Prime real estate was in high demand on Saturday at the Victoria Pool, which opened weeks early this season because of warm weather.
There was not a spare chair or umbrella around the pool, with the area filled to its maximum capacity of 336 people in the early afternoon. Troy resident Lauren Hittinger and her boyfriend were able to secure one of the best spots around the pool — two lounge chairs with an umbrella — by arriving about 15 minutes before its 10 a.m. opening.
They weren’t the only ones arriving early. Hittinger said a crowd was already assembled outside the arched entry when they arrived. “I don’t know when the first person got here,” she said.
Hittinger, who wore a wide-brimmed floppy hat and a bikini, said the alternative to being at the side of the pool was sweating in her apartment.
The alternative for Burnt Hills resident Mike Clark, 24, was his family pool, but the almost 70-year-old Victoria Pool was calling his name. He said the pool was a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy a drink.
“I’m pretty excited to be here. It’s been a long winter,” Clark said.
The pool is a beloved feature of the Saratoga Spa State Park, offering a more relaxed venue than the Peerless Pool, which is more family oriented. Evidence of the pool’s special place in people’s hearts is the Save the Victoria Pool Society, an advocacy group for the pool.
Louise Goldstein, co-founder of the society and a fixture around the pool during the summer, was on hand for the opening day. She went out of her way to praise Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Parks Department for the early opening of the pool.
The pool’s opening received a lot of local news coverage on Friday, when it was announced. That sort of publicity runs slightly counter to the wishes of the pool’s regulars, who like their summer home to be a hidden gem.
David Pallas, a bartender in his third year at the pool, said, “[The Victoria Pool is] not a secret, but people want it to be secret.”
He said there is a sense of nostalgia about the pool and noted that he sees a lot of familiar faces from his spot at the bar, which is a busy setup about 25 feet from one corner of the pool.
Part of the reason the pool remains less well-known is the lack of obvious signs that it exists, tucked behind a columned pavilion. Ed Reutemann of Clifton Park golfed for years at the adjacent course before learning about the pool’s existence about a year ago. Now he plays a round of golf in the morning and enjoys the pool area in the afternoon, which he did on Saturday, perched on a stool at the bar.
“If you don’t know where it is, you can’t find it,” Reutemann said.
Taking in the attendance for opening day, he added, “The crowd is unbelievable for this time in the season.”
The crowd was so big that a line formed outside the entrance as people waited for others to leave.
The pool is open today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be open the same time for the next two weekends. Starting June 22, the pool will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.