Schenectady County

Post-flood escapes offered

The party will go on today, despite a double hit of floods.

The party will go on today, despite a double hit of floods.

Three longtime events are planned for today: St. George’s Greek Fest, the Little Italy Fest and the Stockade Art Show. The floods didn’t make it easier to prepare for any of them, but volunteers are making the day happen anyway.

“We feel this year is more important than ever,” said Deb Volks, one of the organizers of the Stockade Art Show. “It is absolutely happening. We’re trying to get back to normalcy.”

The embattled residents along the river streets in the Stockade, many of whom have now cleaned out their houses twice in less than two weeks, need a day off, she added.

“There’s more than this devastation. Get away from it for a few minutes,” she said.

Unfortunately, many of the residents organizing the 60th annual art show were flooded by Hurricane Irene. Some, like the Volks, had to clear out their basements again Wednesday as the river rose.

That’s left them all a little behind.

“We haven’t gotten everything done that we need,” Volks said. “But you learn to be flexible and realize what can be done, you do, and what can’t be done, you do next time.”

She’s hoping some residents who haven’t spent days scrubbing mud and cutting out sodden sheetrock will volunteer today to help staff art show stations.

“We could use more volunteers. Many of the people who put the show on, myself, my parents, others, have unfortunately been busy with the flooding,” she said.

The other two events today aren’t taking place in a flood zone — but they didn’t completely escape Irene’s wrath.

At More Perreca’s, workers had made and frozen much of the food they were going to offer during today’s festival. The restaurant was never in danger from flood water, but it’s on the same power grid as the Stockade. National Grid turned off the power for 21⁄2 days.

“I took precautions, put ice in the walk-in freezer. I bought all the dry ice I could find. And still I lost most of the food,” owner Maria Perreca Papa said.

As soon as she got power back, she started making food again — but not for the festival. She made sandwiches and cupcakes for the Stockade residents.

“My staff took over and handled the restaurant and the bakery so I could focus on making food for my neighbors,” she said.

Then everyone worked overtime to cook for the festival. They finished in time.

“We’re ready,” Papa said.

At Civitello’s Italian Pastry Shop and Cornell’s Restaurant, the power loss didn’t destroy much food.

Civitello’s co-owner Roie Angerami found long, winding routes around the city’s three bridges, which were closed, and picked up the last available dry ice.

“We were able to keep the freezer at a zero temperature,” she said.

Once the power came back on, she began to prepare for the festival while donating money to help the flood victims.

“We thought about [donating] cookies, but I don’t think it’s time for that yet. I don’t think they’re ready to celebrate yet,” Angerami said.

Cornell’s festival food was never in danger — workers there starting cooking last Saturday.

“They’ve got me chopping onions right now,” co-owner George Ryon said cheerfully. “A few frozen desserts were lost. Not much.”

He thinks a festival is just what the community needs — along with the sunny weather predicted for today. “It’s going to be a godsend,” he said.

St. George’s Church wasn’t touched by Irene, but the second flood, this week, threatened to throw a wrench into the church’s plans for the Greek festival.

Volunteers driving into the city to begin cooking were turned back when all of the bridges were closed down.

“Our volunteers trying to get in from pretty much anywhere [Thursday] were unable to,” said parish council President Evan Euripidou.

So they prioritized. It was an easy decision: the food came first.

Every volunteer who made it in was funneled to the kitchen. Lesser tasks, like putting up signs and stocking coolers, were abandoned. As the Greek fest began Friday, volunteers were racing to get those jobs done.

“Those small details usually we have done yesterday,” Euripidou said. “So we’re rushing a little bit today.”

But, he said, the important work got done.

“The food is here!” he said.

Also going on today is a last-minute jazz festival organized to raise money for the hurricane victims.

The festival, on the 600 block of Union Street, will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Other events around the area have also not been canceled.

In Albany, the Riverfront Jazz Festival will run from noon to 8:30 p.m., with a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at 3:15 p.m.

In Niskayuna, Congregation Agudat Achim will hold its annual Carrot Festival on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., rain or shine.

Even there, the storms left their mark, although nothing flooded.

The grass is too wet to park on, so the congregation hired a shuttle bus. Overflow parking will be at Iroquois Middle School.

The festival will also welcome produce from far beyond the Schoharie Valley, where many crops were lost to flooding. Normally all of the produce comes from the valley, but other farmers have offered to supplement the small amount that had been harvested safely before the floods, festival co-chair Hillary Fink said.

One event has been canceled: the Pedal-Paddle-Run in Scotia, scheduled for Sept. 24.

The race included two laps in Collins Lake, but the lake is still choked with mud, debris and possible pollutants.

“It is so dirty, we didn’t want to put anyone at risk,” said county spokesman Joseph McQueen.

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