ROTTERDAM – Businesses and non-profit organizations partnered this year to hold the first annual Hamburg Street festival in Rotterdam on Saturday.
Organizers began planning the festival in early spring of this year. Shirley Sousa, who owns The Garden on Hamburg Street, helped organize the event. She said about 50 businesses signed up to participate.
The idea was spurred by Fred Elia, founder of A Thousand Moms, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth in child welfare systems. Sousa said it happened after the street got new sidewalks and other street improvements that made it an ideal place to hold a festival.
“Hamburg Street is made up of mostly women-owned businesses, a lot of non-profit organizations and a lot of ‘mom and pop’ places, like barbers and hair salons, that sort of thing,” she said. “So, we decided on Hamburg Street, because we have sidewalks on both sides and it’s a nice community. It’s a type of street that you could walk down and be safe.”
Kathy Nichols and Roseanne Rector said they came out to the festival to support the community.
“We’re from Rotterdam, born and raised, and ended up back here for the community and to see people we know,” Nichols said.
“It’s nice to see people that you haven’t seen in a long time,” Rector added.
Many participating businesses featured tables and booths outside, where many non-profits were raising awareness and fundraising. Gloria Healy, with foster care agency Berkshire Farm Center, had a table in front of the Quality Inn during the festival. She and other organizers were selling raffle tickets and raising awareness about the need for more foster families.
“We printed 500 programs and we’re thinking, so far, we’ve already sold like $600 worth of raffle tickets. So, that’s pretty good” Healy said in the early afternoon. “It’s a lot about grassroots fundraising and being able to get everybody to go to mom and pop shops and staying away from the big box stores, things like that.”
Healy reiterated the need for foster families in the Schenectady area.
“We need short-term and long-term foster families and we need it badly,” she said. “Kids are going into group homes that shouldn’t be going into group homes, because there are no foster homes.”
The Stewart’s Shop on the street was handing out free single-serve ice cream, while new deli Blake 925 was selling some of its hot meals and sandwiches outside the shop, and the fitness studio next door was offering a free Pilates class at 3 p.m. to work off the food.
The Magic 590 AM and WQHT 97.1 radio stations were staged alongside the road playing music for the attendees. WQHT also hosted an Elvis Presley impersonator at its table to entertain passersby. The lot also had cornhole games set up.
Matt Cuferi said his two sons wanted to come out and see the festival, as well as get free ice cream at Stewart’s. They were playing cornhole by the WQHT table.
“They liked the free ice cream at Stewarts and now we’re playing some cornhole and so far so good,” he said. “I’ll probably get something down there [at Blake 925] next.”
Sousa said she hopes the festival grows going forward.
“This is our first one, our first annual, and hopefully the hiccups will be this year and next time will go a lot smoother,” she said.