Sharing a group hug at the Lake george Winter Carnival Friday Feb. 25 while sharing memories of promoter etraordinaire Walt Grishkot, are (left to right): Nancy Nichols, Joan Grishkot, Hal Halliday and Maury Thompson, author of “The Biggest Kid at the Balloon Festival,” a biography of Walt Grishkot.
Photo by Thom Randall.
continued Thompson noted that whether Grishkot was arranging stunts or coaxing animals to pose for eye-arresting publicity photos, he was incomparable — larger than life.
Halladay, Nichols, Thompson and Joan Grishkot shared tales — about how Grishkot would circulate at tables at Nichols’ restaurant, urging them to purchase anything on the menu with his personal money-back guarantee — then exit the restaurant soon afterwards. They laughed, recalling how he’d tell one person after another that they were getting the very first Balloon Festival pin of the the newly minted edition.
Grishkot’s most notable achievement was co-founding the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Queensbury, but his heart was always grounded in Lake George, they recalled, noting he initiated Lake George’s “Moonglow” hot-air balloon spinoff event.
“Walt Grishkot lived and breathed Lake George,” Halliday said. Thompson recalled how Grishkot, worried about how a liquid lake might curb attendance at the 1975 Winter Carnival, hired Chief Swift Eagle and his son Powhatan to conduct an “ice dance” in an effort to persuade Mother Nature to freeze the water — and it did solidify two days later, while attracting huge crowds due to the resulting publicity.
Listening to their conversation, the four took delight in a man who was a showman, huckster, and savvy promoter — who ultimately embraced life with irrepressible excitement and wonder.
“Walt Grishkot did for Lake George what Walt Disney did for Anaheim, California,” Halliday said.
“He loved being an ambassador for the region,” Joan Grishkot responded.