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Businesses try to stretch fall season as foliage nears late peak

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LAKE GEORGE -- As fall foliage peaks this weekend in lower Warren County, some businesses around the lake are hoping to squeeze an extra weekend or two out of the season.

Seasonal Lake George businesses have traditionally buttoned up for the winter after Columbus Day. But increasingly, merchants who are able have chosen to remain open through the end of the month for late-arriving leaf-peepers. And this year, they've got some later-changing leaves to help draw visitors.

Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Luisa Craige-Sherman said the recent holiday weekend was extremely busy in the village, but foliage tourism isn't over yet.

Craige-Sherman said she expects many businesses to "wing it" and continue to open on the weekends, so long as the colors stay strong and the weather cooperates.

"I think we are still going to get at least another two weekends out of it," she said. "There is this corridor here that has been a little slower."

Fall foliage has been somewhat behind schedule in the Lake George region.

According to the state's foliage report, color change was low leading up to Columbus Day in most of Warren County, especially the southern corners.

Colors are expected to reach 100 percent this weekend, with brilliant yellow, red and orange leaves.

Leaves are already past peak in parts of the Adirondack Park that are at higher elevations.

Fort William Henry CEO Kathy Muncil is hoping for a few more weekends of fall tourism but said the traffic is more fickle after Columbus Day.

"We'll be lucky to get another couple of weekends," she said of the Lake George resort. "The weather is going to be the key, even more than the foliage."

Muncil added that the more activities available in the village, the more reasons there are for visitors to come. This weekend there are free tastings at the Adirondack Winery on Saturday and Sunday and an Octoberfest celebration on Saturday at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery.

"It gives people the urge to kind of take a drive," she said.

Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said a slightly longer season has been the trend in recent years.

He recalled when shops shuttered after Labor Day in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, Columbus Day marked the end of the season. Now, he said, the target is the end of October for those who can swing it.

"More and more businesses in the village stay open after Columbus Day now, and many use Nov. 1 as a date," he said. "For the ones that do stay open, business is strong on a weekend like this, especially when foliage is at its peak like it is now."

John Carr, owner of Moose Tooth Grill and the Adirondack Pub & Brewery, said he plans to have his restaurants open for all of October.

He said he's found the foliage is better after Columbus Day, and there are usually a few dozen other businesses that also stick it out.

"It's definitely a fun time of year for us because you tend to get more of your neighbors and locals," Carr said.

Many other attractions will wrap up this weekend or the next.

Lake George Steamboat Co. co-owner Patricia Dow said the last tours will be on Oct. 24, a date determined well in advance. Until then, she's hoping on good weather to bring the last of the leaf-peepers her way.

"We hope to get more business, but for the people who decide to come, it really depends on if the sun is shining," she said.

As of Thursday, the Saturday forecast called for afternoon showers, then clearing to sunny skies for Sunday.

Phil Jackson, owner of Adirondack Balloon Flights, also scheduled his season to end this weekend based on prior years. But he noted that foliage this fall has been less predictable.

"It was kind of a funny year," he said. "At first it looked like foliage was going to peak early, but then it didn't. Now it's kind of peaking."

Prospect Mountain, a great vantage point for lake leaf-peeping, will also close after this weekend, in line with prior years.

State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman David Winchell said visitors didn't necessarily arrive later to see the foliage, but there have been more of them.

About 16,000 people had visited Prospect Mountain between Labor Day and earlier this week. That's 550 more than the full fall season last year, and there's still another weekend to go.

"One of the main differences has been the weather," Winchell said. "We have had a lot more sunny weekends this summer and fall compared to last year."

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