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Editorial

The Party Continues
and You’re Invited

Those familiar, fluffy white flakes are falling peacefully on Cooperstown and surrounds Monday night as we write this editorial. Their arrival is just in time for the return of the Cooperstown Winter Carnival later this week, following a two-year hiatus prompted by the pandemic.

Will there still be snow on the ground when the Hot Cocoa Kickoff rolls around on Thursday night? Maybe, maybe not—no matter, because the 55th Cooperstown Winter Carnival begins in the cozy quarters of The Otesaga Resort Hotel with warm beverages, a word from Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, a visit from the Hill City Ice Queen (for the kids, and for the kid in us all), live music by the Cooperstown Bandelions and…fireworks!

Initiated in 1967 by winter sports enthusiasts representing the Cooperstown Ski Club and Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, today the Cooperstown Winter Carnival is produced under the umbrella of the Cooperstown Lions Club by a volunteer-run committee. An article by Daniel Francis in the January 19 issue of “The Freeman’s Journal” gave an overview of this year’s Winter Carnival plans, introduced the 2023 committee members and took a couple detours down memory lane with past carnival chairs.

In the spirit of those fond reminiscences, we share the following Winter Carnival tidbits, compliments of the Lions Club and written by our own Tom Heitz in 2008.

In its March 1, 1967 edition, “The Freeman’s Journal” reported: “An estimated 10,000 visitors witnessed the many events which went to make up Cooperstown’s first annual Winter Carnival over the weekend (February 24-26). A highlight of the carnival was a sled dog race held Sunday afternoon which drew a crowd estimated at more than 6,000 persons both in the village, along the east and west sides of Otsego Lake, and at Three Mile Point. A huge throng gathered at the starting point at the busy Main Street intersection and then fanned out down Pioneer Street as the dog teams took off at two-minute intervals down Pioneer Street and onto the lake. The course was laid out on the east side of the lake to a point opposite Five Mile Point, thence across the lake and down the west side and to a timer’s car at the foot of Pioneer.”

The headliner of indoor activities in 1967 was a fashion show and ski film festival which opened the carnival. “The Freeman’s Journal” reported: “The carnival opened Friday night with a fashion show and ski film program at the Cooperstown Theatre, attended by more than 500 persons. Bill Edwardsen, popular WGY disc jockey, was master of ceremonies for the show, which took as its theme an imaginary winter and summer tour of resorts via jet airliners.

Some 25 models took part in the show before a set created by David Averill, art instructor of Cooperstown Central School. After the show, a Bavarian party was held at the Hotel Pratt under the direction of Mr. and Mrs. Louis B. Hager, and Mr. and Mrs. Vito Pugliese. Between 400 and 500 persons attended the party, jamming every available spot in the popular hotel throughout the evening.”

Back outside, 1967 carnival attendees enjoyed skiing competitions, a sports car rally and a baseball game at snow covered Doubleday Field with players mounted on skimobiles. “The Freeman’s Journal” described the action: “Ski races were held at Mount Otsego on Saturday morning with four classes run. A gymkhana on ice for sports cars was held concurrently at the foot of Otsego Lake, under the direction of the Turnpike Saab Club. A crowd estimated at 800 attended the skimobile baseball game held at Doubleday Field Saturday afternoon between teams representing Cooperstown and Richfield Springs.”

Indoor social events served to thaw out frozen feet and keep the carnival spirit on the upswing with dancing, music, good food and drink. “The Freeman’s Journal” reported: “Saturday night included two dances — one the annual Susquehanna Ball of the New York State Historical Association which attracted its usual crowd of more than 350 persons at Fenimore House, and a winter carnival dance at the Cooperstown Bowl-a-Rama where more than 300 persons enjoyed the activities. More than 200 persons attended an after-midnight breakfast at the Hickory Grove Inn at Six Mile Point, and late Sunday afternoon Hickory Grove was the scene of another jam-packed event, jazz concert and buffet supper.”

The carnival’s ability to adapt to changing times and tastes, and to survive uncertain weather, has helped sustain it over the years. “One year we were out on the street selling event tickets in sixty degree weather,” past chair Margaret Savoie recalled. At the other extreme, in 1972, the carnival was inundated by a record-setting blizzard.

The 1974 Carnival saw the end of the Susquehanna Ball at the Fenimore House, demonstrating that as much as the carnival schedules repeat events, the party evolves. Downhill ski events ended with the closing of the local ski hill, Mt. Otsego. But the party continues.

From sporting events to culinary delights, from special sales to pitch and bowling tournaments, the Cooperstown Winter Carnival continues to evolve as a celebration of the season that all Otsego County residents can enjoy, whether there’s snow or not.

The full carnival schedule can be found at www.allotsego.com. We hope to see you there.

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