SCHENECTADY - The 13th annual Schenectady County Summer Night, on Friday the 13th?
Maybe the combination is lucky. You couldn't beat the weather for the city's biggest party of the year.
On an evening with perfect sunshine, thousands of people again jammed into a few blocks of downtown State Street for an annual festival that had two stages of music and was headlined by the Grammy-nominated rock band Spin Doctors. Jazz, meanwhile, played on the Jay Street pedestrian mall.
Last year, when Grammy-winners Blues Traveller headlined, Summer Night drew an estimated 20,000 people. This year, indications early in the evening were that this year's crowd might come close to that. As the sun sank, people continued to stream into downtown and few were leaving.
A diverse crowd walked the streets sampling foods from sliders to maple cotton candy. The ViaPort Aquarium tent featured two young women in mermaid costumes to the wonder of small children -- and maybe a few men. Others took the annual malted beverage challenge, sampling and comparing ales produced by three local craft brewers: Wolf Hollow, Mad Jack and Great Flats.
There were also opportunities to dunk a police officer -- three tosses for five bucks -- and help judge a student art contest.
"It's really the biggest event of the year," said Mayor Gary McCarthy, who walked through the crowd in a casual polo shirt.
The mayor said the weather is always a big factor, and early in the evening, the crowd struck him as being comparable to or larger that 2017's.
For the event, State Street between Broadway and Barrett Street was closed to traffic, with the main stage mounted -- literally -- around the State-Barrett traffic light, and a second stage for musical acts at the Broadway end.
In recognition of the potential vulnerability of large crowds, Schenectady city garbage trucks were used to block off Clinton, Jay, and the side streets leading into State -- something that started last year, though it was expanded this year. There was also a significant presence of uniformed police and other security throughout the event.
McCarthy wouldn't comment on the details of security, but said the event was "adequately staffed."
"We want people to have a good time, and to feel secure," McCarthy said.
County spokesman Joe McQueen said the garbage trucks serve double-duty, since once Summer Night ends with a late-evening fireworks display and the crowd disperses, the trucks can be used to haul away the night's refuse.
'We used to have to have dumpsters," McQueen said.
McQueen said county public safety officials and state police are also involved behind the scenes with security arrangements.
"When state police came in last year, that's when we really decided we had to (block roads), given the times we live in," he said.
McQueen said the event has grown since last year, with additional on-street food vendors and the first year for a rock-climbing wall.
"We've had to turn people away," he said.
County Legislator Cathy Gatta, who chairs the county's Tourism, Arts and Special Events Committee, attributed the success of the event to county Director of Special Events Jason LeCuyer, who negotiated with the bands. The level of musical attraction was stepped up four years ago when former New York Yankee Bernie Williams performed. Subsequent years brought the Gin Blossoms and Blues Traveller.
"Ever since we brought on Jason, he's brought it to a level we never thought we'd get to," Gatta said.
It was also the fourth year for a Villa Italian celebrity cannoli-eating contest won last year by state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who beforehand described the process as "messy."