Ever since Schenectady SummerNight made its debut in July of 2006, the idea has been to offer plenty of everything for everybody.
That continues to be the case as the popular event returns Friday night to downtown Schenectady, offering visitors live music, food, beer and other options for entertainment. For younger visitors, always a key part of the festivities, the MVP Health Care Kids Corner is back, as is sand sculpture artist Phil Singer of Amsterdam.
For the past five summers, Singer has been one of the top attractions for young and old, and after molding his sand and water into Wonder Woman last year, this Friday he'll be producing an image of the "Star Wars" character Chewbacca.
"I'll probably get there around 8 a.m. The sand will be coming in around that time, and as soon as I get the sand I'll start packing it," said Singer, a Northville native who usually works on his sculpture on State Street right outside Proctors. "Sunmark is sponsoring it and they wanted a 'Star Wars' theme, so I thought Chewbacca would be a good one for the kids. I'll probably do him from the waist up."
Singer said his sand sculptures make up about 20 percent of his business.
"I do caricatures for parties and events, and I also do makeup for the Great Escape," said Singer. "For this event, I'll probably be working on the sculpture most of the day. I'll probably be there working on it until about an hour before dark."
Outside his home in Amsterdam, Singer has a sand sculpture of Batman and one of his nemesis, the Joker.
"Batman is punching the Joker, and I've had it up for about a month now," said Singer. "This year I've also done a sculpture at the Fort Plain festival and I'm going to be at the Fonda Fair later this year. Between the sand sculptures, the caricatures and my work at the Great Escape, those three things keep me going. They make it my full-time business."
Another feature of this year's SummerNight will be a poster contest put together by organizers of the Kids Art Festival held the first weekend in June in downtown Schenectady. Erin MacFarlane was the adult winner, Hayden Roe of Colonie won the teenage division and April Burke of Rotterdam was the 12-and-under champ. Those three images will be among six hanging in the Kids Art Fest tent on State Street Friday night near Proctors. The SummerNight crowd will choose a People's Choice winner. MacFarlane's painting was that of a spectrum of colors coming out of a paintbrush.
"I like art and have dabbled in it quite a bit since my aunt inspired me," said MacFarlane, a Rotterdam resident who has brought her own nieces and nephews to the Kids Art Fest for years. "I'm trying to inspire them like my aunt inspired me."
This year's SummerNight will also include music by the Grammy-nominated group the Spin Doctors at 8:30 p.m., as well as the fourth annual Schenectady County Celebrity Cannoli Eating Contest. A fireworks display at 9:45 p.m. will close out the evening.
"For our first SummerNight we had to go out and bring in every vendor," said Joe McQueen, spokesman for Schenectady County. "The growth of this event has been amazing. There was nothing downtown 13 years ago, and that's why we started doing this. Now we have a vibrant downtown, with pretty much every storefront in use, and that's what this event has meant to our economic development in Schenectady County. Now our event just adds to all the activity downtown by bringing more people here to see what it has to offer."
WHERE: Downtown Schenectady
WHEN: 5-10 p.m. Friday
HOW MUCH: Free admission
MORE INFO: Visit www.schenectadycounty.com