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Time for an annual Olympic Festival

January 17, 2014
Lake Placid News

With multiple groups holding a variety of popular events throughout the year, it's tough to nail down one event in Lake Placid that the entire community can rally behind and call its own, and we hope that can change in the future with an annual Olympic-inspired festival.

We have a slew of events on the calendar each year, anchored mainly by sporting competitions that attract tourists: the Ironman triathlon, Lake Placid and I Love New York Horse Shows, Lake Placid-North Elba Half-Marathon and 10K, Lake Placid Marathon and Half-Marathon, Can-Am Hockey tournaments, the Can-Am Rugby Tournament, the Summit Lacrosse Tournament, national and international competitions at the Olympic venues, ECAC hockey championships, the Lake Placid Loppett and the Empire State Winter Games. And those are just the big ones.

Annual cultural events include the Fourth of July celebration, I Love Barbecue Festival, Lake Placid Film Forum, Holiday Village Stroll, Maple Weekends, festivals at the Olympic venues, and a variety of musical, theatrical and dance performances.

All this activity is great for business, but the lack of an annual communitywide event leaves Lake Placid with a fractured state of mind instead of a cohesive bond found in other small-town communities.

It seems nothing can replace what the Olympics did for Lake Placid. That shared sense of community, volunteerism, pride and neighbor-helping-neighbor attitude is still here, but it's not as prominent as it was during the build-up to and hosting of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games. It would be nice to rekindle that magic every year rather than pining for the good old days every four years. It's time to create an annual Lake Placid Olympic Festival.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Why not build upon what's already been created?

Every four years, the Lake Placid business community does a great job promoting Lake Placid as New York's Olympic village no matter where the Winter Olympics are being held. This year is no different. The Sochi in Lake Placid campaign is gearing up and is ready to launch with events, a public trivia game, Olympic athlete trading cards and a Winter Challenge at the Olympic venues. Everyone - residents and visitors - is invited to participate in the local events while Sochi hosts the Olympics in February.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Lake Placid Business Association help plan, promote and host these Olympic celebrations. Why not do it annually and involve more segments of the community? We're not saying have a huge rollout like Sochi in Lake Placid, but have something the entire community can call its own.

This year, Lake Placid Middle/High School alumni and faculty will mark 71 years of tradition with their annual Winter Carnival Feb. 6-8. This is an important event for the school, yet those not involved with the school always feel like they're on the outside of the snow globe looking in on all the fun. Perhaps the Winter Carnival could be part of a much larger Lake Placid Olympic Festival.

We're not suggesting that the school overhaul its Winter Carnival or change the name, or that Lake Placid build an ice palace and duplicate the 10-day communitywide celebration next door, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. We're saying these separate groups can combine efforts, work together and celebrate our Olympic heritage.

As our society becomes more mobile, as we rely more heavily on electronic gadgets for social activity, and as we plod through the business of hospitality and hosting events year-round to survive in this active resort town, the concept of community is conveniently put on the back burner and routinely forgotten. It begs the question, "Does the concept of community even exist in Lake Placid?"

The answer is yes. You see in the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. You see it in the schools, youth organizations, fire department and the ambulance service. There is a great deal of community pride in Lake Placid. You may not see it every day - only in flashes of brilliance - but it's here nonetheless.

It's time to harness that sense of community before it's gone and marry it with our Olympic heritage to create the Lake Placid Olympic Festival. But, as we do, let's not focus on how this will be good for business. That's a given. Let's design this event with only the community in mind. We can still invite the world to come to our party.

Need bigger Olympic Museum sign

The poster-sized logo for the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on one side of the electronic sign in front of the Olympic Center is great but not enough. We encourage ORDA to erect a large sign on Main Street specifically for the museum to make it more visible.



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