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Initial stroll: Few people, big promise

Initial stroll: Few people, big promise

The unpronounceable new event downtown fizzled Friday, with few people strolling the city streets an

The unpronounceable new event downtown fizzled Friday, with few people strolling the city streets and no one joining the dance party on Jay Street.

But those who came said they believed Passeggiata would take off in time.

“I think it’s a good idea, and I like it,” said city Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who was surprised to find there was plenty of parking and few strollers in sight when she arrived.

Organizers planned the event as an after-dinner stroll, modeled on (and named after) the traditional evening stroll in Italy. The goal was to get residents to mingle and wander through the ever-expanding downtown.

Themed events will be offered on the third Friday of every month, with the next theme being an international night. For the first event, Friday’s theme was to welcome college students.

But most businesses didn’t plan themed activities to draw in strollers, offering only discounts and the occasional arts performance.

Leesa Perazzo, a Proctors spokeswoman, said she believed the event would do better as people come to expect it every month.

“It’s the first month out of the box,” she said. “Considering we turned on a dime to plan it, I was very pleased.”

The only event that drew interest was the Wing Walk, a $5 event hosted by 11 restaurants competing for the title of best wing-maker. College students and some adults showed up in small groups to taste-test wings.

At Nico’s Pizza, the chef seemed to be enjoying the event more than the customers.

“Try the Jack Daniels,” head chef Colton Cappiello urged Wing Walkers, pointing to a marinated wing. “I personally made the sauce myself, blended it overnight, and grilled it.”

He also offered garlic wings, but when a customer picked that wing, he shook his head.

“Bad choice,” he said. “You should’ve picked the Jack Daniels.”

For the competition, each restaurant could offer just one wing per customer, so his customers had to choose. But for Cappiello, the point wasn’t winning the competition. It was getting new customers in the door.

He didn’t mind that only 95 people had participated in the contest in its first two hours.

“I love it. It’s great advertising,” he said. “It gets the kids out. Not only am I seeing college kids, I’m also seeing the community.”

Many of those customers hadn’t been in Nico’s for years. They were pleasantly surprised to see the business is no longer in a crumbling building.

“We had it redone four years ago,” Cappiello said proudly when Geri Grace said she hadn’t expected such a beautiful pizza parlor.

Grace took Cappiello’s advice and tried the Jack Daniels wing.

“It’s really good,” she said, before adding that she tried to convince her friends to come out for the stroll. All of them claimed other plans.

“It’s Friday night. I’m not staying at home by myself,” she declared. “I’m going to do something different because life is too short.”

Michele Blakely brought her entire extended family for the stroll “to support Schenectady. More things should keep the community going and strong.”

There wasn’t much evidence of community, but college students enjoyed the event.

“It’s a very interesting concept,” said Schenectady County Community College student James Vega. “It’s not every day restaurants are like, ‘All right, we’re going to do a wings contest.’ ”

A group of Union College students added that it was a nice night — windy but not too cold for exploring their town.

“It’s a great time to go out,” said sophomore Robert Johnson, “go out and see more of the town.”

Of course, Vega said, there was a guaranteed way to bring in a bigger crowd.

“A beer walk,” he said. “That would be great.”

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