Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sandra Hildreth: Nature and Art

Sandra Hildreth, Plein Air PaintingTwo weeks ago I was able to attend a plein air painting event in the Finger Lakes area – where artists seek out scenic spots and paint outdoors, on location. Being an Adirondack artist, I chose to avoid the busy vineyards, docks and sailboats on Canandaigua Lake and spent my time finding trails and wilder views to paint. The landscape there was very scenic, yet I learned it was very different from the Adirondacks.

The first day I painted, I’d done some prior internet research and had directions to a place called ‘Bare Hill”. The Finger Lakes are long, glacier carved gouges in the earth embraced by high ridges and flat topped hills at the southern end. Bare Hill was one of these, it’s steep slopes wooded down to the water, but the top was clear. A sign indicated according to Seneca legend it had been an early settlement. I wandered around, eventually painted a view of the lake, and never saw another person. I sensed it was a very spiritual place for the native peoples. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

40th Annual Forge Festival of Arts & Crafts

The 40th Annual Forge Festival of Arts and Crafts will be held this weekend, June 30th to July 1st, at the North Street Recreation Center. Hours are Saturday, 9am – 5pm, and Sunday 10am – 4pm.

Over 60 skilled venders that were hand-selected from across five states will be featuring an extensive assortment of hand crafted items. Venders will be offering everything from woodworking and paintings to quilts and candles. Maple syrup, jam, popcorn and old fashion fudge will also be some of the delicious treats available at this year’s Forge Festival of Arts and Crafts. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Arts in the Adirondacks

Memorial Day weekend brings fresh paint and new displays to the various galleries and arts venues throughout the Adirondacks.

In Saranac Lake, this is the last week at the Adirondack Artists Guild for “Sunrise-Sunset”, an exhibit of photographs by Barry Lobdell. Opening June 1 will be “Favorite Majicks”, paintings by Meg Bernstein. At NorthWind Fine Arts, blacksmith David Woodward is the featured artist (see photo).

His work will also be found on top of the new Adirondack Carousel building (grand opening May 26) in the form of a hand-crafted weather vane. A number of area artists donated their art skills to the new carousel! The next featured artist at NorthWind will be Phil Gallos with an exhibit of photographs: “Butterflies & Boulders”. A live production of “Pinocchio”  is going on at Pendragon Theatre. “A Steady Rain” and “The Last 5 Years” are on the schedule for June performances. “Cooter & the Crawlies” are playing at Bluseed Studios on May 26. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vote Online in Champlain Area Trails Writing Contest

From the power of a turtle-crossing sign to the secret of the “Coon Mountain panther,” from the healing potential of a hike to the 1.5 tons of Vidalia onions sold in Willsboro, the 11 final entries for the second CATS Travel Writing Contest offer a  taste of the riches that the Champlain Valley offers.

“We invite everybody to visit our website, read the articles, and vote for their favorite,” said Chris Maron, executive director of CATS. “People can read the stories describing trails, local businesses, and the enjoyment of this area at our website (www.champlainareatrails.com).” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Adirondack Kids Art Exhibit

For the past twelve years, The Adirondack Kids father and son author team of Gary and Justin VanRiper have been bringing Adirondack stories into our homes, libraries and schools through their middle reader chapter books.  Opening this May 19th at The View in Old Forge is an art exhibit focusing on 40 pieces of original artwork from the pages of those familiar books.

“We are excited about this exhibit,” says Gary VanRiper. “The Adirondack Kids books have received a lot of attention. This time the focus is going to be on the wonderful artwork on the covers and within the pages of our books.”

According to VanRiper, illustrator Susan Loeffler has illustrated all 12 of the book covers, posters and even a coloring book with the interior drawings completed by Carol VanRiper, making these books truly a family affair. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Adirondack Young People’s Poetry Program Selections

The Lake Placid Institute (LPI) has announced the poets selected for the 2012 Great Adirondack Young People’s Poetry Program. Hundreds of poems submitted for LPI’s annual young people’s poetry program: Words from the Woods. The 48 poems selected for special merit were chosen by Dr. Sarah Barber, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry at St. Lawrence University.

All are invited to an award ceremony at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 12th at 3pm.  Admission is free. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adirondack Events Set for NY Heritage Weekend

Organizations throughout the state will celebrate New York history during this year’s New York Heritage Weekend on May 19th & 20th. Now in its 3rd year, the weekend will offer special programs, discounted or free admission to sites and events that celebrate national, state or local heritage. Guided hikes, local history festivals, historic garden events, open historic houses, and events that explore all kinds of New York culture and history are on tap. Last year Heritage Weekend hosted 166 Heritage Weekend events with 143 federal, state, and private organizations. For a full searchable listing of events, and maps see www.heritageweekend.org . » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Paddlers Photo Contest Deadline This Week

There are only three more days until the deadline for submissions to the Adirondack Paddlers Photo Contest.  By this Friday, May 11, photos from pond lilies to loon babies should be on their way to the contest’s Flickr site.  Start the process at Adirondack Explorer.

Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, View, and the Adirondack Explorer are co-sponsoring the inaugural contest.  The rules are simple: photos have to have been taken in the Adirondack Park and from a canoe or kayak. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Northeast National Pastel Exhibition Opening at View

View launches its summer season of exhibitions with the opening reception for the 8th Annual Northeast National Pastel Exhibition on Friday, May 11 from 5-7pm. Awards will be announced during the opening reception while visitors enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres and Ed Meelan and Michael Gilbert provide blues and jazz on a muted trumpet and piano.

The exhibition a gathering of 100 works in pastel will present artwork from renowned artists from across North America.  Over $5,000 in prizes will awarded to paintings chosen by the Juror of awards Martha Deming TWSA, PSA. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: It Takes a Village to Raise a Carousel

On Monday April 23, history was made – the carousel mechanicals were delivered to the Adirondack Carousel site in Saranac Lake and assembly began. As mysterious and amazing as the actual metal structure is, the “barn-raising” experience of being a volunteer for this project is even more fantastic.

I’m sure there are other communities, large and small, where this kind of thing happens, but I am so proud to be part of this community. In grade school in Wisconsin I remember learning about “barn-raising” in a social studies class. When a farmer needed to build a house or barn, the word would go out, a date would be chosen, and all his friends and neighbors would show up and work together. With that kind of cooperation, a building could go up in a day or 2. I recall thinking ‘isn’t that nice – too bad we don’t do things like that any more”. Well, I’ve learned that here in Saranac Lake the concept is not dead and out-dated. From the ice palace to the carousel, when there is a need – community members here step up to the plate.

I started out being the volunteer painter of one of the carousel animals – the otter. Then the bald eagle and this past fall, the black bear. That was fun. The paints were donated by Golden Paints and all I had to do was apply them to these beautifully carved animals (also donated). Then they needed some large panels to be decoratively painted and I jumped in and took command. Rounded up 9 other artists and we got them done with scenes from the area and native wild flowers. They will decorate the upper structure of the carousel.


The carousel animals have been around for several years – touring, animals in residence at various locations, doing press conferences, etc. Well, all that moving around took it’s toll and many of them had nicks and scrapes, so I recently spent several days touching them all up. Then they all needed an “isolation coat” of acrylic varnish and finally, beginning on April 23, they all got a final coat of hard, glossy varnish and will need at least one more coat. Through this process I guess I got to intimately know all the animals – every nook and cranny! The workmanship is absolutely fantastic. One of the unique qualities of the Adirondack Carousel, besides the fact that the animals are all native to the region, are the lady bugs and the decorations. I learned about the “romance side” – the right side of each animal, which will be facing out and has most of the added on decorative elements.

Every animal has at least one and usually several ladybugs. Some are carved, some are painted. Some are life-size, one is gigantic! While down on hands and knees applying varnish I discovered one carved lady-bug wearing snorkel googles! On another animal there is a carved fish that is part of the saddle that has a ladybug in it’s mouth! There are painted trilliums, baby bunnies, lily pads and sun-bathing frogs, a monarch butterfly caterpillar, a mouse with a chunk of Swiss cheese – riders will have as much fun examining their rides as they will riding! It’s been said that there will need to be times when the carousel will remain stationary just so people can climb on board and walk around and delightfully examine the animals, discovering all their hidden treasures.

The carousel building is the true example of community spirit. At the corner of Depot St., and Bloomingdale Ave (route 3), it has been entirely built by volunteers. This “barn-raising” has taken months, but the generosity of individuals, organizations, contractors, and businesses has been unmatched. The excavation, foundation, construction, heating, wiring, painting, staining – all done by volunteers. The carousel mechanicals came by truck from Texas and word was put out via Facebook, email, and “mouth” and a volunteer crew was there Monday morning to help.

Doors had to be removed to make room to carry the machinery in. A lift was loaned by a company in Lake Placid. And by 5 pm the skeleton of a carousel was standing. Probably unchanged over the last 100 years, the structure has what looks like giant clock mechanicals or a medieval torture machine in the center. A large geared wheel is at the top. 10 geared, rotating arms project outward to form a 10 sided (decagon) structure overhead. The animals will eventually be mounted to rods attached to the rotating overhead rods. When the carousel turns, the overhead rods will rotate and the animals move up and down. At the outer edge of the upper structure there were some steel rods hanging down – from these the carousel floor will be suspended. It’s an amazing contraption! It will be an amazing carousel.

If construction continues on schedule, the opening date will be May 26, 2012. For more information check Adirondack Carousel or find them on Facebook. Donations will still be accepted.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adirondack Tourism: Social Media Creativity

April in the Adirondacks is…..well…quiet. As far as tourism activity, it traditionally represents the transition month between winter/ski season and the beginning of summer travel. It’s also a time when many north country folk head south for vacation, coinciding with school breaks. Lake Placid welcomes its share of conference attendees in April, but by May the whole region sees more visitors arriving to hike, bike, paddle and fish.

To me, it’s also a good time to ramp up for the busy season; develop content, fine-tune promotional schedules, and to conduct some online social media experiments.

Did you hear about the Adirondack park-wide floodlights installation that was proposed?

Essentially, I began April by distributing a press release on lakeplacid.com via social networking mechanisms. The release announced that “a proposal to install floodlights throughout New York’s Adirondacks aims to extend the Park’s open hours, and improve visibility at night.”

Simulcast at 8:00 a.m. on both Twitter and Facebook, the reviews started coming in right away. Depending on the topic, a typical Facebook post for Lake Placid will garner 2-5 comments on average. On this one, we had over 20 comments before noon on a Sunday, with sentiments that varied from chuckles to outrage that we should “keep the Adirondacks wild”. I even received an email from a friend in Saratoga offering to do whatever necessary to help me “stop this criminal outrage”.

By 2:00 p.m. most had come to the realization that it was an April Fool’s joke.

Why did we do this? Well, for one thing, April Fool’s Day is my favorite holiday. But, truly, this type of activity is just one more way to maintain top of mind awareness. The communications landscape has dramatically changed since the days when we sent out press releases to traditional media and hoped they’d print it. The countless channels of outreach available now offer unlimited potential to increase our target market reach.

That potential DOES exist, however, one can distribute a message via social media, SEO release, blog feature AND video and still be completely ignored. In order for a message to stand out in a very noisy marketplace, it must be inspired and creative.

We’ve all heard about videos that have gone “viral”. How does it happen? 60 hours of video is uploaded every minute to YouTube, the video search engine. Only a tiny fraction of those videos will go “viral” – or achieve millions of views. It’s every brand manager’s dream to obtain positive viral status and become an overnight success.

According to Kevin Allocca, the trends manager at YouTube, those videos that go viral meet three criteria: 1. they are unexpected, 2. they are further ignited (shared) by a “tastemaker”, or an influencer worthy of imitation, (such as popular late night TV hosts), and 3. they are subject to community participation: the video inspires creativity, and we become part of the phenomenon by sharing and sometimes imitating its content.

What’s that have to do with my press release? Advertisers have known for ages that incorporating humor is an effective way to connect with target markets via emotional appeal, and/or humanizing a brand.

By creating an April Fool’s message about a faux proposal that would negatively affect our product, and sending it to our existing ambassadors via social media, we elicited an emotional response. The release underscored the fact that the Adirondacks are a protected wilderness without light pollution; a product differentiator. We confirmed that our Facebook fans and Twitter followers are fiercely protective of their favorite destination. In fact, it can be surmised from comments both online and anecdotally in person that there were many who were immediately ready to join the made-up Park in the Dark Coalition that had formed to fight the proposal as referenced in the release.

The anecdotal references are good, but the response to this project was also tracked with Google analytics, Facebook and Twitter click statistics. I didn’t reach anywhere near a million viewers, but this one-time post on just two major social networks did garner about 2,000 unique visits to lakeplacid.com directly from those social networks on both mobile and web platforms. We know that visitors spent an average of 2:24 minutes on the page, (presumably to get to the end of the release where they learned it was a prank). We also know that the bounce rate was high: nearly 80% of the visitors then left the site without visiting any other pages. (This is why I won’t be using this faux story tactic as an exclusive destination marketing strategy.)

The biggest benefits of this type of communication is the resulting top of mind awareness that it helps to maintain. It facilitated engagement with our ambassadors, and increased the potential exposure of the Adirondack destination’s name via the sharing nature of social media.

In addition, it did gain media attention, as the release was also picked up by an about.com writer who listed the prank as one of the “Best Fake USA Travel news from April Fools Day 2012”.

The trick is to integrate this type of humor into our communications year-round. And humor isn’t easy to convey successfully. The challenge is to incorporate this witty style of promotion while maintaining the professional integrity of your brand, product and organization.

I try to incorporate creative descriptions and phrases into social messaging, and it is a required industry skill to craft a standout headline for a press release. It all goes back to creativity: and the overall objective is to evoke an emotional response.

I wonder how many will cry over next spring’s Mud Season Wrestling Festival.

Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications at the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

John Warren: The Problems of Journalism Today

North Country Public Radio‘s Ellen Rocco recently posted a discussion item on their station’s blog pointing to a Slate.com story by David Sirota that “makes the case that we are on the verge of having journalism-free news and media industries.” Sirota writes that “the real crisis presented by journalism-free news media is the now-imminent potential for a total information vacuum devoid of any authentic journalism outlet. If that happens, we will be deprived of an ability to make informed, preemptive decisions about our world.” To be fair, he lays much of the blame on the corporate news media.

Regular readers probably already know I’m a believer in the idea that journalists are mostly people who get between what actually happened or what someone actually said, and the person who wasn’t there to see or hear it. One problem is reporters pretend to be unbiased observers, which anyone who has studied psychology, sociology, anthropology or history knows is nonsense. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sandy Hildreth: Finding ‘The Great Adirondack Pass’

During the research I did several years ago about historic landscape painting in the Adirondacks, I came across a painting that took me deep into the High Peaks region, told me a wonderful story, and led me to some interesting discoveries.

In my two earlier posts on this topic, I provided some of the background about the development of landscape painting in the 19th century. While researching, I made several trips to the Adirondack Museum, in Blue Mountain Lake, to look at the many wonderful paintings in their collection. One of my goals was to try to visit some of the sites I could identify and do my own paintings of them – 150 years later.

There is a painting in the museum that really captured my attention. “The Great Adirondack Pass, Painted on the Spot, 1837”, by Charles Cromwell Ingham. It depicts a bare rocky cliff on the right side of the painting and what looks like two gigantic glacial erratics in the center foreground. It will probably not be clear in the reproduction, but in the lower left corner is a small figure of an artist, and at the base of the very dark rock in the center, there is a tiny little person. I noticed these when I saw the actual painting in the Adirondack Museum. I couldn’t help but be amazed at the size of the two rocks. Compared to the person at the base of the dark rock, it is at least 10 times the height of that person, perhaps more. That makes this unique glacial erratic 50-60 feet high. Huge! I decided I would try to find this place.

Reading in “Fair Wilderness: American Paintings in the Collection of the Adirondack Museum”, I learned that Charles Cromwell Ingham was a portrait painter invited by Archibald McIntyre to join a geological survey expedition – the first to make the ascent of Mount Marcy, in August of 1837. In another book I read it was reported that Ingham passed out several times while doing the climb because it was so strenuous. Also on the expedition was Dr. Ebenezer Emmons, the state geologist of New York. Ingham was brought along to visually record the trip as pictorial accuracy was deemed very important – this was before the use of cameras. “Fair Wilderness” also explained that this location is now known as Indian Pass – that I could find!

So one Columbus Day weekend I packed what I needed for a day trip, including the Adirondack Mountain Club “Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peaks Region”, drove to the Upper Works trail head and hiked the Indian Pass trail. This is a very rugged trail that goes from Upper Works, through Indian Pass between the massive cliffs of Wallface Mountain and the McIntyre Range, and about 11 miles later ends up at the Adirondack Loj trailhead near Lake Placid. “Fair Wilderness” included several quotes that further identified the location. Another artist who visited the pass later in 1837 noted there is “a sloping platform amidst the rocks where the finest view of the whole scene is to be obtained”. He also predicted that the site would soon host resorts and lodges and be more popular than Niagara Falls! Later author Alfred Billings Street wrote “I wish to bear testimony to the accuracy” of an engraving that was done based on Ingham’s painting.

I was on a mission to find those two gigantic rocks. It’s approximately 5 miles from the trailhead to the summit of the pass, an elevation of 2660 feet. It was a brisk fall day, many of the leaves were already off, and I found the trail to be one of the most challenging I had ever climbed at that time. Up and over boulders, steep and narrow – I tried to imagine the expedition in 1837 – before there were any trails or man-made ladders to help get you up through the steep sections. After a few hours of climbing I encountered a small sign and arrow that said “summit rock”. Stepping out onto the bare sloping rock I had the barren cliff of Wallface to my right – exactly as it was in Ingham’s painting. Out in front of me the land sloped downward and in the hazy distance I could just barely see the light reflecting off of Henderson Lake – also in Ingham’s painting. This had to be the spot where he painted – but where were those two gigantic rocks?

I took photographs, did some sketches, and had a snack and then I heard another hiker approaching, coming from the opposite direction. I stepped back onto the trail to meet him, showed him my sketch (based on the painting) and asked if he’d seen a couple of big rocks – and he said he had. I thanked him and continued on past summit rock – which I later learned is not really the summit but does have the best view to the West. It did not take long, maybe another quarter mile, and I found them. There were indeed pine trees growing out of the top of the one on the left and the one on the right had a funny bump on the top – just like Ingham’s painting.

They were surrounded by trees and underbrush and nearly impossible to step back far enough to get a decent photograph of both of them. The hiking trail passes directly next to the rocks. But my big discovery was that they were not anywhere as large as Ingham had painted them. What was he thinking? Supposedly he created the painting “on the spot”! How could he be so inaccurate? By my estimation the rocks were twice as tall as I am, maybe three times – so perhaps 11-15 feet high (not 60!).

I took as many photos as I could and then with daylight waning, headed back down the trail, feeling very successful. It wasn’t long before I did my own painting of the two rocks and the view, based on my photos – only it was a little disappointing. The research and the journey had been so exciting but my painting wasn’t very exciting. Two rocks and a cliff. There was no way to understand the scale of the rocks. In my painting they just looked like two boulders – four feet high, six feet? There was no way to tell.

Then it hit me – Charles Ingham may have painted “on the spot”, but I bet when he got the painting back to his studio to finish, he too probably felt he needed to do something to show the actual size of the rocks. I can imagine him remembering the rigors and challenges of this hike into uncharted territory – I thought it was rugged and I had a marked trail to follow. So Charles Cromwell Ingham painted a little person into his painting – something to give the rocks some scale. And he painted himself in the corner, painting. In his memory, perhaps he believed the rocks to be the size of a 6 story building!

So, with a friend to accompany me, I hiked back through Indian Pass and had a photo of myself taken in front of the rocks. Back in my studio, I did a new painting: “Self-portrait in Indian Pass” , which one of my children will inherit someday. I have great respect for all the artists of the past, but I now understand a bit more about what “artistic license” means. I’m sure Mr. Ingham did sketch and paint on the spot – it would be my guess that he did what he could in a few hours, not wanting to hold up the expedition. He was working with oil paints, so probably did more of a sketch than a complete painting, otherwise it would have taken days for the paint to dry. The canvas was then most likely removed from the wooden stretcher bars and rolled up and put in a pack for ease of transportation. Ingham might have rendered the rocks from that specific location, and he might have also sketched the view from the more open “summit rock”. Then I bet he combined the two when he completed the painting of the “Great Adirondack Pass” in his studio. When he realized there was no way for the viewer to understand the size of the rocks or the ruggedness of the terrain, he added the little figures to the painting, for scale. Mystery solved!

If you visit the Adirondack Museum, look for “The Great Adirondack Pass”. See what kind of story it tells you!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Johnny Hayes: A Ticonderoga Musical Legend

In late 1935, young Ticonderoga saxophonist Johnny Hayes sat in during a performance by a traveling orchestra from Boston. His performance so impressed the band leader that a permanent position was offered. Hayes had recently completed a summer stint at The Deer’s Head Inn (Elizabethtown), followed by a tour of central and northern New York cities with his own band.

He accepted the offer and began traveling with the orchestra within two weeks. It was the first step in a journey that would link him with many all-time greats of the Big Band Era.

By 1940, Hayes was appearing regularly on radio and in major dance halls as first saxophone with Van Alexander’s Orchestra. Swing magazine called him a key component of the band’s great sound. Alexander worked with a number of orchestras during his career and is regarded historically as one of the great music arrangers.

In mid-1940, Hayes signed with Buddy Rogers of movie fame (Rogers was also husband of actress Mary Pickford), playing first sax on a nationwide tour. In 1941, he joined another high-profile band of the day, Shep Fields and His New Music.

Johnny next hooked up with bandleader Hal McIntyre, an original member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When Hal set out on his own, his close friend Miller provided financial support for McIntyre’s new musical group, for which Johnny Hayes played tenor sax. For two years running (1942–43), Billboard magazine selected McIntyre’s band as “the most promising new orchestra.”

The band performed in movies (watch the first ten seconds for their name, and further to hear them play), on the radio, at dance halls, and at all the top venues across the country. Their weekly gig, broadcast from New York City’s Commodore Hotel, was a big hit, receiving high praise in Billboard, Swing, and the columns of top music critics.

Johnny routinely performed the band’s tenor sax solos. (Many of McIntyre’s recordings, made with Hayes as a band member, have recently been offered on CD.) Hayes played with McIntyre into the late 1940s, but also appeared periodically with many other of the era’s greats.

Besides a few recordings with the Ziggy Elfman Band (star trumpet player for Tommy Dorsey), Billy May, and Tex Beneke (with Eydie Gorme singing), he played with the legendary Les Brown and the Band of Renown. Brown’s band was linked to Bob Hope’s performances for 50 years, including 18 USO tours. Hayes played with them in 1944 and on other occasions, leaving no doubt about his musical capabilities in the eyes of his peers.

In the late 1940s, he also played and toured with Skitch Henderson, another orchestra leader who became a show-biz legend (among his credits, Henderson was the original bandleader on The Tonight Show, which starred Steve Allen).

For all his success, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Johnny Hayes’ musical life occurred before his orchestra career began. He was born in Ticonderoga in 1918, the son of attorney Richard Hayes and his wife, Lillian. At the age of three, his musical fate was nearly foiled by an accident: Johnny fell on a broken bottle, badly cutting his hand and severing a tendon. After an emergency trip to the hospital, the healing went just fine.

A signature moment in Hayes’ life came in March 1929, when Leonard Allerton of Catskill, New York, was hired to oversee the music program at Ticonderoga High School. Two years later, under his tutelage, 13-year-old Johnny Hayes was playing first clarinet for the Purple and White. He later turned his attention to the saxophone, and in 1933, in the New York State Music Contest at Syracuse, Johnny took fifth place among twelve contestants.

In his senior year (1935), hoping to earn another berth in the state finals, Hayes competed in the preliminaries at Massena, finishing first in Division Two for clarinet and first in Division One for saxophone.

At Syracuse, after facing off against 47 other boys and girls, he finished tied for second in the saxophone category. Landing in the top five made him eligible for the national championships in Madison, Wisconsin, but traveling that far was a pipe dream for most small-town folks struggling through the Great Depression.

Hayes had received financial support from the community for the Syracuse trip, and Leonard Allerton had raised Ticonderoga’s music program to a high level of performance, something the town was quite proud of. Everyone banded together once again, and with Ticonderoga businessmen leading the way, enough money was raised to send Johnny on his way.

Pre-performance jitters on the day of competition were normal, and were certainly capable of causing a sub-par performance. As if that weren’t enough, Johnny’s accompanist from the University of Wisconsin had failed to appear due to a flat tire while en route.

Disheartened, he was faced with going solo or withdrawing. Since he was the last scheduled performer of 42 in his division, Johnny delayed the decision as long as possible.

With three minutes to spare, his accompanist arrived. There was no time to prepare, so Johnny took to the stage and played “Emily,” the same tune that had earned him second place in Syracuse and a trip to Wisconsin for the National Music Contest.

Imagine the reaction in Ticonderoga that night when Johnny Hayes was voted the nation’s number one high school saxophonist. Best in the country!

Far lesser accomplishments (even a single tackle in a football game, for cryin’ out loud) will often find today’s youth strutting around, pounding their chests, and celebrating their self-perceived greatness. Where’s my star? Look at what I just did! Ain’t I great?

In comparison, you have to love old-time, small-town America. After besting the top musicians in the entire United States, Johnny Hayes, saxophonist extraordinaire, returned home with a wonderful comment: “I feel swell.”

In the days when humility was a virtue, other folks took care of bragging about you or honoring your accomplishments, and that’s what Ticonderoga did. Johnny’s success was mentioned in the county newspapers, and a school assembly was held, citing his achievement and crediting Johnny, Mr. Allerton, and the school community for the fine results of their cumulative efforts.

Best of all, at least from my perspective, was the celebration held on the evening of his return. Johnny was greeted by the entire school band, decked out in the new uniforms of the Purple and White. Placing Hayes at the lead, they marched him through the streets of Ti in a fine display of hometown pride.

At one point, the procession halted on the corner of Montcalm and Champlain. Requesting a solo, the crowd was treated to Johnny’s rendition of “Home Sweet Home.”

Pound your chest all you want, but it doesn’t get any better than that.

Photos: Advertisement for the State Theater in Ticonderoga, featuring a movie with the Hal McIntyre Orchestra, and mentioning Ti’s own Johnny Hayes.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Adirondack Family Activities: Back to the Future’s James Tolkan

Actor James Tolkan will be in Au Sable Forks April 1 to help raise funds for two Au Sable organizations. Tolkan, a familiar character actor has been in over 70 films during his lengthy Hollywood career. With an extensive resume in TV and films, Tolkan’s Principal Strickland in the Back to The Future Trilogy is what sparked a film fundraiser for event organizer Cassidy Garrow.

Garrow says, “Flashback to the Past is my idea but I couldn’t have done it without help. I met James Tolkan at an outing. I approached him with my idea and he was very willing to help. I thought of the local organizations and know they can use the fundraising money.”

Held at the Hollywood Theatre in AuSable Forks, six classic 1980s films will be shown in succession with a special guest appearance with actor James Tolkan held at 8:00 p.m. at the Jay Community Center.Tolkan will conduct a “meet and greet” with audience members and share his experiences during the making of the films. He will also answer questions from the audience.

Seating is limited but tickets can be reserved. One of the Hollywood Theatre’s two screens will be shows what Garrow terms “chick flicks” with Footloose, Dirty Dancing and Sixteen Candles while the second movie theatre screen will house the Back To The Future Trilogy. The first show starts at noon.

“The two events, the films and meeting James Tolkan are separate,” says Garrow. “Tickets are sold individually. People can just attend the evening event if they just wish to meet James Tolken or come watch the films. I wanted to keep options available so people could attend one event or both.”

Besides a fun “flashback films of the 80s” concept, the funds raised will benefit two special local charities, the AuSable Forks Fire Department Water Rescue Program and the Jay/Black Brook Annual Toy Drive.

“The annual toy drive collects funds to buy gifts for children during the holiday season for Essex and Clinton County areas including Black Brook, the town of AuSable and Jay,” says Garrow. “ I believe that last year this organization was able to help 30 families during the holidays.”

Garrow praises the Ausable Forks Fire Department Water Rescue Program’s diligence during emergency situations. Many people rely on the Au Sable Forks Fire Department during the year and countless people were assisted during Tropical Storm Irene.“The Fire Department lost some of their equipment while rescuing people trapped by water during Irene,” says Garrow. “ We hope that funds raised by this event will help replace that equipment. The Au Sable Fire Department will also use the funds for water rescue training.”

Garrow thanked others that are helping to make this event a success including The American Leagion Post 504, Admag Designs and The Hollywood Theatre. There will be raffles for three autographed copies of the Back to the Future DVD sets, signed by James Tolken. Tolken will also do an autograph session after the “meet and greet.”

Movies and times are listed as follows: April 1
noon – 9:00 p.m. Noon -Back to the Future and Footloose.
2;15 p.m. Back to the Future II and Dirty Dancing
4:30 p.m. Back to the Future III and 16 Candles
Admission Prices:Adult $3/Child $2 (10 and under)

8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Meet James Tolkan
Admission Adult/$5, Child/$3 (10 and under)

Advanced admission tickets can be purchased by calling 518-643-2849 (cash, check, or money orders only).

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time Lake Placid and High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities (with GPS coordinates. Her second Adirondack Family Time Champlain Valley book will be in stores summer 2012.


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