Family enterprises seem to last a long time in the North Jay Street Neighborhood of Schenectady, but it was never because of any formal and unified business alliance.
Instead, places with names such as Perreca, Ditoro, Garafalo, Cornell and Civitello, have survived for three generations by offering a quality product and reliable service to a loyal and appreciative customer base. Thirteen years ago, however, Maria Papa knew something else was necessary and her neighbors agreed with her. As a result, the Little Italy StreetFest was born.
"Our StreetFest was born at a time when we all felt like our little neighborhood needed a boost," said Papa, owner of MORE Perreca's and Perreca's Bakery. "We were all enjoying business from our diehard regulars, but missing from the mix were younger individuals and families who didn't realize Schenectady was so rich with authentic Italian foods and traditions. That's when we decided to have a festival to highlight the best 'Everything Italian' that Schenectady has to offer."
This year's Little Italy StreetFest, the 12th, will take place Saturday between noon and 9 p.m. Doreen Ditoro, whose family owns and operates Rossi and Ditoro Funeral Home on the corner of North Jay and Union Street, remembers the first meeting of her group, now officially the Little Italy Business Association.
"We wanted to get a business association up and running, so we had a meeting and came up with the idea of a festival," said Ditoro, who credited Maureen Gebhardt, a former city employee, with helping the group gets its first event off the ground. "We thought it'd be a great idea to showcase our businesses and our Italian heritage. Our funeral home has been here 117 years, Perreca's is over 100, Garafalo's is over 100, Civitello's is 96 or 97 years old. Some of the businesses right here on our street are some of the oldest businesses in the city."
While the Little Italy StreetFest is all about the food, there are other things to occupy your time. Along with an Italian Culture Ten, there will be plenty of music on two different stages and a variety of activities for children. This year, the StreetFest is also having a king and queen. Neighborhood residents Floyd and Mary Simone will be the honorees.
"The idea for the king and queen came up because both Floyd and Mary are such prominent individuals in our community," said Papa. "They have supported our neighborhood as friends and customers for over 65 years and Mary's service as a dedicated customer service professional at Price Chopper, Two Guys and The Carl Company have made her synonymous with the hard work ethic that old-school Italians exemplify."
The Simones also make a homemade wine that according to Papa is "fantastic," and it will be available for testing on Saturday. For more information on the StreetFest visit www.littleitalyschdy.com.
Greek food, dancing and more
Before the Little Italy StreetFest begins on Saturday, the 42nd annual St. George Greek Festival will begin it's three-day run Friday night at St. George Greek Orthodox Church next to City Hall. Plenty of Greek food will be available for customers, as well as Greek folk dancing, arts and crafts, church tours and raffles.
"There are many elements which fuse together to define the true Greek life," said the Rev. Demetrios Sean Govostes, the parish priest at St. George. "Food, music, art and our beloved Orthodox Christian faith are the main components of our existence as Greeks and it is an honor to share them with you."
Members of St. George have been working for weeks to prepare for the three-day festival according to Lucy Brady, Parish Council President.
"Excitement is in the air for the 42nd annual St. George Greek Festival," she said. "Parishioners have worked together guided by their love for the church to promote and share Greek culture and heritage. The community is invited to come and see and be Greek for the day by eating Greek food, watching as well as dancing to Greek music, and touring our beautiful church."
Things kick off at 5 p.m. Friday at the church's Hellenic Center at 510 Liberty Street. For more information visit www.saintgeorgegoc.com.
New artists at Stockade Art Show
The Stockade is one of the most picturesque areas of Schenectady. This weekend, well over 100 artists will be lining their works up along Ferry and Front Streets to add to the scenery for the Stockade Villagers' Outdoor Art Show.
The show, now in its 66th year, attracts artists from the greater Capital Region, along with hundreds of art lovers.
According to organizer and artist Steve Kowalski, the show has always had a strong sense of neighborhood. It was started by a few local artists who frequently gathered together at what is now Arthur’s Market in the Stockade.
It’s grown into a full-fledged show, with prizes totaling $1,000 to be awarded this year alone. When Kowalski first became involved in the show over a decade ago, artwork was awarded in a judge's circle of sorts. Artists would have only one or two of their pieces judged. But for the last few years, judges can go to each artist’s booth to view all the works each artist brought.
“It’s really made a difference,” Kowalski said.
This year, Laini Nemett and Frank Rapant of Union College will be awarding prizes named after the founders of the show: Nicholas J. Colangelo, James Gilliland, George Weinheimer, and Ernest A. R. Cohen, among others.
This year the show’s organizers also launched a website for Stockade Artshow, which has helped get other artists interested and registered early. According to Kowalski, around 75 percent of the artists who pre-registered are new to the show.
But the newbies aren’t the only fresh talent.
The Young Artists section also brings in some amazing talent each year. The 18 and under category brings together local students to give them showing experience and a chance to win one of three Young Artists Awards.
“I judged the kids' section last year and their mindsets blew me away,” Kowalski said.
The show runs at the same time as several other festivals in downtown Schenectady so Kowalski said that should make for a packed day in the Stockade.
“It’s all very walkable,” Kowalski said.
To see the show, head to Ferry and Front Streets between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. In case of rain, the show will be rescheduled to Sunday, Sept. 10 from noon to 5 p.m.
To register or for more information visit thestockadeartshow.com.
Native American Festival celebrates culture
The Saratoga Native American Festival returns this weekend after a year's absence to celebrate local Native American culture and history. This year's event will be held Sunday at the National Dance Museum in Saratoga Springs from 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Organized by the Ndakinna Education Center, the event kicks off Sunday morning with an opening address by Mohawk leader Tom Porter, a member of the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs. Demonstrations will run every 30 minutes throughout the day beginning at 10 a.m. The festival also includes storytelling by Perry Ground, a Turtle Clan member of the Onondaga Nation, and Kay Olan, an educator and member of the Mohawk Wolf Clan.
There will also be performances by the Onondaga Dancers, the Black Hawk Singers and flutist Al Cleveland.
Italiafest returns in Amsterdam
Italiafest will be held Saturday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Bridge Street in Amsterdam's Southside. Sponsored by the city of Amsterdam, the event will include a variety of vendors, food and drink, live entertainment and fireworks.
The Joey Thomas Big Band and Music From Your Life will be among the musical performers, while entertainment will also be provided by DJ Louis Velez. Stages will be set up on Florida Avenue and the Veterans Memorial Park.
Other activities will include various amusement rides and bounce houses. Fireworks are scheduled to begin just after dusk.
Many activities at Carrot Festival
The Congregation Agudat Achim Carrot Festival will be held Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., rain or shine.
There will be a variety of food and family-friendly activities at Congregation Agudat Achim, located at 2117 Union Street in Schenectady.
Included in this year's event will be a community service tent, with representatives from 21 non-profit organizations on hand to chat with visitors about their group.
The festival will also conduct its second annual pet adoption clinic with plenty of dogs and cats looking for homes.
Sharon Springs Harvest Festival
The Sharon Springs Harvest Festival will be held at various sites throughout the village of Sharon Springs on Saturday and Sunday.
Activities begin at 9:30 a.m. on both days, with a special musical performance by jazz singer Veronica Klaus at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Roseboro Hotel Ballroom.
While tickets to the Klaus concert are $20, most of the festival is free of charge.
Other events include Chris Ottman demonstrating how to make Cherry Valley Tincicles at Cobbler and
Company throughout the day, while local farmer Jay Lavery, the “Dancing Farmer,” will talk about permaculture and some of his animals friends at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Chalybeate Spring Park Pavillion.
For more information visit www.enjoysharonsprings.com.
Birds of a Feather means music, nature
The Birds of a Feather Music and Nature Festival, featuring musician Sean Rowe, will be held at Grafton Lake State Park Saturday from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Other performers include Sam James, Ian Flanigan, Armies and the Rustic Overtones, while the festival will also offer nature workshops, guided hikes, crafts and food vendors.
All proceeds from the event go to the Berkshire Bird Paradise. For more information visit www.boffest.org.
Tugboat Roundup features mini-tug
The Tugboat Roundup, now in its 17th year, begins on Friday with a Tugboat Parade from the Corning Preserve to Waterford. Participation in the parade grows from the Preserve up. By the time the boats pass under the 120th St. Bridge in Troy, there will be the sound of horns, whistles and a swarm of boats moving north.
A highlight of this year's event will be the appearance of Ben Grudinskas of Norwood, Massachusetts, and the 30-foot miniature Railroad tug that he built in his garage and shop.
Over three days, there will be music, food, displays, boat show, crafts, souvenirs, children's activities and fireworks. There will even be a farmer's market. Visit tugboatroundup.com.
Indiana Nash and Jeffery Haff contributed to this story.