The Electric City will be lit up Friday with the annual SummerNight celebration.
“It’s the biggest block-party festival in the Capital Region,” said Joe McQueen, director of public communications for Schenectady County.
From 5 to 10 p.m., an estimated 20,000 people will head to downtown Schenectady, some to catch headliner Smash Mouth, some to test their scaling skills on the rock wall, some to catch a glimpse of sand sculptor Phil Singer in action.
The Amsterdam-based artist has been sculpting sand professionally for the past 12 years, though his love for it began years before that.
“My grandmother lived in Daytona, Florida,” Singer said. As a child, he vacationed there and spent most of his time making elaborate designs in the sand. Now, he works around the greater Capital Region, sculpting sand into pop-culture characters such as Wonder Woman and Chewbacca, or detailed scenes of pirates or animals.
Sometimes he’ll sketch out what he plans to sculpt; other times he simply has the vision in his mind.
In preparation for this year’s SummerNight sculpture, which is focused on the movie “Toy Story 4,” he bought Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys.
From roughly 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday he’ll be working to shape the characters. Sculpting both will be a challenge, since it can take several hours to complete a single character.
“I’m going to be really pushing to do both,” Singer said.
That challenge is certainly in the spirit of the SummerNight celebration.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger, and the expectation is we continue to grow this event. If you look at where this event started to where we are right now, this has moved into a full-fledged music festival in the heart of downtown,” said Jason Lecuyer, SummerNight’s events director.
The headliner, playing on the GE Main Stage, is Smash Mouth, the late-’90s band that brought us songs like “All Star” and “When the Morning Comes.” There will also be local and regional musicians such as Hasty Page and Bendt, both previous winners of the Schenectady County Battle of the Bands.
Not far away, on the WEQX stage, Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Bank, Sly Fox and the Hustlers, and Honey Suckle Vine will be performing throughout the event as well. City Beat, another local band, is slated to perform on Jay Street.
“That’s always been an underlying theme at SummerNight to really give an opportunity to these local artists to perform onstage with national headliners,” Lecuyer said.
SummerNight is also an opportunity to showcase the heart of the city and how much it has changed over the past few years.
“This is going to be [the] 12th SummerNight that I’ve been participating in. It’s the 14th overall SummerNight. When you think back to those first three to five years, just about every vendor we had we had to bring in from outside,” McQueen said.
With new businesses like Clinton Street Mercantile, Liza’s of Schenectady, Blue Bird Home Decor and others, there’s less of a need coax vendors from outside the city, McQueen said .
On top of the music, there are also plenty of activities.
“There are so many things for families to do, and we try to make sure all of the activities within the event are free,” Lecuyer said.
Those include rock-wall climbing, face painting, art-making with CREATE Community Studios and Kids Arts Festival.
Many downtown restaurants will be open and there will also be food vendors. Rivers Casino & Resort, one of the event’s presenting sponsors, will be raising funds for the Social Enterprise and Training Center through proceeds from its food booth.
For those who hope to stay out late, Death Wish Coffee will have its truck there and will be giving out free coffee. There will also be a release for the new Death Wish cold brew shortly after 8 p.m.
Around the same time, there will be a celebrity cannoli-eating contest, a SummerNight tradition at this point. The Italian pastries are being supplied by Villa Italia. The celebrities won’t be announced until shortly before the start of the contest, however, according to organizers, the event will most likely include a local official, a radio personality and/or someone from the business community.
The celebration ends with a fireworks show immediately following Smash Mouth’s performance.
For information, visit schenectadycounty.com.
WHEN: 5-10 p.m. Friday
WHERE: State Street between Broadway and Barrett Street, and on the Jay Street Pedestrian Mall
MORE INFO: schenectadycounty.com
NOTE: No outside drinks or coolers allowed.