle one.

This year's event included a grand parade of guideboats circling Lake Flower, with more than 60 guideboats of various vintage and makes attending. It was a unique occasion and the comraderie among spectators, participants and competitors was evident everywhere. It was a celebration to prove that the grand tradition remains alive and well.

It remains difficult to describe the atmosphere of being on the lake and surrounded by so many guideboats. However, I was fortunate to enjoy a similar opportunity the following weekend while participating in the fifth annual Runabout Rendezvous.

The Rendezvous, which is organized and sponsored by Spencer Boatworks, has grown in both size and scope over the years. It now encompasses everything from a classic ChrisCraft to an ice boat. There were also antique cars, canoes, rowboats and antique outboard motors.

The event offered something for almost everyone, but mostly it brought together a community of like-minded individuals to share stories, swap ideas and revel among the company of friends. Undoubtedly, the lake's waters were responsible for bringing everybody together, but it was a shared passion for old boats - and even older stories - that fostered a true sense belonging.

A day or so later, I got another taste of it while attending a presentation sponsored by the Saranac Lake Historical Society. Held at the Saranac Lake Free Library, there was a community among the standing room only crowd that had come to enjoy a showing of James Griebsch's Historic Motion Pictures of Saranac Lake's Past.

As flickering black-and-white footage revealed the familiar streets and buildings that still line the village streets, it became apparent that the sense of community is not a recent occurrence. Rather, it is a proud legacy has been passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter.

The big celebrations of the past haven't really changed much. It's obvious folks are always willing to come out for such events. The upcoming Woodsmen's Days in Tupper Lake is a prime example.

These are community activities that help to shape our small towns into the warm and comfortable places they have become. Unfortunately, most folks only realize it after moving away, which is the reason they continue to flock back every summer.


National Casting Championships

Most anglers never consider the casting potential of modern day fishing equipment in terms of distance or accuracy. However, when some of the world's finest casters get together for the 104th American Casting Association (ACA) National Casting Tournament later this month, records are sure to be broken.

Hosted by the Cincinnati Casting Club, the event will draw casters from all over the United States and Canada to compete for trophies, medals and prizes in distance and accuracy events.

The tradition of ACA competitions dates back to the mid 1800s, when anglers such as New York's own Ruben Wood beat the best flycasters in the world to win the world championship.

At the time, casting tournaments could draw crowds numbering in the tens of thousands to watch the casting events. In the late 1890s, the New York State Casting Tournament attracted over 80,000 spectators to Syracuse to watch the competitions.

Current-day champions have the ability to cast a fly more than 200 feet using specialized equipment. That's roughly two-thirds of a football field. At the 2002 Nationals, angler Steve Rajeff launched a record cast of 325 feet while flinging a quarter-ounce weight with a spinning outfit.

Many of the advancements in casting technique and tackle can be directly attributed to tournament casting. Tournament casters developed the first aluminum spools for casting reels, weight-forward fly line tapers, shooting lines and methods such as the double-haul fly casting technique or feathering a spinning reel to achieve pinpoint accuracy, in addition to many other features commonly used by anglers today.



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