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ON THE SCENE: Welcome to the Lake Placid Hall of Fame

November 1, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

The Lake Placid Hall of Fame inducted four very worthy people on Saturday, Oct. 26; Francis Thaire Bryant, Pat Barrett, Craig Randall, and Billy Demong. The order of their induction was equally well considered, starting with Thaire, a person who touched the lives of so many decades ago.

"I think it's a great lineup," said hall of famer Joe Lamb, a member of the U.S. 1972 Olympic Nordic combined team. "Thaire Bryant ran a candy store for young kids like me who were passionate about skiing. We'd go down there, and our eyes would light up. Back in the '40s, there would be five to six hundred people coming to town by bus. Thaire would put them in boots, skis and bindings, send them out to ski on trails he helped create taking back the skis on Sundays to fix them up for the next group. That's how this community worked for two decades."

Today, we can get ski apparel and equipment from a variety of locales, including the Whiteface Ski Center. Back in 1925, there was only one place, Thaire's Ski Room (Shop), first located in the Lake Placid Hardware, where Smoke Signals now stands. Bryant managed the business, which was owned by Bill Hovey, fitted the skis and boots and handled sales and rentals while 1999 inductee Loren Wrisley made the skis.

Article Photos

Billy Demong and his mother Helen Demong pose at the 2019 Lake Placid Hall of Fame induction.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Back then, maintaining skis was far more intensive than today. The steel edges were screwed on in sections, which then had to be sharpened with a file. The bottoms then had to be prepared with a layer of grundvallar (pine tar) put on with a brush. It was then heated with a blowtorch and wiped with a rag as a means of creating a foundation before layering on the wax, which also had to be heated and scraped. No small task when replicated on hundreds of skis.

Initially, Byrant and Wrisley made, sold and rented cross-country and what we now call touring skis, expanding the business to include Alpine skis as that sport blossomed. Bryant also organized ski outings, many through the hotels, helped design and clear trails, and served on the board of the Lake Placid Ski Club doing whatever he could to encourage the youth of the region to ski and support their participation in competitions. He also promoted the village as winter destination at sports shows in New York City and other urban centers.

"Dad's recognition is long overdue," said Ray Bryant filled with emotion. "Forty-seven years on Main Street and a career that touched thousands of lives. I just wish my mom was still alive so she could be a part of this. He represents all those seasonal workers who get up early to prepare the bobrun or side-stepped Whitney because there was no groomer at the time to do it."

Pat Barrett grew up in St. Regis Falls and went on to become president of Carrier Corporation, CFO of Norton Simon, and chairman and CEO of Avis. Barrett served as the chair of the New York State Republican Party.

He developed close relations with the governors of New York, Republican George Pataki, and Democrats Mario and Andrew Cuomo, with the latter tapping him to chair the Olympic Regional Development Authority.

Barrett oversaw the transition of the new leadership of ORDA shifting from Ted Blazer to Mike Pratt, and an infusion of over $140 million from the state to upgrade the Olympic venues in preparation for the World University Games. When USA Luge in Lake Placid was considering a move in 2015, Barrett's leadership was vital in keeping them here through helping secure state support for an upgraded training facility.

"My father always loved Lake Placid and the North Country," said son Paul Barrett. "I think he wanted the people who come here to love it as much as he did. When our dad moved to Placid full time, the community embraced him, and that was so great. We are very grateful that he's being inducted into the hall of fame tonight, and I know he would be."

Many think of Craig Randall's accomplishments during his three terms as mayor, but his service to the community began 45 years ago at (NBT) the Bank of Lake Placid, eventually becoming the executive vice president. Over the years, Randall served on the board of numerous nonprofits, often as treasurer.

"I always viewed my role as a banker as trying to help our customers find solutions to things they wish to build," said Randall. He said that the last 10 and a half years as mayor have not been all that different; that the people of the community have things they wish to achieve and that his role is to find solutions.

Randall went on to describe this approach through his efforts to provide quality health care services initially through the Lake Placid Memorial Hospital and then the Adirondack Medical Center as well as creating educational opportunities for the youth of the community as president of the Deo Colburn Education Foundation. He concluded by thanking the community for this recognition of the importance of giving of oneself to improve the lives of others.

Billy Demong has had a stellar career that's included participating in five Winter Olympics, winning America's first Olympic gold medal at the 2010 Games in Nordic combined along with silver medal in the team event, and anchoring a bronze team medal in the 2013 Nordic combined World Championships, the first-ever for the U.S.

For all his athletic achievements, hard-won though they were, Demong said he cherishes more all the people who supported him and laid out an exciting vision for a legacy that he plans to be far greater than his accomplishments to date.

"Success as an individual is not something I enjoy nearly as much as success as a team," said Demong. "Winning an Olympic medal is just a day, just another race, just something that now sits on my shelf. The only thing I can do with that gold medal is share it with other people, and that's fine; that's fun ... but to me, it's the journey that got me there. There are so many people in this room that were a part of that journey in so many different ways. It's the people; it's the team we have here. I'm a Vermontville boy. I'm a Paul Smiths guy. I was born in Saranac Lake and went to high school there. I spent most of my youth in Lake Placid. I was built by the character of the different communities and the people that inhabit them."

Demong said that to him, his gold medal was the lighting of a fuse, the first step in creating a dynasty of success in Nordic sports that he believes we collectively can achieve. He praised the significant investments being made in upgrading the Olympic venues and out at Paul Smith's College. He said he wants to inspire kids throughout the Adirondacks to dream big, work hard, and that we, working together, make this region a place where such dreams can be achieved.

"I'm a little in awe," said Leo Demong following the enthusiastic applause his son received. "Billy didn't just excel; he was superb. They're always your children, but he's not just a successful child of mine, he's the real deal."

"I am so excited that Bill is being honored tonight," said his proud mom Helen Demong. "He's worked so hard. It's nice to see him get this recognition. He represents this Adirondack region in such a wonderful way."



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