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Voices Spring-Summer 2012:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read excerpts from “Long Ago and Far Away” by Teri Blasko and Jeff Durstewitz here.
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Volume 38
Spring-Summer
2012
Voices

Long Ago and Far Away by Teri Blasko and Jeff Durstewitz

An article in the July 26, 1906, Saratogian of Saratoga Springs, New York, raised an interesting prospect under this headline: “Here is a Chance for Saratoga Souvenirs, Real Ones, Unique, and No Duplicates in Existence. Take a Purple Float Home.” It seems that Benjamin P. Wheat, receiver of the defunct Saratoga Floral Association, was anxious to unload “eighteen Mardi Gras floats that received more advertising on their way from New Orleans to Saratoga than William J. Bryan on his European tour.” The floats had been collecting dust for several years in a barn near the Adirondack Railroad. After that fleeting reference, though, the historical record fades. We don’t know who, if anyone, bought them, or where they ended up.


Rex and Proteus floats were transported to New York for the Floral Fete and Carnival.Rex and Proteus floats were transported to New York for the "Floral Fete and Carnival."

What were floats from New Orleans doing in a village so far away from home in the first place? To answer that question, it’s necessary to step further back in time. The resort town in upstate New York attracted visitors from as far away as Europe in the early part of the 19th century, and by the Victorian era it was the place to see and be seen....

In 1893, a Boston merchant and summer visitor named Franklin Webster Smith raised concerns that vice—in particular, gambling and horse racing—would be the spa’s downfall. He brought the village council a proposal for “A Greater Saratoga” that would elevate Saratoga to the level of the great European spas. His plan included a Floral Fete—a parade and battle of flowers that would take place at the end of the summer season, and on September 4, 1894, the Floral Festival Association of Saratoga Springs held its first events...

Broadside from 1901 Saratoga Floral Parade and Carnival.Broadside from 1901 Saratoga Floral Parade and Carnival.

In February 1901, a group of businessmen representing the recently incorporated Saratoga Floral Association visited New Orleans to observe Mardi Gras and to purchase the floats and costumes from that year’s Rex Pageant....
 





Teri Blasko is the local history librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library in Saratoga Springs, NY. Her husband, Jeff Durstewitz, is the co-editor, with Ruth Williams, of the award-winning Bantam memoir, Younger Than That Now—A Shared Passage From the Sixties.



Program from the 1901 Saratoga Floral Parade and Carnival. All images courtesy of Saratoga Room Collection, Saratoga Springs Public LibraryProgram from the 1901 Saratoga Floral Parade and Carnival. All images courtesy of Saratoga Room Collection, Saratoga Springs Public Library.



These four postcards are part of a souvenir
set of twelve postcards printed from the 1901
Floral Fete and Carnival, Saratoga. Shown
here are the Rex Floats: Poetry, Music,
Marriage, and Art.

These four postcards are part of a souvenir
set of twelve postcards printed from the 1901
Floral Fete and Carnival, Saratoga. Shown
here are the Rex Floats: Poetry, Music,
Marriage, and Art.

These four postcards are part of a souvenir
set of twelve postcards printed from the 1901
Floral Fete and Carnival, Saratoga. Shown
here are the Rex Floats: Poetry, Music,
Marriage, and Art.

These four postcards are part of a souvenir
set of twelve postcards printed from the 1901
Floral Fete and Carnival, Saratoga. Shown
here are the Rex Floats: Poetry, Music,
Marriage, and Art.

These four postcards are part of a souvenir set of twelve postcards printed from the 1901 Floral Fete and Carnival, Saratoga. Shown here are the Rex Floats: Poetry, Music, Marriage, and Art. To see the entire set, visit www.nyheritage.org.



This article, excerpted here, appeared in Voices Vol. 38, Spring-Summer 2012. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

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