From Fiasco to Fabulous

By Justin A. Levine - Communications Associate 
Friday, July 28, 2023 

You may not know this, but the Adirondack Council staff has a number of years of experience putting together large party tents. That number is zero, but that didn’t stop us from putting up a circus tent so we could host our annual Forever Wild Day on the shore of Lake Champlain. 

On Friday, July 14, staff was on location at the Crown Point State Historic Site to make sure the tent was up and the tables were in place ahead of our annual Forever Wild Day celebration on July 15. Everything looked good, and all the staff would have to do in the morning was set the tables and welcome guests. But by 8 a.m., the tent was on the ground with hundreds of gallons of water on it from overnight rain and wind, the tables were taken down (with a couple broken from the tent falling on them), and, quite frankly, the scene was a catastrophe. 

A large tent for 200 people in a head on the ground after it collapsed

“I hate to say it, but this is pretty much worst-case scenario,” Executive Director Rocci Aguirre said. “You figure if all else goes wrong, at least we have the tent up. But here we are.” 

Around 9 a.m., the rental company had one person on site, and even though every staff member had assignments for the day, almost all of us dropped those and began to help with the tent. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pick up a 40-by-100-foot, four-post tent, but they are not light. Add on probably 1,000 pounds of water from the rain, the fact that the light strings were completely tangled and broken and that we had literally never done this before, and things got off to a slow start on correcting the issues. 

Adirondack Council staff, along with boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances, and spouses work on erecting the tent that fell over

But with the forecast calling for high humidity and temps in the 80s, the tent needed to go up so that the 200 or so folks attending didn’t have to sit in the sun, as beautiful as the setting may be.  

In addition to the tent falling and ripping its stakes out of the ground and becoming a tangled mess, the ground at the site was also saturated and muddy. This meant two things: the tables would not be able to be set up the way they had been, and we needed to avoid having anything or anyone sink into the wet ground. 

The Council team all pitched in to help get the tent first untangled, laid out properly, and then standing. By 10 a.m., the tent was up, and we were moving tables. Many of our guests were already enjoying the day with a guided paddle on Lake Champlain, a tour of the historic fort, or just mingling with the other guests. 

As we moved the tables into place, we avoided one specific corner of the tent since the ground was so wet. Staff and members of the Board of Directors helped with this endeavor and managed to have the tent, tables, and chairs all set up by 11 a.m. when the caterers arrived to set up before the awards program and lunch that began at noon. During this time, we'd like to note that numerous boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances, and spouses were also pitching in to an incredible degree. 

A crowd of over 200 enjoys the shade of the large tent during speeches, awards, and lunch

As people began making their way to the tent to meet with old and new friends, the caterers set up a delicious-looking lunch on tables near the saturated area. Suddenly, there was a loud crash as one of the table legs sank into the wet ground and sent about 25 plates crashing into the mud, where many of them broke, and the ones that didn’t obviously needed washing. Once again, the unbelievable Council crew jumped into action to clean up, move tables, and wash dishes. Sadly, we lost two cheese platters to this unfortunate incident, and there were only 15 minutes until the program officially started. 

Once our Executive Director took the stage and began recognizing outgoing board members, Chris Maron and Champlain Area Trails (CATS), and the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian (BPHA) Legislative Caucus, things went much more smoothly (except for the microphone that wouldn’t stay on, being yet another casualty of the previous night’s rain). 

Chris Maron, center, accepts his and CATS special award

But, believe it or not, none of this took away from the important business of the day - recognizing the BPHA Caucus and CATS for their environmental stewardship. The Council presented CATS and retiring Executive Director Chris Maron with a special recognition award for their work creating trails and protecting private lands. As a land trust, CATS has helped landowners in the Champlain Valley protect their land while allowing access to the public. The organization is also responsible for opening dozens of trails in the area. 

The Counil presented the BPHA Caucus with our Conservationist of the Year award for their stewardship of Adirondack and environmental interests in the state legislature and the state budget process. The Caucus secured more than $4 million in funding for the Timbuctoo Climate and Careers Institute, hundreds of thousands of dollars for long-term water quality monitoring in the Adirondacks, tens of millions in water and wastewater treatment funding, and that’s in addition to their overall work on climate change mitigation, environmental stewardship, and environmental justice. Caucus Chair Michaelle Solages, Senator Zellnor Myrie, and Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson represented the Caucus at Forever Wild Day. 

Members of the BPHA caucus accept the Conservationist of the Year Award

After lunch, I had the pleasure of joining Chris Maron, CATS staff, Adirondack Council supporters, and the Caucus members on a hike up nearby Coot Hill, one of the many CATS trails in the area. 

We’ve had the honor of hosting the Caucus members in the Adirondacks before, but a hike in the Champlain Valley was something none of them had done. As we walked up the road at the beginning of the hike, one of our party explained that her great-grandmother was a Lang and had lived on Lang Rd. She vividly remembered visiting during the summer, and much to her and our surprise, the lone house far down Lang Rd, still standing, belonged to her family. It was a great start to a great hike. 

Along the way, us Adirondackers shared stories and nature facts with the visitors from other parts of the state, and they, in turn, enjoyed the quiet woods and interesting things along the way. Assemblymember Anderson dipped his hands and arms into a little mountain stream and felt how cool the water was, even on a brutally hot day. At the summit, Assemblymember Solages spun in circles to take a video of the untouched wilderness and neat agrarian valley floor. Senator Myrie did an Instagram Live reminding his followers that the Adirondack Park belongs to them, but with that privilege comes the responsibility of helping to protect it. 

Assemblymember Michaelle Solages takes in the Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain, and Vermont from the top of Coot Hill

The view from Coot Hill is unique, just like the Adirondack Park. It’s a mix of land and water, trees and fields, wildlife and homes. Sitting atop this little peak was a wonderful end to what we can only describe as a “crazy” day and helped all of us remember what we’re working for every day. 

Chris Maron, members of the BPHA Caucus, and Adirondack Council supporters at the top of Coot Hill

Congratulations to the BPHA Caucus and Chris Maron and CATS. Your work on behalf of the woods, waters, wildlife, and people of the Adirondacks is vital to our Park’s future. 

Thank you to all of our members and supporters who joined us in Crown Point. Thank you to the Crown Point State Historic Site staff, who were all wonderful. Thank you to our caterers, Green Goddess, who worked through a table collapsing and wet shoes to make sure we all had plenty of goodness to eat. Thank you to our staff and Board of Directors. Forever Wild Day literally would not have been possible without all of you. 

Blisters were created, shirts were ruined, and memories were made. The 2023 Forever Wild Day was one for the ages - one that, for years to come, we will say prior to every Forever Wild Day, “If we survived Crown Point, we’ll survive this one.” 


Justin Levine

Justin Levine joined the Council staff in 2021 as the Communications and Outreach Assistant. He previously worked as a regional marketing manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and was an award-winning journalist and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Lake Placid News. Since graduating from Paul Smith’s College in 2004, Justin has worked in the environmental field in various roles in both the Adirondacks and Florida. When not working, Justin loves spending time with his family, running, and doing all the outdoor things the Park has to offer.

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