Abby Jones and her friends dipped into cool serenity at the Empire State Plaza on Thursday — by dipping their toes into a Plaza reflective pool.
“This helps cool us down,” said Jones, 22, who lives in Albany. “Why aren’t more people doing this? Maybe we’ll start a trend.”
Jones was among the thousands of people who visited downtown Albany’s chief gathering spot for the annual Fourth of July food and fireworks celebration. Hot, humid and occasionally breezy during the afternoon hours, people found ways to keep cool as they waited for the traditional rockets and racket at dusk.
“Having a cool beverage also helps,” said Jones, cup of beer in hand. “That’s what helps the most, I think.”
Some agreed — others did not. Mark Jamerson, who recently moved from Baltimore to Albany with his family, treated wife Ketia and daughter Meadow to cups of fresh-squeezed lemonade. “It’s not too hot, but you definitely have to have something to drink,” Jamerson said.
Medical technicians from the Albany Fire Department were on the watch for people having trouble with the 90-degree temperatures. At 5 p.m., they weren’t too busy.
“We’ve treated two people who did have heat-related concerns,” said Battalion Chief Mike Burns. “The breeze is making a big difference. Those in the sun are getting the full brunt, so we expect to treat a lot of people. We had 40 last year.”
Burns also said the state Office of General Service’s recent decision to ban personal coolers at all Plaza events was making the medical crew’s job easier. “When you get 50,000 people able to carry coolers of beer in, you’re going to have concerns,” he said.
State police said there had been no problems enforcing the new rule. A few people were told their coolers were not permitted. “Nobody’s giving anybody a hard time,” one trooper said.
Hard times didn’t seem to be on anyone’s agenda.
“It’s a beautiful day, and second of all, this breeze is just wonderful,” said Doug Villano of Schenectady. “Everybody seems to be in a good mood.”
People staked out spots around the Plaza when grounds opened at 3 p.m. Grilled sausages with peppers and onions, pizza, cotton candy, fried dough and ice cream were on vendors’ picnic menus.
Julie Hallgren of Albany, part of a 10-person contingent of family and friends, found a spot in the shadow of one of the Plaza buildings — just behind a barricade that gave her one of the best vantage spots for fireworks.
“We try to get in the shade and get as close as we can,” Hallgren said. “Last year, we went to the ones in Boston and you had to get there at 9 a.m. We sat in the sun all day. I don’t think we’ll do that again. I think these fireworks are better than the ones in Boston.”
Some people were happy to soak up the sun. Carol Manziello of Cohoes sat in the ninth row of the cement “bleachers” in the front of the Plaza, happy to pass the day in a long, blue and green sun dress. “It is more mellow this year,” Manziello said, as she listened to the bouncy, brassy Jazz Knights of West Point. “Starting off with jazz isn’t a bad thing.”
Some decided that staying cool started with looking cool. Chelsea Orsini of Troy drew and painted an American flag on her face. “I’m a makeup artist, I was just having fun,” said Orsini, who also wore a blue blouse, white shorts and light red sweater. “I’m Canadian, so I do the Canadian flag for Canada Day.”
She didn’t receive many comments for her work. “People are just looking,” she said.