Schenectady County

Dearth of tulips no big deal at Tulip Festival (with photo gallery)

Warm temperatures, bright sun and an aging pop band stole the show at the 64th Tulip Festival, where

Warm temperatures, bright sun and an aging pop band stole the show at the 64th Tulip Festival, where tulips past their bloom in Washington Park seemed to trouble few.

Even a weakly enforced ban on open alcohol containers in the park didn’t put a damper on things, although 23-year-old Albany resident Charlie Vella argued that drinking shouldn’t be the central focus of the festival. He said there were plenty of opportunities to drink alcohol in a sequestered area in the park and, in his case, he had attended some parties before joining the thousands of people who turned out on Saturday.

“If the only reason you’re coming is to drink, then don’t come here,” he said. “You’re coming to get sun and have fun. This is about getting outside.”

Delmar residents Robin Suitor and her 15-year-old daughter Rachel were enjoying the festival as part of their annual mother-daughter trip. In the early afternoon the pair were parked on a blanket in between the main stage and a section of food venders, with the chicken teriyaki stand eventually their choice.

They hadn’t come specifically for the tulips, the music, the arts or crafts vendors and were hoping to do something “spontaneous,” but they were definitely committed to counting every dog they saw. They were at a dozen dogs around 3:30 p.m., while acknowledging that sometimes it was hard to tell if they were counting the same dog more than once. An hour later they were up to 25.

Robin, who could remember coming to the event with her mother, said this year’s weather was a refreshing change. “It seems to rain every year,” she said. They decided not to bring Robin’s husband, who enjoys photographing tulips.

And even with most of the tulips past prime because of an unseasonably warm late winter, there were still people with cameras. Some photographers got closeups of the flowers and others seemed to wrangle their entire family tree in front of flower beds. The landmark statue of Moses was also a popular backdrop.

Photographing the flowers wasn’t of much interest to Vella, or any of the younger set who had gathered by the main stage shortly before the headline band, Fountain of Wayne, began playing at 4 p.m. He had walked through the flowers, but lamented that they weren’t as vibrant as previous years.

As he stood by the main stage, Vella appeared to be holding court, exchanging a hello or brief chat with everyone that passed by, which was part of his enjoyment of the community event. “You know everyone at Tulip Fest,” he said.

Vella added that people were only “jokingly” excited about Fountain of Wayne, a theme among the crowd, which for the most part only knew them for their hit song, “Stacy’s Mom.” The band has been performing since 1996.

The ironic interest, though, quickly subsided, as mock chants calling for the band’s hit were drowned out by crowd enthusiasm. The band was the hit of the event to that point.

For Albany resident Caroline Corrigan, 26, the event is the perfect advertisement for the city and she recounted how a visit to the area in the spring years ago had helped her decide to attend the University at Albany. Before taking a walk through the festival, she was enjoying the day with some afternoon drinks in a small gathering on the sidewalk of Lark Street with friends and planned for some people watching.

“It showcases Albany in its most attractive time of the year,” Corrigan said. “It’s a good way to highlight some of the best parts of Albany, like the park and the Center Square neighborhood. It’s Albany with its Sunday best on.”

Emily Finnegan, 20, a University at Albany student, was crowned the 2012 Tulip Queen.

Tulip Festival, which is privately sponsored, continues today, with events that include the Mother of the Year award at noon, a Stevie Wonder tribute concert at 1:30 p.m. on the main stage and The Chronicles on the Amp stage at 4:45 p.m.

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