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If Lake Placid hosts it, will they come? Reactions to the World University Games

Emily Russell

(NCPR) - Business in Lake Placid knows how to cater to visitors. There are big events in the small village year round. But some shops are stepping it up for the World University games.

Victoria Celeste, who owns the Where'd You Get That Hat shop downtown, plans to sell hot waffles on the street.

"I love waffles and these waffles are the best because they are liege waffles," Celeste explained on Wednesday morning, just a day the games begin. Celeste will make and sell the waffles from a small window next to her hat shop where, in the summer, she sells ice cream.

Isabella and Victoria Celeste, who owns Where'd You Get That Hat in downtown Lake Placid. Photo: Emily Russell

"They give you that kind of fried bread dough [taste] with confectionary sugar on top and they’re easy to eat, you don’t get messy with syrup or anything like that so they’re good street food.”

On the hat side of Celeste’s business, she’s filled her shop with more hats in different colors. She’s hoping athletes come in and find hats that match their uniforms and then have them embroidered in-house.

Lake Placid has been preparing for the World University Games for years, investing hundreds of millions of state dollars into upgrading Olympic venues and renovating Main St., but it's still unclear what kind of impact the games have on the village.

Celeste grew up in Lake Placid and is excited for the World University Games. She said she's glad the village is hosting another big international sporting event.

“I was here during the 1980 Olympics. My brothers worked at the arena, so it kind of has that vibe of the world coming to Lake Placid again.”

A few blocks down from the hat shop, Marc Galvin said he's seen visitors from around the world. “There are people from South Korea, Kazakhstan, I mean all over the place.”

Athletes walking down Main St. in Lake Placid ahead of the World University Games. Photo: Emily Russell

Galvin and his wife own The Bookstore Plus. “For the last week or so, we’ve had lots of people from different countries in here," Galvin explained. "We actually have a map up in the front of the store, a world map where we’re asking people to pin where they’re from, so it’s exciting to have everybody here.”

Galvin is especially excited to host a book signing event with the American figure skater Nathan Chen, who is an athlete ambassador of the games. There’s also live music every night downtown.

Marc Galvin, who owns the Bookstore Plus, is hosting two book signings with the American Figure skater Nathan Chen, who is an athlete ambassador for the World University Games. Photo: Emily Russell

Main Street will be closed to car traffic during the University Games, which some locals and shop owners are frustrated by. Emma Bradley works in the Little Blue House, a downtown clothing shop.

Emma Bradley, 19, works at The Little Blue House, a clothing shop in downtown Lake Placid. Photo: Emily Russell

“I think it's good and bad," Bradley said, "because if we had cars on Main Street it would just be a lot of traffic, but [with] the no cars, it’s harder for people that live on main street and work on Main Street.”

Locals have been able to apply for special parking permits, though some said, as of Wednesday, they hadn’t received theirs in the mail yet. It’s also unclear how much foot traffic the games will actually bring downtown.

Organizers have sold about 22,500 tickets for the games, about a third of their original goal. Heather LePere owns the Breakfast Club and says that uncertainty has been tough to plan around.

“Like when Ironman is in town, I know what to expect and how to deal with that," LePere said. "This is very unknown, so we kind of played it a little safe.”

Heather LePere owns the Breakfast Club, a breakfast and brunch restaurant in downtown Lake Placid. Photo: Emily Russell

The Breakfast Club is extending its hours, like many other shops downtown, but they’ll mainly just sell hot drinks and alcohol in the afternoon. LePere is cautiously optimistic about the World University Games.

“We’re seeing some more athletes and officials trickle through. I see a lot of buses going up and down the street as people get into town and get settled, so that’s all I’ve seen so far.”

Wednesday was a relatively quiet day in downtown Lake Placid. One of the athletes that was wandering around town on Wednesday was Paige Papley. She’s on the Canadian curling team and has never been to Lake Placid before.

“Honestly I didn’t really have any expectations. I heard some really positive things about it before from some people I know and then we got here and it is beautiful and everyone is so friendly," Papley said. "We’ve just been wandering the streets and it’s been really fun.”

Members of the Canadian women's curling team, including Paige Papley (second from left) walked around downtown Lake Placid ahead of the World University Games. Photo: Emil Russell

Wednesday was one of her only free days, though. Starting Friday, the Canadian women’s curling team competes at least once if not twice a day in Saranac Lake. Other athletes may have more time to shop and eat, and businesses here are hoping visitors and locals come out too.

Connor Riggs was visiting Lake Placid from Syracuse. "We love it here," said Riggs. Photo: Emily Russell

Connor Riggs was in town from Syracuse and said he loves Lake Placid and thinks it’s good New York State invests so heavily into the village’s Olympic legacy.

“It’s nice to see it’s still being used at least," said Riggs. "Sometimes you hear stories about how whatever place had the Olympics and now it's a ghost town and it’s not getting used at all and you can come here year round and there’s always stuff to do.”

That’s especially true during the World University Games. There are competitions and events every day in Lake Placid, but there are also events in Saranac Lake, Wilmington, North Creek, and the Canton-Potsdam area through January 22.

Copyright 2023 North Country Public Radio.