Hundreds of us in Congress Park appeared to spontaneously strike up a choreographed dance routine, before exploding into a chorus of waves and chants with all the energy we had left — then we did it four more times.
Filming of a massive lip-synch effort, which involved almost 1,000 people from Saratoga County, stretched across most of the city’s downtown area on Thursday afternoon and included dozens of groups and businesses. Executed with precision to three hits from the band Train, this collaborative effort between the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce and Modern Mix Marketing tapped into residents’ enthusiasm for the city, their desire to try something different and the hope that they might become YouTube sensations.
All along Broadway ordinary people turned into amateur actors as they promoted everything in the county, whether it was Palio with human bowling, Cascada Salon & Spa doing outdoor spa treatments or an homage to a younger version of socialite Marylou Whitney.
An all-terrain vehicle and its small film crew began its 10-minute journey at the recently renovated City Center, where Mayor Scott Johnson kicked things off. On the final complete take, he hustled down to Congress Park to soak in the full scope of what had been put together, as this was the final scene and had the most people.
“We thought there would be a big turnout, but this is bigger than we expected, especially at the end here in Congress Park,” Johnson said.
Serving as a giant dance floor, the park also hosted an impromptu party, with people casually chatting up friends, treating themselves to ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s and trying out different dance moves to the music that STAR 101.3 offered in between the Train songs.
Tony Earls of Corinth, who said he loved Train, came to the park with his two boys to hang out and enjoy the experience. Leading his 4-year-old through the basic steps, which he performed gracefully, Earls acknowledged that he had no problem with the dance moves.
The crowd was confident, which surprised Sabrina Lumbert, the Skidmore College student who designed the
arm-waving dance and led participants from the bed of a pickup truck.
Our fears about dancing didn’t subside until a few minutes before filming started a little after 1 p.m. The steps were, after all, simple and repetitive. Some were content to poorly mimic the movements of the person in front of them, having been preoccupied with learning the lyrics to the song “Drops of Jupiter,” which was the big finale. After spending the morning listening to the song repeatedly and writing down the lyrics, we ended up only being responsible for a chorus of “Na-Na-Na-Na-Na.”
Not the only ones going into this experience on the seat of their pants, James Frederick and Raymond Pashoukos, representing Caffe Lena, hadn’t learned the correct Train song for their guitar playing on Broadway.
As a result, Frederick said they were doing some last-second cramming about an hour before filming, even as one potential guitar player opted out of the video. “Some of us know the song, sort of,” he said. “Others of us do not and we’re learning it.”
On the corner of Broadway and Phila Street, Saratoga Springs High School senior Nick Arciero was playing with the high school’s orchestra and hoped he didn’t have the same dilemma. He wasn’t worried about not knowing the song, because his understanding was that he only needed to pretend to play, which Arciero admitted was something he honed in class occasionally.
The emcee in the park, Garland Nelson, of the local band Soul Session, took his responsibilities as the lead in the final shot too seriously not to learn the song. “You never know. Now I might just cover it out at a bar,” Nelson said.
Wearing a bright white sports coat, he kept up an unrivaled intensity for the 31⁄2 hours that people were in the park. “We are going to make a statement to the World Wide Web today,” Nelson shouted between practice takes, in an attempt to rev up the drained dancers.
The Brooklyn native who came to Saratoga Springs in 1992 to go to Skidmore College said this city is his home and he was proud to let people know. “I turned into a man here in Saratoga, so this is definitely my city.”
This civic pride was a motivating factor for many of the people, including husband-and-wife Brian and Heather Straughter, who played a newlywed couple for the video.
“It’s exciting,” Heather said. “We love living in Saratoga and I think it’s a great way to promote all that you can do here in the county.”
She added that they didn’t regret being trapped in formal attire for hours on the hot, muggy day, even if her husband hadn’t been too involved in their decision to participate. “Before I asked him, I said, ‘We’d love to,’ ” she said.
Mayor Johnson contended that the turnout by the city made this project something more than a good advertisement. “It’s being used as a marketing tool for the entire city through the Chamber of Commerce, but more importantly today is a community event,” he said. “This kind of event does draw us together at a given moment and you see what it is like to be a Saratogian. It’s why we live here.”
And while Johnson will always think fondly of Saratoga Springs, the same cannot be said of the medley from Train that has been embedded in the brains of all the participants. “I’ve got to erase them from my head,” he joked.
The video will be available on Youtube after its Sept. 27 premiere. More information about the video and its release, including photographs and video from the shoot, can be found at www.facebook.com.