135 years ago, on a majestic lake in the heart of the Adirondacks, a steamboat glided through an August night. In tow were some 75 rowboats and their passengers. An orchestra played. A cannon roared salute. "Jubilee" (Gospel) singers raised their voices. And shining Chinese lanterns — some hanging from the boats, others drifting on the waves — glittered like a thousand water-borne stars. From the forests and open meadows surrounding the lake people waved and cheered. Bonfires flickered from the mountain slopes, and atop a peninsula high above the water stood a great hotel with hundreds of shining lights — the first in the world lit entirely by electricity. Almost unthinkably, this marvel of human ingenuity stood here, deep in the the Adirondack wilderness — an unparalleled achievement that looked far into the future. The Prospect House had officially opened its doors but a few months earlier and the guests were now celebrating with this festival of lights.
This summer, on August 27, the Blue Mountain Lake flotilla will sail again. It will mark the first time this event has taken place since the original was held, here on these same waters in August of 1882. At 3:00 PM there will be a blessing for the fleet at the Church of the Transfiguration — a house of prayer active since 1885 and frequented by the guests of the Prospect House. At 4:00 PM there will be a reception at The Hedges, former Civil War General Hiram Duryea’s Camp, which participated in the original Flotilla event and which is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Waiters and actors in late 19th-century garb will welcome and serve the visitors. Following some opening remarks and words of thanks, Hallie Bond, former education director and curator at the Adirondack Museum and author of the book, Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks, will give a presentation putting the day into historic perspective. At 6:00 PM the flotilla will launch from the Blue Mountain Lake Boat Livery, another historic landmark. True to history, the boats will be towed by an antique steamer, musicians will perform on board (a chamber group, a small choral group, and a folk duo), and the flotilla will slowly make its way in a great procession around the lake, stopping briefly before designated spots — Curry’s Cottages, the original “Steamboat Landing” (now Blue Mountain Lake Outfitters), and the Hedges to play music off shore. The towed vessels will themselves comprise a parade of historic non-motorized craft.
As darkness falls, Chinese lanterns will be lit on the flotilla, upon the lake and along the shore. Bonfires will blaze again from the mountainside, and a cannon will salute as the flotilla steams it way towards Prospect Point Cottages — the site where the mighty Prospect House once stood. After the boats reach Prospect Cove, participants will be treated to refreshments and a concert by a chamber orchestra, choral group and soloists, and other musicians performing classics and period pieces of American music, as fresh today as they were in 1882. The concert will culminate in a performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, followed by fireworks. Performersinclude world-renowned pianist, Nicole Wang, acclaimed composers and folk musicians Karen Whitman and Rick Pantell, chamber musicians Elaine Dewar, Dorit Gaedtke, Esther Rogers Baker, Sue Grimm Hansley, and other artists from across the Adirondacks, under the direction of George Cordes, Artistic Director at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts.
This historic event is being organized or supported by a broad coalition including Prospect Point Cottages, the Hedges, the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts, Adirondack Experience: The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake, and various businesses and individuals throughout the local community. We invite not only local residents and summer visitors but tourists and visitors from across New York and beyond to experience this event either from the shore or as participants in one of the flotilla boats!
To help make this historic celebration of the Gilded Age come alive both for revelers of the present day and for years to come, this event is an effort by the community to raise funds for this festival and for future flotillas. The 2017 Flotilla Festival is also a timely one, as it joins other celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Adirondack Experience (The Adirondack Museum), the 50th anniversary of the Arts Center, and the restoration of two historic hostelries -- The Hedges and Prospect Point Cottages!