Tulip Fest to be soberer celebration

Feel free to bring a cooler to this year’s Tulip Festival, but leave the six-pack of beer and the bo

Feel free to bring a cooler to this year’s Tulip Festival, but leave the six-pack of beer and the bottle of chardonnay in the fridge.

Anyone seen bringing booze into Washington Park during Albany’s annual spring celebration will be told to stash it in their vehicle or to bring it back home. Those who don’t heed this advice and crack open a beer could face a citation for violating the city’s open container law if they’re caught by Albany police.

This new approach is a bit different from previous years, when revelers freely chugged beers on the park green or tipped bottles back while watching the main stage musical acts. In the past, city police tended to look the other way when it came to open container enforcement during the two-day event.

“It wasn’t actively enforced,” acknowledged Assistant Albany Police Chief Stephen Reilly.

Schedule of events

Friday, 11:30 A.M.: Opening ceremonies at City Hall, followed by the traditional Dutch practice of scrubbing the streets at State Street and Lodge Street

Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Live music and vendors in Washington Park; the coronation of the Tulip Queen at noon; Cold War Kids perform on the main stage at 4 p.m.

Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: More live music in Washington Park; Mother of the Year ceremony at noon

This year will be different — almost.

Reilly and Sue Cleary, the city’s director of special events, don’t expect to see draconian enforcement during the event. People found bringing alcohol into the park will be asked politely to stow it elsewhere.

Cleary said event workers have the authority to rifle through coolers if they suspect someone is trying to bring in alcohol, but she doesn’t expect there to be a massive sweep of searches through the park.

“Coolers will be periodically checked,” she said. “There will be staff and police looking out for the alcohol.”

Cleary said the point is to make the event fun for people, not to burden them with enforcement efforts. The hope is that people attending the event will curb their consumption to an acceptable level.

“It’s really to cut down on the overconsumption that could lead to safety issues,” she said.

Last year, organizers estimated that more than 75,000 people attended Tulip Festival over two days. While there weren’t any extraordinary problems because of alcohol, city officials felt it necessary to adjust the event’s rules to address ongoing safety concerns.

The city’s initial announcement about the special ground rules drew a mix of reactions from the public. Some said the new rules were long overdue, considering the number of intoxicated people who typically wander the park during Tulip Fest, while others saw them as the city’s attempt at over-regulating the event.

Alcohol consumption will be allowed in an open-air beer garden that was added to the event this year. Cleary said cups of wine or beer will be sold for $4 to people 21 and older with identification.

Reilly isn’t expecting much of a change between this year’s event and last year’s event. He suspected officers will still need to contend with a degree of drunken behavior but expects the event to go off without a hitch.

“I anticipate it will go smoothly,” he said.

Cleary said she’s not sure how the new ground rules will affect attendance and admitted that this year’s event is a bit of an experiment. She suspects the new rules won’t deter the people coming for the music and crafts but could steer away those who envision a day of boozing in the park.

“They’re the ones that are not going to come because they’re not happy about this rule,” she said.

Cleary said those attending this year’s Tulip Fest should focus more on what the event has to offer, rather than getting hung up on the new regulations. This year’s event features more than 90 vendors from throughout the East Coast and a full slate of musical acts on the main stage.

The Cold War Kids will headline the festival on Saturday. The California quartet’s new album “Mine is Yours” broke the Billboard Top 40 and launched the hit single “Louder Than Ever.”

Also on Saturday, the tulip queen will be crowned in a coronation ceremony. For the designation, she receives a $5,000 scholarship and serves as Albany’s ambassador for one full year.

During the festival’s inception 63 years ago, Mayor Erastus Corning crowned a tulip queen and king. But Ken Irish was the only man to achieve the designation, as a lack of interest prompted organizers to abandon the contest during the second year.

The Tulip Festival was originally established to celebrate Albany’s Dutch heritage, and some parts of the festival continue to be steeped in Dutch tradition. For instance, young women in authentic Dutch garb with brooms will make their way up State Street at noon today, mimicking the Dutch practice of scrubbing the streets before a big event.

The event has markedly grown over the years and now incorporates art exhibits and a large area dedicated specifically for children’s activities. With its wide selection of free music and entertainment, Cleary said the event continues to be a major draw for the city.

“We want to keep Tulip Fest safe and we want to keep it free,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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