The Week: What Caught Our Eye

January 25, 2020

Historic photo of a crowd of swimmers along a lakeshore ready to begin a swim raceHistoric photo of a man greased up and in a bathing suit, ready to enter a lake for a swimming race







This bathing beauty and friends drew thousands to Lake George as they competed for cash
in the Freshwater Swim Championship of the World 93 years ago.
Shall we do it again? (Crandall Public Library Folklife Center)

A DIP IN THE ARCHIVES: It was billed as the “grandest and most grueling swim race’’ the world had ever seen. The New York Times predicted Lake George would host 100,000 spectators watching 140 elite competitors chop through cold waters in the Fresh Water Swim Championship of the World, the longest such race in history. Gov. Al Smith was there, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, too. Crandall Public Library’s Folklife Center recounts the forgotten 1927 event in a terrific documentary produced by the Folklife Center’s longtime Director Todd DeGarmo and directed by Hannah DeGarmo and Kevin Rogan, and part of a series of local documentaries worth watching.

LEARNING FROM LENA: America’s oldest continuously operating coffee house, Saratoga Springs’ legendary Caffè Lena, where Don McLean, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and Ani DiFranco performed before they were big stars, will open a School of Music for children ages 7-12, specializing in folk and offering lessons in guitar, fiddle and ukulele. Saratoga Living broke the story.

MEANWHILE, Capital Region music legends Lena Spencer and John Sykes (a founder of MTV, president of VH1 and chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland) will be inducted into the Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Hall of Fame.

OLYMPIC LIFT: In one of the first major upgrades since 1980, Lake Placid’s Olympic facilities and the Olympic Regional Development Authority’s ski centers are in line for an infusion of at least $147 million in state money to renovate the indoor and outdoor skating facilities, ski trails, snowmaking and other facilities. Work on the skating arena is scheduled to be completed in time for the Winter World University Games coming to Lake Placid in 2023.

By the way, so many skiers showed up to ski at Gore Mountain last weekend, there were traffic jams.

Image of ice floes on a lake, with a "play" button in the center, linking to a video.IS IT ICE YET? Lake George has not frozen completely about 10 times in the last 100 years, but it appears on the verge this winter, just in time for Ice Bar season and ice fishing. Last year, the lake was frozen for 81 days, a little longer than the average of 76 since 1908. This year, some of the ice arrived in slushy waves, as captured beautifully in this video by Crown Focus Media’s Kevin Kelly.

WHERE TO STAY: Time Out, the leading visitors’ guide to New York City, honors The Sagamore on Lake George, the Pavilion Grand and Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs, the Otesaga in Cooperstown, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz and The Point in Lake Placid as Upstate New York’s “Best Resorts.”

A RECORD RUN: Albany native  Robert J. Higgins opened a record store in Glens Falls in 1973 and over time spun it into a chain of more than 1,000 stores and $1 billion in sales, becoming a legend in the music and entertainment business. In his spare time, he helped save Albany Medical Center. But then the internet came along, and now, his Trans World Entertainment Co. has agreed to sell the FYE music, video and collectibles retail business for $10 million in cash to Sunrise Records and Entertainment Ltd.

FOOD TASTES BETTER IN A MANSION: The 1891 mansion that Glens Falls industrialist and philanthropist William McEchron built across from City Park is now the home of the outstanding Morgan and Co., named as one of 12 top Upstate New York destinations for dining like royalty in a mansion.

MEANWHILE, Radici Kitchen takes its place in the sizzling Glens Falls restaurant scene.

HAPPY CRITTERS. GREAT CHEESE: Old-world artisan cheesemaker Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman – a sanctuary farm where the animals come first — wins national honors at the 2020 Good Food Awards in San Francisco. No surprise: Its many varieties of soft goat cheeses, including its triple crème, Kunik, made from goat milk and Jersey cow cream, have won fans nationwide.  While staying in Thurman, it’s in need of more room and, therefore, opening a production facility and retail store in Lake Luzerne.

WE SCHITT YOU NOT: First, rural Sharon Springs became the filming location for the reality TV series The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Now, through the end of February, the village’s most famous storefront, Beekman 1802, has been transformed into a fictional TV landmark: Rose Apothecary from Netflix’s hit series Schitt’s Creek.

CAPTAIN OF COOPERSTOWN: It may be easier to buy a home than find a hotel room near Cooperstown to witness the July 26 induction of Yankee great Derek Jeter into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Fans are likely to stand 10 deep on the sidewalk watching one of the greatest living heroes of the sport ride down Main Street sitting on a hay bale in the back of pickup truck.

VACATION PLACE TO BE: No surprise to readers of Facing Out (and The Wall Street Journal): Saratoga Springs is rated by the real estate investing site GoBankingRates as one of the top places in the country (and No. #1 in New York) to buy a vacation home. Cape Cod’s Dennis, Stowe, Vt., Hilton Head, S.C., Ocean City, Md, Booth Bay, Maine, and Conway, N.H., also make the list.

EVEN FOR RASCALLY RABBITS: And Saratoga is soon to be home to a rabbit sanctuary, a shelter for domesticated rabbits in danger of certain death by being abandoned or released into the wild.

ANOTHER BYTE, PLEASE: IBM’s former campus in Fishkill, with two million square feet of buildings, is fast becoming a Hudson Valley hot spot where you can shop, stay in a hotel, rent an apartment, and enjoy a meal or drink. More Good, the beverage syrup maker, and Sloop Brewery are there. Crepini is just getting settled after a move from Brooklyn. Now all-natural cookie company Jane Bakes will open its new café and production facility there, too.

GETTING IT RIGHT: Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Walt Disney take the top spots in Fortune’s annual list of the Most Admired Companies, chosen in a survey of nearly 4,000 executives and analysts who ranked them on nine performance criteria.


A SINGER’S SONGRWITER: He wrote one song from the point of view of the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem, another from the standpoint of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. His songs were covered by Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris. David Olney died last week peacefully while performing on stage.

CRUSHED: Planters’ Mr. Peanut, 1906-2020, in the line of duty. How we’ll miss that top hat, monocle and cane.

NO HOMEWORK FOR A MONTH: Instead, an Irish school district is assigning random acts of kindness each day and requiring kids to keep a kindness diary and fill a kindness bucket.

FORGET WAH WAH WAH: How you speak is nearly as important as what you say. Here’s how to avoid becoming Charlie Brown’s teacher.


In honor the season of skiing, snowshoeing, ice bars, ice fishing and warm fires:
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
-Anton Checkov


PEAK PERFORMANCE: He’s the third climber in history to reach the summit of all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Meet Loki, the eight-year-old runt-of-the-litter Siberian Husky rescued from a puppy mill.

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Matt Behan and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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