By CAROLINE MURRAY
Recorder News Staff
GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE -- For lake dwellers such as Randy Gardinier, the Ring of Fire tradition taking place at the Great Sacandaga Lake Sunday is a must-see affair.
The event is nothing short of a spectacle. At dusk, bonfires light up the lake from the village of Northville to the town of Day as the Sacandaga community sits back and enjoys the show.
The Ring of Fire is a way to celebrate the end of a season, but like Gardinier said, there is a powerful message behind the scorching flames and party-like atmosphere.
To vacationers and residents alike, the community bonfire is a farewell gesture and a way to say "until next time" to all their lake friends.
"School starts, life goes on and people don't really get together nearly as much as they do during the summer," Gardinier said. "It is a feeling of togetherness in the community, and in a way, the end of the summer."
Gardinier is the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation president, and has researched the start of the 26-year-old tradition.
He said it began with one Mayfield resident named Agnes Gilbert.
While Gilbert was visiting her son Labor Day Weekend at Keuka Lake, she was overwhelmed by the Ring of Fire there, and the meaning behind the event.
In order to spread the word to the Sacandaga community, she rallied with friends and family members to pass out informative fliers describing the events she witnessed.
Gardinier said the community caught on, and in 1988, the first Ring of Fire commenced at the manmade reservoir.
Gilbert passed away in May of 2010, but the tradition lives on.
Today, Gardinier estimates 1,000 bonfires will be set Sunday, with some reaching up to 40 feet high. Last year, there was an incident at Sunset Bay beach in the town of Mayfield, and the Department of Environmental Conservation shut down the bonfire before it saw any flames.
However, he does not foresee any issues as long as people control their bonfires and their alcohol intake.
Gardinier recommends watching the Ring of Fire from the Broadalbin Boat Launch or while driving over the Batchellerville Bridge in Edinburg.
But, really, to Gardinier, any place will do.
"It is amazing, it really is," Gardinier said. "It one of those things you have to do."