Illuminocity lights up Schenectady: Businesses/nonprofits vie for prizes with holiday displays

At 107 State St. in Schenectady, Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery features iconic city businesses and buildings in its storefront window.

At 107 State St. in Schenectady, Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery features iconic city businesses and buildings in its storefront window.

Downtown Schenectady is looking a little brighter this season with nearly 30 glowing holiday displays featured as part of the Illuminocity competition.

Local businesses and nonprofits partnered to create elaborate holiday window displays and storefronts in the hopes of winning cash prizes in one of the six categories, with the money going to the nonprofit.

State Street’s Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery has on view an intricate display honoring iconic Schenectady buildings and businesses, including General Electric and Proctors, among others.

“The architecture is iconic, it’s not really like any other place that I’ve been,” said Amanda Magnetta-Ottati, the owner of Bear and Bird. “I think that when you’re here you get used to it.”

To make the display, Magnetta-Ottati came together with her family members and partnered with CREATE Community Studios, a non-profit that provides community art-making services.

They photographed iconic buildings around the city and used Procreate software to trace the architectural details of them all, eventually printing them up and framing each cut-out with a line of lights.

In the foreground of the display, they also included cut-out illustrations of statues and miniature printouts of The Daily Gazette, which are printed on newspaper. Above the miniature city hangs a lit-up sign that says “Schenectady.”

Magnetta-Ottati filmed a video that captured the process of creating the display and recently shared it on social media.

“It’s kinda rare as a family to do a project like that where you all have the same vision for how it’s going to be completed and it was very satisfying just to finally see it come together,” Magnetta-Ottati said. “We’re very proud of it.”

Elsewhere, Caroline Bardwell, owner of The Schenectady Trading Company, partnered with the Schenectady Greenmarket to deck out her storefront. String lights are wrapped around each of the columns in front and the words “Electric City” are depicted with lights strung on the railings.

The biggest challenge in putting it together was the time crunch, said Bardwell. The competition was announced by the City of Schenectady in early November and the displays all had to be installed by the Holiday Parade on Nov. 20. By the time Bardwell partnered with the Greenmarket, they had about a week to execute their design ideas. Yet, they pulled it off.

“[I’m] glad to be part of it and glad to continue to promote Schenectady through my business. It’s just another way that we can have more . . . community pride and interest in downtown Schenectady,” Bardwell said.

With their display, they’re hoping to secure a win in the “Schenectady Pride” category.

Not too far away, the team at Habitat ReStore Schenectady is aiming to win in the “The Griswolds” category. Its window display packs in all kinds of details from the “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie, including the Griswold family portrait, a squirrel, cousin Eddie’s bathrobe and hat.

“We have had families come in and they are getting their official Christmas card photograph in our window,” said Madelyn Thorne, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County Inc.

The display design is all thanks to other Habitat staff members, according to Thorne. They set up everything from the couch to the fireplace, the tree, the Christmas lights and more. Most of it came from ReStore, though staff members also bought a few key pieces, like the family portrait.

“If you know the movie and then you come here and look around, they got every detail,” Thorne said.

“I didn’t understand how popular that movie is and how that’s a Christmas thing for people making sure they see that film every year. I’m just glad that Habitat and Habitat’s ReStore was able to bring so many smiles to people and laughs.”

The other categories include Most Creative, Technical Challenge and Most Animated. There is also a People’s Choice award, which visitors can vote on via through Jan. 1. According to organizers, thousands of dollars in prizes will be awarded, with the funds going toward local nonprofits. Winners will be announced in January

“It’s been tough being downtown. It’s been tough this past year and to have this initiative that gave everybody a chance to work together, reach out to each other and when you come downtown at night, it’s all lit up … it’s just been a positive for us,” Thorne said.

As part of the competition, for those who come downtown to see all the Illuminocity entries, there are also six selfie stations set up. Participants can visit all six locations, post their photos on social media with #illuminocity and email the selfies to [email protected] for a chance to win a $100 gift card. Entries must be in by 11:29 p.m. Jan. 1.

Here’s a look at the locations:
Transfinder – 440 State St.
Maria’s Café & Catering – 412 Union St.
Experience & Creative Design – 510 Union St.
Electric City Apartments – 236 State St.
Karen B. Johnson Public Library – 99 Clinton St.
151 Bar & Restaurant – 151 Lafayette St.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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