Downtown Schenectady is abuzz this weekend with a blend of cultures, crafts and foods, as several late summer festivals get underway.
Arguably the city’s busiest weekend of the year comes to a head Saturday, when the Little Italy Festival, the Greek Festival, the Stockade Art Show and other events run concurrently. In addition to the annual events, this year features a drive electric event and a wellness fair on Saturday, and a free live concert that took place Friday night.
“It sounds sort of cliché, but there really is something for everyone,” said Jim Salengo, executive director of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp.
The events are all within walking distance of each other, giving attendees the chance to frequent each festivity and explore the rest of downtown, Salengo said. This weekend also serves as a way to engage residents and visitors with some of the positive developments happening in the city.
“The nice thing about downtown is there’s ample public parking, so the one thing I’d encourage people to do is not try to drive from place to place,” Salengo said. “If you find a good parking space, you can just take the time to walk from thing to thing.”
Montana Coppola, 14, of Rotterdam, left, Nina Kingra, 13, of Niskayuna, and Stavroula Avramidis, of Schenectady, dance at Friday's 42nd annual St. George Greek Orthodox Church Festival in Schenectady. (Jeff Wilkin)
In addition, as part of Saturday’s National Drive Electric Week event in the city, an electric shuttle bus will make a loop through downtown to transport people between festivals.
Shuttle stops are at City Hall, the Broadway parking garage and in the Stockade at the intersection of Union and Church streets. The bus will stop at each location roughly every 30 minutes, on the half-hour.
Salengo said weekends like this one illustrate how having multiple events running simultaneously can benefit for each one, as it draws more people downtown than a single event might draw by itself.
“You get people out and about on the street, walking from event to event and understanding how much downtown has changed for the better,” he said.
Here’s a look at all that’s happening in Schenectady this weekend, and where to find it:
LITTLE ITALY STREETFEST:
North Jay Street will be bustling with bodies Saturday for the city’s 12th annual Little Italy StreetFest.
The event will feature plenty of food, an Italian culture tent, shopping and live performances. New this year: A king and queen of the fest will be crowed.
While there will be some new vendors offering food and goods for sale, the StreetFest highlights the family establishments that have been mainstays downtown. Perreca’s, Cornell’s, Civitello’s and others are hallmarks of the streetscape and will be present on Saturday.
“We thought it’d be a great idea to showcase our businesses and our Italian heritage,” said Doreen Ditoro, whose family owns and operates Rossi and Ditoro Funeral Home.
When: Saturday, noon-9 p.m.
Where: North Jay Street
Morgan Gazetos of Ballston Spa stirs a pot of Greek-style green beans at Friday's 42nd annual St. George Greek Orthodox Church Festival in Schenectady.
ST. GEORGE GREEK FESTIVAL:
While Saturday is the day people may have to split their time across different events, the St. George Greek Festival will draw visitors downtown all weekend.
The Greek Orthodox Church next to City Hall will host the 42nd annual festival featuring Greek food, folk dancing, arts and crafts, church tours and raffles. The event puts on display many key components of Greek life and culture, Rev. Demetrios Sean Govostes said.
The three-day festival kicked off on Friday. It continues until 11 p.m. and keeps the same hours on Saturday, concluding on Sunday, when attendees can stop by from noon until 5 p.m.
When: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Where: 107 Clinton St.
OUTDOOR ART SHOW:
The longest-running event among this weekend’s festivals and celebrations, the Stockade Villagers’ Outdoor Art Show is in its 66th year.
The neighborhood will host more than 100 artists lining their works up along Ferry and Front streets Saturday afternoon. Roughly 75 percent of the participating artists are new to the show this year, according to organizers.
The event was begun by a handful of local artists and has grown into a broader celebration of artists young and old.
In case of rain, the show will be rescheduled to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
When: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Front and Ferry streets in the Stockade
The Congregation Agudat Achim Carrot Festival will take place Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., rain or shine.
What started as a fundraiser to help the synagogue repave its parking lot is now in its 39th year. The event features carrot-infused food offerings, crafts, a community service tent and a pet adoption clinic.
When: Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Where: Congregation Agudat Achim, 2117 Union St.
DRIVE ELECTRIC; WELLNESS FAIR:
While they don’t boast the same cultural delicacies or artistic flair as the weekend’s other festivities, a pair of events will take place around City Hall on Saturday.
The city is hosting the state’s largest National Drive Electric Week event, which will open to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event aims to promote the use of electric vehicles and will offer visitors a chance to test drive some of the machines and learn more about state initiatives.
A free electric bus shuttle will loop through downtown throughout the afternoon, giving attendees a chance to check out each of the other festivals happening simultaneously.
While all this is happening, the city will host a community health and wellness fair from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. outside City Hall, rain or shine. There will be free vision exams, vendors from various healthcare providers and nutrition information, among other things.
Other attractions include music and dancing, free face painting and a children’s bicycle giveaway.
When: Saturday from roughly 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: City Hall, 105 Jay St.
JAMMIN’ ON JAY:
Spawned in part by an appearance by The Lords of 52nd Street in June, music lovers enjoyed the new Jammin’ on Jay concert series that began Friday.
Schenectady County and the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp. partnered to offer this new, free, live concert series along the Jay Street Marketplace. For the next wo Fridays, local bands will perform beginning at 5:30 p.m., concluding on Sept. 22 with the Battle of the Bands competition.
The concert series served as a kick-off to the numerous downtown festivities happening this weekend, said Improvement Corp. Executive Director Jim Salengo.