AMSTERDAM - You could say Amsterdam's St. Paddy's Day Pub Fest benefitted from the luck of the Irish Saturday, as stiff winds, snow flurries and dropping temperatures did little to dampen enthusiasm.
Michele Pawlik, Amsterdam's tourism and recreation assistant, said the event has grown from its first edition in 2018 —when it was called a "pub crawl" — to now being one of city's "festival themed" events, organized by Tourism, Marketing and Recreation Department. Other city festivals have included Soupfest on Jan. 25 and the upcoming Wingfest on April 20.
"We're becoming fest-city," Pawlik said. "All of our events are keeping with the festival theme."
On Saturday, 21 locations, including bars, restaurants and community venues, took part in the St. Paddy's Day Pub Fest from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Stamp cards were available at each spot, and 10 stamps submitted to the Irish American Club by 8 p.m. enabled participants to enter into a raffle for prizes.
Cousins Rick and Wayne Wawrzonek, members of the board of directors of St. Michael's Club, said Pub Fest has been a boon to the bar operated by their fraternal organization.
"The bar's been here for 82 years and the society for 127 years. We've had people come in for this who said they had no idea we were here," Rick Wawrzonek said.
St. Michael's offered a mix of traditional Irish American food, including corn beef, macaroni and cheese and meatballs, as well as Irish themed T-shirts, bracelets and necklaces.
At Truman's Restaurant, Peggy Szyjkowski, whose husband owns the business, said she believes the city-sponsored festival has helped increase St. Patrick's Day business at all of the participating bars.
"The trolly and the buses going around are excellent," Szyjkowski said.
The city sponsored a free trolly and shuttle service with three vehicles for the St. Paddy's Day Pub Fest, with one of the shuttles provided by The Sentinel of Amsterdam assisted living facility.
Jackson Hewitt sponsored the festival, helping to pay for the marketing materials for the event.
Stephanie Pelcher said she attended the event with a group of friends two years in a row, and she believes it has been successful attracting people to Amsterdam and gaining a new perspective on the once downtrodden mill town..
"I think it's encouraged more people to come out and get involved in the community," Pelcher said.
City resident Christopher Carpenter said he believes the colder weather may have influenced turn out.
"We'll probably just hit three or four places. For me it's about being out with people from the city, and getting to see people I haven't seen in a long time," Carpenter said.
Pawlik said the goal of the city-festivals is to reintroduce city residents to the recreation opportunities locally available to them, while marketing the city to people throughout the region.
"We want to keep people right here," she said.
The city's Tourism, Marketing and Recreation Department recently lost Danielle Whelly, assistant director of recreation, who took a job with StickerMule. Whelly had been one of the spearheads behind the expansion of city events organized by the recreation department.
Pawlik said there may be some shuffling of positions with Whelly out, but she expects her department will hire another employee, giving them a team of three, including Recreation Director Robert Spagnola.
Pawlik said she's excited to see what the turn out will be for Wingfest, which already has 20 bars and restaurants registered to participate, showing off their chicken wing recipes, which will be judged by participants in various categories, including hottest wing.