‘Near riot’ at Warren County Airport in 1946

If Walter Grishkot, co-founder and long-time organizer of the Adirondack Balloon Festival, had been around in 1946, he could have offered the Sears & Roebuck Co. advice about how to manage crowds at Warren County airport.

Or, perhaps it would have been Joanie, Walt’s wife, the long-time methodical behind-the-scenes trouble shooter of the nearly 50-year balloon festival, that brings tens of thousands of people to Warren County annually, who would have offered the advice.

“A local store’s reception for Santa Claus turned into a near-riot at the Warren County Airport Saturday morning as 4,000 screaming, shrieking children fighting to get near Kris Kringle and receive gifts, overran the administration building and adjacent areas,” The Post-Star reported on Dec. 16, 1946. “At least one child was trampled in the crush, many were knocked down and had their clothing torn, some lost hats or mittens, and nearly a dozen were temporarily ‘lost’ as they became separated from brothers or sisters in the surging crowd.”

There were no “serious” injuries, but many children were brought to tears.

Sears & Roebuck officials, who sponsored Santa’s landing in a Colonial Airlines plane at 9:30 a.m., merely “shook their heads in amazement.”

Airport officials estimated about 5,000 people turned out for the event, about 4,000 of which were children.

“As the ship taxied up to the airplane parking area in front of the administration building, the crowd broke through ropes and a fence to keep it in check, and surrounded the plane, scarcely waiting for the propeller to stop,” The Post-Star reported. “Mayor John Bazinet, scheduled to extend a formal welcome to Santa on behalf of the city, was escorted through the crowd with greatest difficulty, pushed and pulled from every side, and finally reached the plane, but his welcoming words were lost in the shrieks of the children. He said he ‘never saw anything like it.’”

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY