Broadway was wall-to-wall with smiling, strolling people Thursday night during the 26th annual Victorian Streetwalk.
The weather was perfect for a late fall evening: 35 degrees with the moon peeking out from behind high clouds.
Live music, people in Victorian-era clothing, free hot chocolate and cookies, several santas, face painting, caroling and dancing troupes brought out a large crowd, estimated at between 15,000 to more than 20,000.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Cindy Barbuti of Tribes Hill.
“We had a little trouble parking,” Bob Barbuti said.
This was the Barbutis’ first Streetwalk and they were impressed, especially by the ice sculptures in the middle of Broadway.
Charles Jones, The Ice Man, was back again with a variety of 200-pound ice sculptures. He encourages children to touch his artwork and have their pictures taken with the ice angel.
The Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, the event sponsors, decided to close off Broadway between Van Dam and Spring Street to vehicular traffic six or seven years ago and this has increased the popularity of the event substantially, said Susan Farnsworth, who coordinates events for the DBA.
“Some people are saying there are more people this year than they have ever seen,” Farnsworth said. She estimated more than 20,000 attended. Police estimates were closer to 15,000.
“It’s hard because we can’t count the cars,” Farnsworth said.
For the past several years the Streetwalk has been blessed with mild weather and little or no snow or rain. “I have a weather fairy,” Farnsworth joked.
The Saratoga Abundant Life Church choir had a large crowd around them as they sang in front of the Saratoga Springs City Center. They sang traditional holiday songs including Silent Night and had the crowd stomping their feet and singing along to “Joy to the World.”
In the background, hundreds of decorated Christmas trees glistened behind the large windows of the City Center, where Catholic Charities has its Festival of Trees each year.
At the other end of Broadway The Skidmore College “Accents,” an a capella group, crooned songs to the delight of those standing in front of Impressions at 368 Broadway.
Al and Nicole Zumpano attended their second Streetwalk with their parents and their 15-month-old daughter, Tessa.
“We are making it an annual tradition,” said Zumpano, who moved from Malta to Saratoga Springs this year. The Zumpanos also had their family photo taken at the Victorian Photo Booth set up on the east side of Broadway.
National Grid workers were passing out free windshield ice scrapers and a group of young people were passing out cookies.
“We started doing this last year,” said Tyler O’Connor of Greenfield. He and his friends decided they wanted to do “something good,” and this year they baked more cookies than last year.
Heather Freitag of South Glens Falls said she and her friends baked 60 dozen chocolate chip cookies and dozens of cupcakes. The cupcakes went fast. The friends, in their 20s, said they are not associated with any church or other organization.
Rob Ward of the Saratoga 150 Committee had a table set up in front of Adirondack Trust Co. to promote the 150th anniversary (1863-2013) of thoroughbred horse racing in Saratoga Springs next year.
He pointed to a beautifully restored Chrysler sedan parked nearby. He said the car with large tail fins was in a parade celebrating the 100th anniversary of racing and will also be in the 2013 parade.
Joseph Paviglianiti of Malta, an unofficial Streetwalk santa, has been coming to the event since 2003, giving children candy canes and listening to their wishes. Sometimes his wife joins him as Mrs. Santa but not this year.
“I do it for free,” Paviglianiti said.
There were other santas, including the saxophone playing Santa seen at the event for years.
Kelly Lephart and her children, Riley, 6, and Chloe, 8, all from Niskayuna, were enjoying their first streetwalk.
“It’s great weather,” Kelly said after Riley and Chloe chatted with santa.
“This is very fun and exciting.”