Sara the Snowy Owl 2014

Sara goes to town
Sara the Snowy Owl parade
photo by Andy Flynn

SARA THE SNOWY OWL fable - 2014

Sara goes to town

It was a brisk Saturday morning and Sara the Snowy Owl was headed south from the arctic north to Saranac Lake. Winter Carnival 1959, was five days away. She hit the Town of Redford and began to follow Route 3, south. She was surprised to see so many cars, all headed toward Plattsburgh.

Sure the cold war was on in full, but Sara didn't think people would be headed to the air force base that had been completed four years before. The large owl recognized several of the cars. Sara decided to head to the little village on the river and find out why so many people were leaving.

As she flew in, she could see her future home was about half finished. That was not unusual since Winter Carnival didn't start until February 12th, what was strange was no one was working on it. Saturdays were usually a big work day on the Ice Palace. During the week people were hustling to make ends meet, though since Trudeau Sanatorium had closed, times were kind of tough in Saranac Lake. Modern pharmaceuticals had eliminated the need for Saranac Lake to be a Tuberculosis Curing Village and Saranac Lake was struggling to see what was next.

The town appeared to be mostly empty. No one was sledding or bustling from shop to shop. Even the post office seemed to be slow, with only a few people picking up packages. She knew times had been a little difficult since the Sanatorium closed, but this seemed to be an extreme. Sara realized she needed to do some investigations.

Sara notices that her friend Bethany was sitting on an ice block watching her daughter Kaylie skate. Kaylie was moving in circles where the workers had cleared the ice, but had not started cutting yet. Swooping down, the snowy owl landed on the ice next to Kaylie who slide right into a big hug.

The white and black feathered bird was known for her hugs. Part because she was so fluffy, but mainly because --- as all the children knew --- there was nothing warmer than a feathery hug from Sara. It seemed like it was only yesterday that Bethany was Kaylie's age. Time flies like an arctic owl.

Bethany explained the reason for the convoy to Plattsburgh: after the air force base had been built, many new stores had sprung up. Now it seemed, it was common for Saranac Lakers to head to stock up on fast food and big box stores.

What about Charlie Green's Market or Gendron's Lumber? Sara asked.

"Hours have been cut," Bethany explained

Sara wondered if the budding hockey star, Philip LaLonde, was still employed. Phil was a smart young man and seemed to have an answer for just about every construction question.

This sadden Sara, she had seen many towns in the Northern United States and in Canada that had all but disappeared when locals stopped supporting the local economy. Eventually all that was left in many quaint towns was a drive to anonymous service in a city about an hour away.

"Hoot Hoot," called a familiar voice. It was ol' Ronnie K, who always amused Sara when he would put on a dress during the Rotary Club Show on Friday of Winter Carnival. The show was a great review of the local talent that ended with the dance. Ronnie informed the feathery bird that the Rotary Club Show theme was "Addie Rondack Goes To Town." Sara thought it was just a bit ironic considering all the business she had just seen was going out of town.

Ronnie suggested that Sara someday be part of the show. Sara didn't say no, she just held out her long wing and said: "Theater!"

It was only after the three girls (Sara, Behthany and Kaylie) were enjoying a hot cocoa at the Hotel Saranac (during Winter Carnival the place was often referred to as "Hotel Sara" since she spent so much time there) that Sara asked Kaylie if she would like to be part of a skit she had in mind.

Kaylie was a bit hesitant at first, but when she found out she would get to be 'Little Sara.' She agreed.

To get ready they practiced and made a costume for Kaylie (Sara was a crafty Owl). But there was plenty of time for the ski and skating races, as well as watching Hockey games.

Then on Rotary Night it was time for Sara's skit. The toastmaster Pat Gast made a few jokes and then announced: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Saranac Lake's very own, Sara the Snowy Owl!"

But it was not Sara who came out dancing, but Kaylie dressed as a smaller snowy owl.

"O I forgot, she went to another cheaper Winter Carnival," the emcee said.

The whole audience gasped, but Kaylie kept dancing. They couldn't believe someone who they had been so loyal to and was their friend, would attend one of the other winter carnivals that had popped up after seeing Saranac Lake's Success.

"Don't worry, we have this young facsimile of Sara... and she is pretty good," continued the host Pat Gast

The announcer --- like all the Rotarians --- was part of the business community and he was in on the joke. He understood how business was hurt when Saranac Lakers took their money elsewhere. "I am sure the money you save with a cheaper Sara... is worth it."

The audience was in a tizzy. Then at the emcee's signal trumpeters Mindy and Jori blared: 'ta ta ta-DAH!' and out jumped Sara, with a "Just Kidding," sign. First there was a sigh of relief, then laughter.

Over the public address system came a song by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters --- it was a new song that had never been heard in Saranac Lake and would be a hit next year when Chubby Checker recorded it. The song was 'The Twist.'

Together Kaylie and Sara flapped some wings and wiggled their tail feathers and twisted across the stage. Soon the whole audience was up and dancing. Though they never received credit for it, that was the start of a dance craze and maybe even some local shopping.

Shop local.

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