Stoops on Lark Street were coveted Saturday: As soon as one near SOHO Pizza opened up, Danny Mozzillo and Jarred Konik had a chance to sit down, eat some pizza and observe a familiar scene.
Vendors lined the street, cliques formed at corners and heads were bobbing to live music. And despite a restriction on bringing in outside alcohol, the throngs of people walking by appeared just as pie-eyed as they were at last year’s LarkFEST.
“It seems just as big, but it’s probably a little bit cleaner because there’s not as much glass on the ground,” said Mozzillo, 33, of Albany.
If a ban on outside beverages and coolers dampened the spirit at the annual festival along Lark Street, the effect was nominal. People either roamed the street with an official event cup in their hand or arrived already tipsy.
Lark Street bars appeared to do well with the new policy, with lines stretching outside the doors of Café Hollywood, Oh Bar and other establishments.
“They’re insane, absolutely insane,” said Mozzillo of the lines. “I could see that there might be a safety issue with people tripping over coolers and stuff, but this forces us to pay the prices at the bar.”
With a shrug, he and Konik returned to eating their pizza and sipping their event-sanctioned cups of alcohol.
Jennifer Wagner finally made it to her first LarkFEST. It took about a decade for her work schedule to free up for her to attend, and her favorite experience of the all-day block party was the community atmosphere.
“I like to check out everything, soak in the culture, soak in Albany,” she said, a beer in hand and a group of friends who were visiting from Vermont nearby.
The 28-year-old lives right off of Delaware Avenue and disgustedly recalled the “Kegs and Eggs” debacle last year on St. Patrick’s Day, when college parties got so out of hand that a group of students tried to flip a car over.
“This is a little more adult,” she said. “I feel like that incident resulted in these restrictions at street festivals, but it was college students coming in who didn’t really care about the town. We live here and invest money here and pay our taxes here, and we love Albany. It has this great street vibe that is kind of comparable to some things in New York City.”
food, tunes, crafts
In addition to myriad greasy food options, the festival had an eclectic mix of vendors, music and art.
With two hours before the stages were to come down, Josh Cotrona had moved about 100 records at a booth set up outside of his shop. The owner of Fuzz Records, a shop that just opened this summer at the corner of Lark and State streets, had arguably one of the best spots of the whole festival.
A disc jockey nearby was drawing a decent crowd and a small band of street dancers, offering a smaller but funkier setting than the live band stages by Madison and Washington streets.
“I think that’s helping us,” said Cotrona, nodding to a group of dancing women. “The DJ, I mean.”
Albany police milled about the streets, keeping watch for any coolers or outside alcohol. A few officers were spotted dumping out Budweisers, but overall the crowd seemed to abide by the new policy.
The only hindrance to the new policy were the nearby bodegas that sold beer to people who were heading to the festival, said Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff.
“I feel it’s been a great success,” he said. “We’ve had an issue with some of the smaller convenience stores because they are allowed to sell alcohol, but we’re asking them to work with us if they can and make sure they tell people when they leave that they can’t open it on the street. We’re being very subjective about how we enforce things today.”
Krokoff had yet to see any coolers by 4 p.m. Saturday, and he hadn’t heard from officers that anybody had even tried to bring them in. Crowds moved more easily along the sidewalks without the coolers blocking the way, he said, so people weren’t bumping into each other as much or getting angry.
Kerry Todd and Danielle Lagoy didn’t come for the alcohol. They heard about this year’s LarkFEST on a friend’s Twitter account and decided to drive down from Hudson Valley Community College for the atmosphere, music and shops.
Along the way, they spotted a mob of people dancing — but heard no music. The Silent Disco lot is a LarkFEST favorite among younger crowds.
“I was wondering why there was no music playing,” said Todd, as she noticed the headphones everyone wore. “That’s awesome.”