LarkFEST kicks off fall

Warm weather, rows of craft vendors and the freedom to drink beer on the street led thousands to flo

A dance party on the sidewalk was one of the reasons Sara Akil took four buses to attend Saturday’s LarkFEST 2013.

Standing on Lark Street, Akil, a Lansingburgh resident, couldn’t help but bust her own moves to the upbeat tunes being laid down by DJ Trumastr, who had set up his laptop and speakers on the sidewalk. A crowd gathered to watch the handful of enthusiastic young dancers, who easily transitioned their movements as the music moved from Ray Charles to hits from this summer.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Akil, shouting to be heard over the music.

Warm weather, rows of craft vendors and the freedom to drink beer on the street led thousands to flock to the annual event. The one constant all along Lark Street was music, which could be consumed at two main stages set up on Washington and Madison avenues, by sticking your head inside Ben & Jerry’s or by donning a wireless headset and dancing to music that only that person could hear, to the delight of gawkers who gathered for a laugh.

Because the crowds were constantly moving from one end of the street to another, performer Thomas Lafond, 22, said he got to play for a new crowd every few minutes. This year, he was performing on acoustic guitar inside Ben & Jerry’s.

The emphasis on the varied musical options, which included drummers beating away on a rope-tuned, skin-covered drum, called a djembe, was different from the focus on big headlining performers, like Moby a few years ago, said Lafond.

“The shift has been away from big name music groups and a focus on what all the locals can bring to it, whether it’s music, food or the vendors,” he said.

That didn’t mean there weren’t big crowds at the two main stages, with Barons in the Attic one of the big draws Saturday afternoon.

Aside from the music, the event also offered a rare opportunity to enjoy a beer on the street, as long as it was in a cup. One convenience store helped drinkers deal with the restriction by offering plastic cups outside their door, so recently purchased cans of beer would be in compliance.

Troy residents Brayton West, 27, and Samantha Diehl, 23, enjoyed their drinks on the steps of a house on the street. As regular attendees of the event, West said they had a low-key agenda of hanging out, drinking beer and getting some kettle corn. Diehl added they would also check out the crafts.

The variety of items for sale ranged from the wares of a Tibetan gift shop to paintings on wood planks. Even flowers were for sale, so 23-year-old Josh Lochner, of Albany, got his girlfriend a rose.

This was the final LarkFEST that Jerry Jennings will experience as Albany mayor, as his tenure ends this year, but he pledged to return for years to come as a private citizen.

Noting how peaceful and congenial the crowd was, Sara Akil said the city should do the event more frequently, arguing it would boost morale and cut down crime.

“This is great for the city. They should do it once a week,” said Akil. “They’ve got to keep this going on for many years. What else does Albany have going on?”

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