Tulip Festival’s ‘Mother of the Year’ loves giving to others (with photo gallery)

Juliann Urbanski of Stillwater had never been to the Albany Tulip Festival before.

Juliann Urbanski of Stillwater had never been to the Albany Tulip Festival before.

On Sunday, her first-ever visit was made extra special as she was named Mother of the Year in recognition of her efforts both inside and outside the home.

“I never expected to be the winner. All these women were wonderful,” Urbanski said of the other four finalists.

Her husband, Joe, who nominated her for the 13th annual award, described his wife’s boundless energy.

“She tirelessly coordinates and runs our home, family activities and social events,” he said in a brief ceremony in Washington Park’s amphitheater.

Her generosity extends beyond the home, as she volunteers to cook Thanksgiving dinners at a shelter and the Albany Ronald McDonald House, where she has been helping out for about 10 years.

She also helps coordinate free educational activities for children at Stillwater Elementary School, bringing in programs such cooking demonstrations and park ranger visits.

Urbanski, who is a homemaker, said she enjoys involving her children in volunteer work, which also includes making gift baskets to give to the needy at the Eagle Matt Lee firehouse in Ballston Spa.

“It makes me happy to make other people happy. I would rather give gifts than get gifts myself,” she said.

She isn’t done yet. “We want to do more. I’d like to start to serve the Meals on Wheels to senior citizens.”

Urbanski was clearly overcome with emotion at the news.

“I’m too nervous to cry,” she said.

She wanted to make sure her two children, 8-year-old Jenna and 6-year-old MeiLei, were included in a picture.

MeiLei said she was happy her mother got the award. She helps her color pictures. They also cook together.

And what do they make?

“Cookies,” MeiLei said.

Jenna made a card for her mother and gave her a small plant.

Urbanski said she was shocked that her husband nominated her for the award but also honored by his kind words during the brief ceremony. She said she feels blessed to have a great husband who respects her and treats her and her children wonderfully.

“Joe has always taught me, treat people the way you want to be treated,” she said.

Urbanski was selected from a field of more than 60 candidates and beat out four other finalists for the award — Debra Dobek of Rotterdam, Kimberly Jourdin of Albany, Lisa Mahar of East Greenbush and Sandra Stone of Albany.

Dobek is active in her church and involved with teaching dance, feeding the community and taking care of her husband and grandson. Jourdin manages a household of four daughters and serves as assistant troop leader for her 12-year-old in addition to cooking meals for a family whose father is sick and working part-time at night.

Mahar cares for three children, all with a genetic muscular disease that she has battled during her life. One of her children has Asperger’s syndrome and one has autism. She is a teacher at Red Mill School.

Sandra Stone is an 18-year breast cancer survivor who is very active in fundraising and active with a cancer support group at her church.

Urbanski received a $200 freshwater pearl bracelet from Northeastern Fine Jewelry, a day of beauty from Kimberly’s A Day Spa valued at over $450, $100 gift cards to Dunkin Donuts and Price Chopper, and a four-person dinner at Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany.

The four runners-up received $50 gift cards to Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Dunkin Donuts and Price Chopper, a gift certificate from Kimberly’s A Day Spa and a gift certificate for two to Angelo’s Tavolo in Scotia.

All five finalists received flowers from Ambiance Florals as well as jewelry from Northeastern Fine Jewelry.

The Mother of the Year presentation was the highlight of the last day of the Tulip Festival.

An estimated 60,000 to 80,000 people attended the event, according to organizers. Spokesman Jason Bonafide said the good weather contributed to the strong attendance — on par with last year.

Bonafide said the policy prohibiting people from bringing alcohol to the event seems to have achieved the desired outcome.

“We noticed a lower level of overindulgence,” he said.

There were some new features that organizers added this year to keep the event interesting, including a Zumba exercise class on the main stage. There were bounce houses for children, musical acts including the Crosby, Stills & Nash tribute band Marrakesh Express and, of course, the tulips.

“There’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Bonafide said.

Ragna Mikkelsen of Broadalbin was also visiting the festival for the first time — spending Mother’s Day at the festival with her husband and two children. She was combining the Mother’s Day festivities with celebrating her 42nd birthday, which happened on Thursday.

Betty Balevic of Schenectady was also spending the day with grandchildren.

“It’s a great way to spend a holiday, and I appreciate those who put all the effort into this,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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