There was plenty of room to stroll — or even play a game of Frisbee — through the middle of SummerNight on Friday.
With the thermometer hovering just under 100 degrees, the crowd at Schenectady County’s street festival was noticeably thin. Nonetheless, there were more than 100 people on the street at any given time, and the benefit of being among those few was that there was rarely a line for anything — even ice cream.
The crowd grew considerably after the sun went down as older teens waited for the fireworks. But just as the fireworks began, a line of thunderstorms rolled in. Lightning could be seen in the clouds, and police began to urge people to leave.
Throughout the early evening, a few festival-goers had to seek refuge in a Mohawk Ambulance to cool down, and at least one person was transported to the hospital with heat exhaustion. The rest, however, were delighted to have the festival to themselves.
“I’m cool, actually,” said Kandi McFarland of Schenectady. “I’m from the South, so I’m used to it.”
Jane Russell of Glenville carried with her a small, handmade fan that said, “Jane is hot.” But she wasn’t complaining.
“It means I just did spin class before I came here,” she said. “I like it hot. It’s better to be hot than rainy. Can’t be hot enough.”
She added that she wouldn’t miss the festival for any weather.
“This is an awesome event,” she said.
The heat didn’t stop dozens of children from performing in the annual Pai’s Tae Kwon Do show. As parents clutched water bottles and alternated between worry and pride, students broke boards in flying side kicks.
None of them complained about the heat — but they eagerly guzzled down water between acts.
“This is the first time it has been this hot for this,” said John Burrows, 16, of Schenectady, a third-degree black belt. “It’s extremely tiring.”
But he didn’t mind.
“I can really show people what I can do,” he said after demonstrating staffs and nunchuks.
His mother, Sandie Burrows, was mindful of the heat.
“We were worried, but we got the water,” she said.
She cheered as her son encouraged younger students to break boards. She enrolled him 10 years ago, after his father died, because she wanted him to have a positive male role model.
“And he has,” she said.
The school isn’t just for boys. One of the children Burrows encouraged to break boards in increasingly difficult ways was Teffanie Premchan, 12, of Schenectady. She was asked to leap over three other children and break a board with her foot.
“It’s awesome,” she said of her “flying sidekick” classes. “I never knew I could do flying sidekicks over all those people. To me it feels like I’m flying.”
The festival also featured strolling entertainers, a puppet show, a huge sand carving of the nearby Zoppé Family Circus tent, live bands and crafts. There were plenty of food trucks, and no one had to wait for a seat at one of the outdoor tables.
But those working inside the metal trucks were suffering. Between the generators that powered their freezers and the heat from their grills, it was well more than 100 degrees inside. And they had no air conditioning.
“We have fans,” said Angelina Crisafuli, who was serving up ice cream.
The heat didn’t stop her, but she suspected it was keeping the crowd away.
“Definitely the heat. People are in a pool somewhere,” she said.
But just before the fireworks began, residents crowded in.
T.T. Braeley of Schenectady said she waited for the heat to drop.
“My baby couldn’t be outside earlier,” she explained.
Others said they wished they’d come earlier, despite the heat.
“We just found out about this, actually,” said Megan Ritchey, 19, of Schenectady. “I’m a big fireworks person, and we wanted to come before everything closed before the fireworks.”