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Winter Memories in Cooperstown

Like clockwork, it’ll soon be here – for the 50th time! The Cooperstown Winter Carnival will kick off on Friday, January 27, 2017!

Before the very first Carnival took place, my family had just relocated from Long Island to Cooperstown. It was fall of 1966. My dad, a whiz when it came to organizational activity of all types, joined with a loosely-knit group of locals who had an idea for some wintertime fun.

The idea soon took shape and, with the efforts of those individuals, The Cooperstown Winter Carnival came to life in February 1967. In the ensuing 49 years, a winter has yet to pass Cooperstown by without a carnival taking place to break up our long, snowy winters.

Skating and sled racing, beer tastings, karaoke, chili contests, dancing and all type of winter fun make up the current day Carnival schedule.

My childhood Carnivals included ski racing at Mount Otsego and watching cars race around a course set up on the frozen lake just a short distance from the town marina. But my most significant memory was from that very first Carnival in 1967. That year, over 5000 visitors gathered to watch a group of dog sled teams compete in a race that started near Main Street, took the teams out onto the lake for a long loop, and finally to the finish line at Lake Front Park.

It was here in the snow-filled park that the team owners parked their trucks, vans and trailers and unloaded their sleds, equipment, gear and dogs. One enterprising owner brought with him a litter of Siberian husky pups and was offering them for sale. It was so out of character for my Dad, who was a real planner, to spontaneously decide to buy one of those beautiful little pups! What a cool Dad!

As if it were yesterday, I recall him paying $75 and picking out just the perfect puppy from the litter of squirming, blue-eyed “huskyettes” and watching him tuck the puppy into his coat for the walk back to our home.

 “Nicky” became the best pet ever for our family of 7 kids. During the following Winter Carnival, I remember being pulled along on the ice of Otsego Lake on a pair of skates by one-year-old Nicky.  Our family still enjoys telling the story of my parents receiving a phone call one summer, not long after, from the manager of the Otesaga Hotel. He asked that my Dad please come to the hotel and remove Nicky from their swimming pool where he was enjoying swimming laps to the amusement of the hotel guests.

Every year, there is a dedicated Carnival chairperson who, along with a number of other volunteers, takes up the proverbial torch and organizes the coming Carnival. Although the schedule of events may change from year to year, there is no doubt that every Winter Carnival is an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to don their warmest coats and boots, participate in (or watch) any number of outdoor (and indoor) events, enjoy one another’s company, and create life-long memories of fun in the snow!

50 years of Cooperstown Winter Carnivals – thank you, Dad! And thanks to those initial visionaries and to all of the subsequent volunteers for their hard work in keeping such a great event alive and well!

Bill