Downtown Albany will be transformed into a winter wonderland Dec. 27 with free music and other entertainment for the third annual WinterFest.
The family-focused event was held for the first time in 2006 after city officials decided to cancel the once-popular First Night celebration on New Year's Eve because attendance had dropped. Mayor Jerry Jennings and other city officials decided on this new all-age event after they found the early events on First Night were the most popular ones.
Jennings announced the lineup for this year's WinterFest today at City Hall, which is decorated for the holidays. Jennings said WinterFest has been very successful and drew more than 10,000 people last year and he invited everyone to bring out of town guests and visitors to enjoy indoor and outdoor fun.
All the entertainment sites are clustered in the downtown business district of about five blocks. The festival is separated into four color-coded sections for easy navigation.
Festivities begin at 11:30 a.m. with the Jingle Jog, a kids fun run. Each runner will receive a goody bag and official race T-shirt. Registration is $3 per child and takes place at base of the Egg inthe the Empire State Plaza . A post-race party follows, with refreshments and a drawing for prizes.
Performances and other interactive entertainment will begin at 1 p.m. Part of North Pearl Street will be closed and another stage will be added to showcase the Jabali African Acrobats and the local jump rope team Double Dutch.
The City Hall stage will host the one-man-circus-show Incredible Larry and local favorite Pil Sung Martial Arts. Lodge Street will again be closed to traffic and that stage will feature hula hoop artist Anna Jack and local gymnasts Team Online.
City Hall will host the beginnings of a scavenger hunt where someone can win a trip for four to Walt Disney World. Games, pony rides, a rock climbing wall, a giant bonfire, food vendors and other attractions will be in Academy Park.
Headlining the Palace Theatre are three finalists from the sixth season of American Idol: Blake Lewis, last spring's runnerup, Chris Sligh and Brandon Rogers.
The grand finale begins at 5 p.m. on the outdoor stage in front of City Hall and features a performance by the American Idol finalists, the announcement of the Scavenger Hunt Walt Disney World trip winner and a fireworks show to be staged on the east lawn of the state Capitol Building at 5:15 p.m.
The 12th annual "Last Run" 5K Road Race kicks off on State Street at 5:30 p.m. with 1,000 runners expected to compete
The Albany City trolley will also provide free transportation throughout the afternoon.
More details and a complete schedule of events are available at www.albanyevents.org.