LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Friday was one of those days where a person can see their breath with ease. In the village of Lake George, that’s a good sign.
This weekend, temperatures that refuse to acknowledge an existence above freezing came just in time for one of Lake George’s newer traditions. While even newer developments tower over Charles R. Wood Park in the form of the new Ice Castles attraction, restaurants and bars around the village – and the lake at large – have their own part to play in a lakeside winter. It’s ice bar season.
“It’s become a pretty cool event on its own,” said James McReynolds, general manager at Adirondack Pub & Brewery, as he took a break from directing and helping erect an outdoor disco party in ice on the business’ front porch and patio. “It’s been a ncie draw for Lake George, and we think we’re one of the kickoffs of it.”
The kickoff in question is of a series of ice bars around Lake George over the next two wintery weekends, a tradition started around six years ago by the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing. Hand-carved bars made of Lake George ice make for a great place to enjoy fancy cocktails and craft beer, hear live music, and enjoy weekends of warm socialization during the coldest time of the year.
At Adirondack Pub & Brewery, the event has its own name. After taking a break in early 2021, the Funky Ice Fest is back this year, with a 1970s theme you can see as soon as you take a look at the sculptures on display.
Headless disco dancers made of ice invite patrons to come and complete the pose. Colorful icy mushrooms dot the ramp leading up to the fire pit and pavillion. Up on the porch, underneath a disco ball, a full bar sits opposite an ice throne, a perfect seat for those who fear no cold.
All of the sculptures on display at the brewery are the handiwork of local ice carver Kirk Sheloski. It shouldn’t come as much of surprise to hear, but he puts a lot of work into his creations.
“He actually starts right around Dec. 1,” McReynolds said. “It takes him about 30 days to make all the ice, and we stockpile it in a big refridgerated truck that we have. Then, over the course of the next few days, we build the ice onsite.”
At around 3 p.m. on Friday, just an hour ahead of the start of Funky Ice Fest, there were final touches still being set in place. One employee flattened smaller cubes of ice with an iron, liquifying just enough of the ice to better refreeze it in place as he set those cubes on the bar, for decoration.
The brewery will be festing it up for the next two weekends, and they’re far from the only one. Just up Canada Street, the Lake George Holiday Inn Resort has their Forest Ice Bar up and running, with hot chocolate, boozier fare and plenty of eats. Up in Bolton Landing, The Sagamore is still at it as well with their Glacier Ice Bar and Lounge.
The full list of ice bars along the lake includes:
- Adirondack Pub & Brewery
- Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center
- The Garrison
- Lake George Beach Club
- Lake George Holiday Inn Resort
- The Sagamore Resort
Visitors to any ice bar should keep in mind that business owners have to make a choice. Via New York State mandate, all places of business have to require either face masks worn at all times, or proof of COVID-19 vaccination at the door.
At Adirondack Pub & Brewery, the latter choice was made; as made clear by bright orange banners and signs outside and around the property, designed to let visitors know to have a vaccination card or Excelsior Pass at the ready if they want to join in on the fun. A look at the venue’s Facebook page shows the sentiments of some past patrons who don’t agree with that decision, but McReynolds says it was the right move without question, for employees and customers alike.
“When you read the actual mandate, it reads, ‘You must be masked at all times you are not actively eating or drinking.’ That is almost impossible for a server, bartender, manager, owner, to actually police,” he said. “If a 6-year-old kid takes his mask off and walks to the bathroom, if someone sees that, that’s a $1,000 fine. If you go proof of vaccination, you don’t really have to worry about that.”
It bears repeating that the ice bars aren’t the only new attraction in town this weekend. Ice Castles opens on Sunday at Charles R. Wood Park, and the Lake George Winter Carnival returns in February. It’s all part of a push to turn Lake George from a summer tourism hub to a year-round one; something that businesses like McReynolds’ are happy to be a part of.
“Now you have six or seven weks in the ‘off-season,’ as you used to call it, where we’re all busy. That’s really a good thing.”