When Clark Dalzell got out of the Navy and was considering a career, he thought back to the summers he spent working at Saratoga National Historic Park. Dalzell had always enjoyed his time at the park, so he decided to become a ranger.
Dalzell spent 38 years at the park, eventually becoming the trails director. His enthusiasm for his work never waned. In fact, even though he retired this year, he’s coming back Saturday, Jan. 22, for the annual Frost Faire to reprise his always-popular scavenger hunt. Playing the part of a park ranger, Dalzell will help kids find candy and other hidden treats.
It’s kind of funny, he said. `I came in as a park ranger and now I’m imitating one.`
The Frost Faire hasn’t been part of the park as long as Dalzell has; it’s entering only its 16th year. But its roots stretch back much further than that. Popular in the 1700s, Frost Faires gave people a chance to escape cabin fever by socializing and sharing food and drinks with friends.
In that spirit, the Frost Faire, which kicks off at 10:30 a.m., will offer cookies, cheese and cocoa around a bonfire all day. There will also be sledding, provided there’s enough snow. Kids and adults are invited to bring snow tubes (no sleds or toboggans) to use on the park’s big hill.
`Kids have a ball,` Dalzell said. `They take about 100 trips down an hour.`
Even if there isn’t enough snow for sledding, visitors can enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides and games such as ice bowling, a giant soldier puzzle and bottle fishing.
Ice bowling is pretty much what it sounds like, according to Ranger Bill Valosin: you try to knock down pins set up on the ice. The giant soldier puzzle, meanwhile, is geared toward young kids, with easy-to-handle pieces.
`It’s laid out on a big board, and the soldier is basically about 6 feet high,` Valosin said. ` It’s a pretty good size.`
For the bottle fishing, several empty glass soda bottles will be spread out on the ground. Using a washer attached by a string to a dowel, players have to try to hook the bottles and get them to stand upright.
`It is harder than you would imagine,` Valosin said. `It’s frustrating, challenging and a lot of fun.`
Some of the day’s offerings mix fun with education. There will be contra dancing and a Colonial handwriting demonstration, and a children’s craft room will feature decorative tin piercing and copper embossing.
At 10 and 11 a.m., noon and 1, 2 and 3 p.m., there will be cannon firing demonstrations. Musket firing demonstrations will be held at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30,1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
Dalzell’s scavenger hunt typically gets under way around noon, when he gathers kids together for a question-and-answer session about deer, birds and other wildlife. Once he has their attention, he lets them know about the hidden treasures.
`We stash stuff down on the horse trail,` he said.
Watching the kids search for the prizes always makes him feel good.
`It’s nice to see them getting away from the TV and the Gameboys,` he said.
The Frost Faire runs from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 22, at Saratoga National Historical Park, routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater. It is sponsored by the Town of Stillwater and Saratoga National Historical Park. For more information, call 664-9821, ext. 224, or visit www.nps.gov/sara.“