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Streetwalk spreads holiday cheer in Saratoga Springs

Streetwalk spreads holiday cheer in Saratoga Springs

The rain stopped and the sky cleared Thursday evening, attracting a large crowd to downtown Saratoga

The rain stopped and the sky cleared Thursday evening, attracting a large crowd to downtown Saratoga Springs for the 22nd annual Victorian Streetwalk.

The 50 free entertainment venues on Broadway and other downtown streets offered everything from Christmas carols and jazz to belly dancing,

“We are very lucky,” said Susan Farnsworth, marketing director for the Downtown Business Association, about the weather.

She said the evening’s downtown events are very weather-dependent and Thursday night’s clear weather in the mid-30s was perfect.

Farnsworth said Thursday’s crowd was one of the larger ones. She estimated the crowd at 20,000 people.

City police said Thursday’s crowd was definitely larger than the 2007 streetwalk crowd but could not provide an estimated tally.

“They have been well behaved, no problems,” said Sgt. Michael Welch of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

Broadway was closed to traffic for the streetwalk, giving the crowd a chance to spread out and walk right down the middle of Broadway.

Eric Ryan of Ballston Spa has been dressing up in a Victorian outfit for the past five years for the streetwalk. He and others in Victorian garb provided the event with an old-time feel.

“My fiancée comes every year,” he said. “It’s become tradition.”

Ryan said a seamstress in Clifton Park made his black frock coat from a pattern out of the 1800s.

“I get a kick out of it,” Ryan said. “It’s fun.”

But most of those attending the Victorian Streetwalk were wearing more up-to-date winter coats, hats and gloves.

Anne Ernst of Saratoga Springs was pushing her 2-year-old daughter, Abigail, down Broadway in a stroller.

“We’ve been coming here for six years, since before we had kids,” Ernst said. Her husband and 6-year-old son were with her.

“I really like it; I think it’s great,” Ernst said.

Matt Funigiello, a native of Guilderland who lives in Saratoga Springs, was standing in a long line leading into Adirondack Trust Co.’s main office on Broadway.

Funigiello is a music teacher with the Galway Central School District and had three of his students singing with the Racing City Chorus inside the bank.

He finally squeezed into the packed bank as the chorus, with his students, sang “Silent Night.”

Bank employees were serving free hot cider and holiday cookies.

Out on the newly renovated steps of Saratoga Springs City Hall, the choral group from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Christian Childhood Center was also singing Christmas carols.

Members of the church on Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs were passing out steaming cups of hot chocolate to appreciative members of the crowd.

Colin Schaefer of Ballston Spa, who was working at the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council truck in the Lillian’s restaurant parking lot, said more people were donating food this year than last year.

“It’s a good drive; we are busier than last year,” Schaefer said.

The cans and boxes of nonperishable food go to the EOC’s food pantry on New Street in Saratoga Springs.

The a cappella group Drastic Measures from Skidmore College was singing at Border’s on Broadway to a standing-room-only crowd as Farnsworth talked about the event.

Farnsworth said she starts planning the Downtown Business Association event “very seriously” in September but keeps an eye out for new talent all year long.

She was especially pleased to see so many teenagers at the streetwalk, as well as so many “20-somethings.”

Farnsworth said it costs between $15,000 and $18,000 to stage the annual streetwalk.

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