SCHENECTADY — Shane Mahar's strawberry statement is a simple one.
"It's a free day, everyone can come and enjoy the festivities," Mahar said of this Saturday's annual Upper Union Street Strawberry Festival. "Enjoy the music, enjoy the food, stroll the block, see the unique mom and pop shops that make up Upper Union Street."
The party — which will run between Garner and Palmer avenues — begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
Mahar, vice chairman of the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District and chief operating officer of the Lecce Group, promises plenty of attractions and special events. Union businesses will participate and 50 vendors will make the strawberry scene. Local bands will perform during the morning and afternoon.
"The special thing this year, it's something that's never been done before, we're going to do an official opening ceremony with Mayor [Gary] McCarthy and that's going to be at 11 o'clock in front of the Trustco building at 1620 Union Street," Mahar said.
Two $1,000 scholarships will be awarded to students from Schenectady and Niskayuna high schools.
Luke Splendido, a sixth-grader at Van Antwerp Middle School in Niskayuna, will sing the National Anthem.
"In addition to that, we're honoring businesses on the block who are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year," Mahar said. "Head to Tail, the pet wellness center, is celebrating 10 years, Domani Spa is celebrating 20 years and Gershon's Deli is celebrating 65 years."
Strawberries will be in the red. Berry shakes, fruit crepes and cream cheese will be available for purchase. Kids will find fun spots all over Union: A bounce house will be inflated in the parking lot of Homestyle Pizza; a face painter will color cheeks and chins in front of One Huge Store. Dancers will perform in front of the Dance Me dance studio.
"We'll have pony rides at the intersection of Baker Avenue and Union Street, there's also going to be a balloon artist who will be balloon twisting up and down the block," Mahar said.
Mahar said the idea for the festival came from past BID personnel as a way to attract the community to Upper Union. "It's taken off, it's been successful every year," he said.
The event will be held rain or shine. Mahar expects a good crowd.
"There's always been a strong showing of local vendors," he said, "but this year seems to be the best showing we've had in a number of years."