SARATOGA SPRINGS — As models strode down the sidewalk in front of The Palette Cafe on Broadway Thursday evening for the Make Chic Happen fashion show, the excitement from the crowd was twofold.
Many were excited to see the looks from local boutiques, and some were just happy to be out and about.
“I really needed to get out of the house,” said Kristen McDonnell, who was attending the show..
It was the first time this summer she’d gone to an event, she said. Usually, her summer is busy with events and get-togethers, but this one has been devoid of those. “It’s a different summer,” McDonnell said.
She’s hardly alone in that experience. Looking around the streets of Saratoga Springs before the show, McDonnell remarked how quiet Spa City felt.
“Normally, this is packed. It feels like a beach town,” McDonnell said.
Due to COVID-19, the social scene in Saratoga Springs has shifted this summer.
“People are out and about but . . . it’s just not the same,” said Nicole Nicholas, one of the organizers of the fashion show and co-owner of Haute Messes in Dresses.
During the event, which was capped at 50 people, models strode on the sidewalk in front of Palette wearing wardrobe staples, like a jumpsuit, a slip dress, and others, all styled in several different ways. Some looks were more casual, with a slip dress styled with a graphic t-shirt and denim jacket, while others were more dressed up.
Nicholas and her business partner, Randi Poillon, styled each of the looks and presented giveaways to the intimate crowd throughout the evening.
The show was a first for the two stylists but summers in Saratoga Springs are normally packed with events like Make Chic Happen.
And the events — music, entertainment, social, athletic — don’t typically let up until the fall.
With the Travers Stakes scheduled for Saturday, this week is usually a busy one in Spa City.
“This should be a giant Travers event day. Thursday would be huge,” Poillon said.
Yet, this year, spectators aren’t allowed at the track, most concerts have been canceled or postponed and many events have gone virtual.
“It’s just completely pulling the rug out from under our whole sense of human connection,” said Elizabeth Sobol, the president and CEO of SPAC. Her summers are normally filled with concerts and events around the city, but this one has been quieter since SPAC had to cancel its classical season.
“You can think about the big iconic events, like the ballet gala, but every single night before the ballet or the orchestra, the patron’s terrace [is] a social scene. You have hundreds of people show up to see each other,” Sobol said, “Not to have that going on on a regular basis it’s . . . heartbreaking.”
To combat this, SPAC and other organizations have been hosting small events and screenings, with attendance capped at 50.
“We’ve been trying to do anything and everything we can to give people safe opportunities to gather,” Sobol said. It’s part of the reason Nicholas and Poillon, wanted to organize Make Chic Happen.
“We just wanted something to offer,” Poillon said. “When’s the last time we got to put something on a calendar besides a doctor’s appointment?”
That sentiment was echoed by Katie Maloney and Casey Benson. Make Chic Happen was their first ticketed social event of the season.
“We just thought it would be a fun socially distanced night out,” Maloney said.
While Thursday’s fashion show gave the crowd a hint of normalcy, it was fleeting.
“It’s a weird feeling,” Nicholas said. “Something we never thought we’d be experiencing, that’s for sure.”