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Winter Carnival ends with sunny skies, crowds and enthusiasm

LAKE GEORGE - Thick ice, a full slate of action-packed vehicle competitions, new family-oriented events and lots of people who sought to escape from their troubles - have all been credited for the Lake George Winter Carnival tallying perhaps the most successful edition in five or six years.

"The word is out in the community that this has been the most successful Lake George Winter Carnival in a long time, Carnival official Ed Kokalas said Monday. "If we could plan on weather like this, we could rebuild into how it used to be decades ago."

The task is almost accomplished, considering the crowds that watched the car racing and other events on the frozen lake this past weekend, and the enthusiastic reception a variety of new events have enjoyed this year.

Races have enrolled more competitors, more spectators have joined in the traditional Polar Plunge, and new events like the lakeside bonfire, children's petting zoo and tethered hot-air balloon rides have drawn more people, Kathi Kokalas said.

But another factor is at play in the Carnival's success this year, she said.

People have been eager to shake off the prevailing "doom and gloom" over the economy, she said. Getting out to enjoy winter events provides a precious escape from sitting at home watching the economic news or reading your 401k statement, Kokalas said.

The prevailing tendency to conserve money has kept people from taking long trips, and since Lake George is close by and most all Winter Carnival events are free, it's been an attractive destination, she said.

This weekend was exciting particularly because of the array of racing vehicles - and the curvy racetracks were moved on Sunday closer to the crowds in Shepard Park and on the lakeside walkway, she said.

Saturday, the action was a little too exciting, as a race car slid out of control and hit a flagman, who was transported to the hospital, but did not sustain serious injuries, she said.

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