The hops are free to all the guests. An admission of $1 is customary at the balls, and choice refreshments are served. Upon ball nights, the tasteful iron bridge which connects Congress Hall with its ball-room, and the grounds of the Grand Union, are illuminated by colored lights, presenting a fairy-like scene of bewildering beauty. Upon these occasions a large proportion of the population, both exotic and native, come forth as upon a festal day.
Occur the middle of July, and the second week in August, and are under the charge of the Saratoga Racing Association.
The race-course is about a mile from Congress Spring. It was laid out in 1866, by C.H. Ballard, an accomplished surveyor, and is unsurpassed, if equaled, by any race-course in America, not excepting the famous Fashion course on Long Island. The swiftest and most noted racers in the Union are brought here, and many of the most remarkable races known to sportsmen have occurred on these grounds.
A few steps from Congress Spring, directly past the Saratoga Club-House, leads you to a wicket gate marked “Circular, Railway and, Indian, Camp.”
The Indians are not such as figure conspicuously in the early annals of our country and in our favorite romances—as Eli Perkins says—“far different!” They are simply a Canadian Gypsy band, part low French and part low Indian blood. They come here annually with an eye to business, and open their weird camp to the public simply as a speculation, offering for sale the various trinkets to which their labor is directed.
The white tents glistening among the green hemlocks, and the rustic lodges displaying the gayly decorated bow and quiver, make a picture somewhat attractive; but the Indians themselves are dirty and homely, and far from inviting in their appearance. The slim, blackeyed, barefooted boys, who pester you with petitions to “set up a cent,” as a mark for their arrows, have a sort of Gypsy picturesqueness, however; and as one walks down the little street between the huts—half tent and half house—he may get an occasional glimpse of a pappoose swinging in a hammock, and thank his stars for even such a fractional view of the pristine life.
The Circular Railway
Is connected with the Indian Camp. An opportunity is here afforded for enthusiasts and very gallant gentlemen to test their strength and patience, by propelling themselves and friends round the circle in one of the cars. The recreation requires the expenditure of no little strength, and is only accomplished by the sweat of some one’s brow, but it is preferable, doubtless, to “swinging round the circle.”
Within a few feet of the Circular Railway is a spring of pure soft water. The water is quite drinkable, and is esteemed unusually pure and wholesome. The well water of the town is good, and the water from Excelsior Lake, which has lately been introduced throughout the village by the Holly system, is considered superior.