SARATOGA SPRINGS — Businesses along Broadway were bustling with shoppers on Thursday night for the 31st annual Victorian Streetwalk.
Maddy Zanetti, president of the Saratoga Downtown Business Association, which hosts the event, said many stores treat the Victorian Streetwalk as an open house and offer food and drinks as well as special promotions to customers.
"This time of year, Thursdays aren't typically very busy, because it's cold, so it's so much busier during the event," she said. "People come from out of town and stay throughout the weekend."
Zanetti, who is also a co-owner of Impressions of Saratoga on Broadway, said her store has a steady stream of shoppers throughout the evening.
"We have lines of people coming in and out," she said. "It kicks off the holiday season and it's a tradition that many people look forward to."
Zanetti added, "It reminds people about all of the things they can do downtown."
Saratoga Olive Oil Co. was also filled with patrons on Thursday evening who took advantage of the discounts and stocking stuffers the Broadway store was offering.
Manager Andrew Mitchell said the event is an opportunity for the community to get into the holiday spirit.
"The last five years that I've lived here, I've seen it get bigger and more people come out," he said. "It's a great way to build the community."
Mitchell added that the store sees an influx of new customers.
"People visiting from out of town stop in, so we see a lot of new people," he said. "It's a great way to get people downtown and helps them get into the Christmas mood."
Before Broadway flooded with people, the Saratoga Springs Police Department used Department of Public Works (DPW) and police vehicles to block off side streets from Van Dam to Spring streets.
“It’s an enhanced initiative; we’re adding to the security measures every year,” said Andrew Prestigiacomo of the Traffic Safety Unit. “There’s no credible threat, we’re just changing with the times.”
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said the Police Department started placing vehicles on the side streets in the city during the All-American Celebration over July 4 weekend.
“New and enhanced security that you have to do with any festival that involves a ton of people that are standing potentially in harms way,” he said. “You hate to think of Broadway in that respect, but based on what’s going on in the world, you have to take every precaution.”
Shimkus added, “Thankfully, the police and DPW have enough vehicles for our small city to be able to take care of us.”
Linda Ambrosino, owner of G. Willikers Toys on Broadway, said the Victorian Streetwalk initially began as a way to pay tribute to the community.
"It started as a thank you to the community for supporting the downtown," she said. "I hope everyone gets a sense of community and sees how much we as business people appreciate that downtown survives not only because of us, but because of the entire community."
Though Ambrosino said the event doesn't necessarily bring about more sales, it does have residual effects.
"It allows people to bring their children in to see if they're interested in something," she said. "We have a lot of people who ask us to hold things for them and come back another time."
Ambrosino said the event serves as a reminder about what downtown has for visitors and locals alike.
"They're able to go to a restaurant and visit owner-operated stores, which is something you don't see much anymore," she said. "I hope new people who have never been downtown get a sense of what we offer."