Sara the Snowy Owl 2002

Sara is a Flapper
Sara the Snowy Owl parade
photo by Andy Flynn

Sara The Snowy Owl Fable - 2002

Sara is a Flapper

Times were kind of somber for Sara the Snowy Owl when she flew into Saranac Lake on January 27, 1920. The whole country had been through a lot of difficulties. Sara was filled with melancholy.

That was part of the reason why she had returned to Saranac Lake. She knew when her beak was turned down, there would be someone in town with a joke or story that would cheer her up. There hadn't been a Winter Carnival in just about three years, so Sara was thrilled to be back.

The last time Sara really felt energetic was three years before in January 1917. Oh what a time Winter Carnival had been then. The residents of Saranac Lake had built a runway of ice down Baker Mountain that slid into Moody Pond. That was a year of exciting fun. Perhaps her favorite event was the Fancy Dress Ice Carnival where seamstress Maggie Atkins, and her assistant Amanda Hubert, created a wonderful dress that Sara could slip her big white wings through and do the Charleston.

When the big white owl flapped her wings and crossed her knees it was a sight to behold. In fact many of those who saw Sara do the dance with her wings a swinging would imitate her, because it looked like so much fun. And it was. The imitators soon received the nickname of flappers, because of the way they would flap their wings.

In 1917, there were bobsled races and single sled races, Sara couldn't fit into the bobsleds, but she was a whiz on the sing sled. Her friend Forest would give her a big shove and down she would go, light as a feather and as fast as a locomotive.

That was good year because – Andrew J. Callahan and Francis B. Cantwell, Marshals of Parade, let her sit on the marshals' float during the gala parade.

But that was 1917, now it was 1920. Sara was hoping for it to be another exciting Festival of Winter. She had received a letter from her friend Bud Walters and the letter mentioned that Saranac Lake was becoming quite prosperous. The train was making as many as 20 stops a day. The train brought many visitors. Some to enjoy the recreation the area had to offer and some to visit the Trudeau Sanatorium. Now with a new name; named after the founder Edward Livingston Trudeau who had passed away in 1915. Not just Sara sorely missed E.L., but Mr. Trudeau was a friend to all in Saranac Lake.

There were also more than 6,000 residents in Saranac Lake, most of who were on a first name bases with Sara. With paved main streets, two theatres and an automatic fire-alarm, Saranac Lake was quite a little Village. It served as a center place that supplied the workers for construction materials as they built many wealthy industrialists' 'camps' in the woods.

Bud's letter told Sara of an exciting Winter Carnival that would include fireworks and a Mardi Gras Dance. Certainly Sara would get her party dress out and shake her tail feathers.

After visiting with Bud, Sara stopped by Cole M. Ann at the local music store. Cole was known to always have a good story. She went in to see what the popular piano rolls were and get a story ripe with mirth from Cole. After a couple jokes she was giggling like a school girl.

Next Sara went to Christy Mathewson's place on Park Ave to play a couple games of checkers, Sara lost all of them; that Mathewson could jump to a king almost as well as he could throw a fastball.

The Village was expecting Sara's return. There was going to be an International Ski Jumping Championship. The Villagers had created a special category for Sara, a special honor for her alone. Of course this was because everyone knew, that even the best jumpers in the world could not out jump Sara.

The magnificent Ice Palace that Saranac Lake built for Sara to live in during her stay was in place as well.

The only trouble was the gloomy feeling in Saranac Lake. Even though there was a lot of fun planned, there seemed to be some spark missing. Worst of all, no one seemed to know about the big talent show so Sara took it upon herself to spread the word, but she knew she couldn't do alone. Few great and wonderful things can happen with only one person.

The first person the snowy owl went to was William Morris, the talent agent from the big city, who now lived in Saranac Lake. Like many of the new residents, Mr. Morris was very active and he was organizing the show. He had organized many grand events, since he had connections with the top entertainers in the country. In 1915, the talent agent had organized the building of the Methodist Church through his various talent shows.

And why not? The town could boast having the Pontiac Theatre, one of the best theatre houses in New York. As Mr. Morris liked to boast there was none better than what Saranac Lake had to offer. At one time it was believed that Laura Crisp performed there.

So Sara flew over to William Morris' house to talk turkey. He was very excited about the show, but for some reason he couldn't get anyone interested in going to the performance.

Their first idea was to make up some poster and Sara flew them around town to the various stores and businesses in town. With only one more day left until the extravaganza, they weren't sure if there was time.

Mr. Morris told Sara to go to her ski jump competition and not to worry. So Sara grabbed her skis and started out...then an idea struck her. Mr. Morris could see the twinkle in Sara's big round owl eyes. He wanted to know what she had in mind, but the snowy owl would only say, "You'll see."

An hour later most of those in the Village had gathered at Miller Hill near Riverside Inn to watch the competition. When it was Sara's turn to jump, everyone moved back, they knew her jump would be the longest of the day.

Down the snow-covered ramp slid the snowy owl. When she jumped off the end of the ramp, she spread her wings and took flight. Attached to her tail was a banner, a banner so large that only Sara could draw across the sky. On the banner was an American flag and the words: "Talent Show at the Pontiac!"

Sara didn't land at the end of the jump, but continued to fly through the sky, displaying her banner. She flapped her wings and crossed her knees, just like she danced and flew around the North Country until everyone knew about the big dance.

Even if they didn't go to the show, people in the area talked about the 'big flapper' from up north for many years to come.

Top Sponsors
Hotel Saranac
Cape Air
Guide Boat Realty
Adirondack Bank
Taylor Rental
Lake Flower Resort and Spa
American Management Association
Can-Am Rugby Tournament
Casella Waste Systems Inc.
Recent Info/News
Winter Carnival Committee Seeks Volunteers
2016-09-06 - Members of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee are seeking volunteers to help them plan and facilitate the next 10-day festival, set for February 3-12, 2017.
Photo of the Day
© 2016 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
Celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2017.
Search Saranac Lake Winter Carnival