Celebrations coincide to bar owners’ delight

This year, the Kentucky Derby falls on the same day as Cinco de Mayo, bringing a one-two punch of cu

Call it the day the mint julep meets the margarita.

Maybe think of it as the time when South meets South-of-the-Border — the day when the excitement of a Grade I thoroughbred stakes is met by the festive celebration of Mexican heritage. Or consider what it will really mean for some restaurants and bar owners in the Capital Region: The busiest day of the spring.

This year, the Kentucky Derby falls on the same day as Cinco de Mayo, bringing a one-two punch of customers to many establishments in the area. In addition to the normal derby day revelry, restaurant owners are also expecting a wallop from Cinco de Mayo — the day meant to commemorate the 19th century battle where the Mexican army beat back the invading French in the city of Puebla.

“It’ll be a very festive day,” said Jeff Ames, owner of the Cantina Restaurant at the top of Caroline Street, the unofficial bar district of Saratoga Springs. “Because it’s been raining all week and we’re supposed to get good weather, people are probably chomping at the bit to get out.”

Closer to the Saratoga Race Course, Mexican Connection owner Jason Friedman said he’s normally busy for the derby. With Cinco de Mayo falling on the same day, he’s anticipating a banner night for business.

“It’s by far our biggest night of the year,” he said of Cinco de Mayo. “It’s going to be a crazy night.”

And one that will be awash with light from what’s called the supermoon. This weekend, the full moon will appear larger and more vibrant than normal because of its close proximity to Earth.

“This is the closest the moon comes in orbit to us,” said Janie Schwab, director of the Dudley Observatory in Schenectady. “It will be a lot bigger and a lot brighter.”

Folklore suggests the full moon spurs people to act erratically. The words ‘lunacy’ and ‘lunatic’ are derived from the Latin term ‘luna,’ meaning moon.

Yet there is no scientific study that has shown the moon’s cycles have any sort of pronounced effect on behavior in humans. Schwab said the suggestion seems to be based more on people noticing erratic behavior during a full moon because of the folklore surrounding it.

“When people look for other people to be crazy at the full moon, it’s certainly easy to find them,” she said.

One place to find a bit of craziness may be Siro’s, which is expecting upward of 1,200 customers during the restaurant’s 30th annual derby day celebration. In addition to live music and a festive atmosphere, the restaurant will be featuring a free buffet of Mexican fare.

Executive Chef Tom Dylan said the buffet wasn’t meant to coincide with Cinco de Mayo; it’s just that’s what he decided to make years ago when the restaurant first started hosting a derby celebration.

“That’s the way it’s always been,” he said.

Still, Dylan said Cinco de Mayo takes a back seat for Siro’s patrons. He said the derby party typically draws people from around the Capital Region and is considered by many to be a benchmark indicating the start of the summer season in Saratoga Springs.

“Everybody thinks of the derby party at Siro’s as the beginning of the season,” he said.

Of course, there are plenty of places outside of the Spa City getting ready to celebrate the derby. In Schenectady, the Van Dyck Restaurant is moving a big-screen television to its outdoor patio for the derby and is expecting a good turnout.

“We’re kind of just focusing on the derby,” he said. “It just happens to fall on Cinco de Mayo, so I’m sure we’ll get a few Corona drinkers.”

The Clubhouse Race Book in Albany is also expecting a push of derby watchers, though Capital Off-Track Betting Corp. spokesman Robert Hemsworth doesn’t expect many of them will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo. He predicted the recently renovated facility will be even more of a draw with racing aficionados than the former teletheater, which would fill to capacity on derby day.

“It’s going to be wall-to-wall people,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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