By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Lake George Mayor Bob Blais minced no words after cars and crowds jammed the village last weekend despite pandemic-caused cancellation of the Adirondack Nationals car show.
“A bunch of unruly spectators came to Lake George, bent on seeing a show, basically going to be done by people who came with their muscle cars, encouraging and egging them on and hoping they would see illegal activity.”
Saturday night’s crowd grew so large, Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr reports, he decided to shut the Village down, closing Canada Street, Route 9, to all incoming traffic at both ends of the Village at a little after 7 p.m.
“We were greatly outnumbered,” Sheriff LaFarr said, despite his having extra officers on duty.
“Pedestrians on the sidewalks were beginning to encroach onto the road.
“People were upset, yes. When the show, even though it wasn’t officially a show, when it gets to a point that it could adversely impact public safety, you do what you have to.”
Mayor Blais was irate.
“These are people with no redeeming value,” he said. “They came in trucks with coolers, never saw the inside of a store. This is a big economic week for the community. But should we be hosting a group like this that doesn’t respect Lake George, which is a family place?”
The mayor said, “The method they used to show off is illegal, destructive and damaging to our property and our reputation as a family destination.”
He said, “It’s discouraging to see thousands of people, no masks whatsoever, drinking and rowdiness, yelling and screaming to do burnouts. And after we have worked so hard all summer to maintain social distancing, to do everything right and keep this family destination.”
“A car jumped a fence and went into the sidewalk at Funa’rama arcade,” Mr. Blais reports. “Others jumped the curbs, going onto the sidewalks. Luckily no one was injured.”
Mayor Blais said, “The crowd broke benches and Adirondack chairs, trampled some flower beds. Our COVID enforcement officer says he never heard such language. Friday night, someone shot off illegal fireworks.”
He said Friday’s action went well into the night.
Sheriff LaFarr said that Saturday, once the road was closed and officers were only allowing residents or visitors with hotel room keys to pass through, “It took a while, but it quieted down, and once the pedestrians realized there wasn’t anything to see, the crowds dispersed.”
With all the burnouts, Mayor Blais said, “We had to call our men out to do overtime, to scrape the streets, get the rubber off the road. It covers school signs, lines painted on the streets. It’s a mess.”
Mr. Blais said he spoke with the Albany Rods and Kustoms club, which organizes the annual Adirondack Nationals show.
“They are very distraught and dismayed,” the mayor said, over the weekend’s unsanctioned activities.
Without the usual organized Cruise-In, when Canada Street is closed and only show-registered vehicles are allowed to parade through town on Friday and Saturday nights, Mayor Blais said hot rods mingled with regular traffic unregulated, responding to the crowd’s urging them to do burnouts and rev their engines.
“This is why we did the Cruise-In in the first place,” Mayor Blais said.
Sheriff LaFarr said it is not the first time in recent years they have shut down Canada Street because of car show issues.
He said, “The most important thing is so far as we know there were no accidents, and nobody was hurt. I take that as a success. We are not part of the thinking of what event is a good look for the Village. We are there to ensure public safety.”
He said that, although motorcyclists came to Lake George on the dates of the cancelled Americade (in June and again in late July), there were no incidents, or need for enhanced patrols.
Mayor Blais said, “I know from first-hand experience, from being here in the ’60s, it only takes one incident, one so-called riot, and the reputation changes, and the families won’t come back for years. One event cannot cost us our reputation.”
He said, “We are going to have to have some major changes that I will insist on for next year.”
The mayor said one thought is to keep Canada Street closed even after the organized Cruise-In ends at 10 p.m. He said it is vehicles not registered with the car show that do most of the damage, after hours.
“This has taught us a lesson,” Mr. Blais said. “We need to be proactive. I do think the world of the car show. It means a great deal to the Fort William Henry, which hosts, and to a great many merchants in the Village.”
Mayor Blais said he has received “numerous” e-mails calling him a “jack—s,” complaining that the Village “stopped us from legally driving on the roads.” He said he’s sharing the letters with the car club.
“Those people won’t be allowed back,” the mayor said.
Sheriff LaFarr said, “Our agency issued 28 traffic tickets in the Town and Village of Lake George from Thursday through Sunday. It is hard to tell if all were related to the unofficial gathering, but it is very likely they all are.” He added that it is not an unusual number of tickets for a weekend.
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