SCHENECTADY — Thousands flooded State Street on Friday afternoon to celebrate the summer, sand sculpting and, of course, a free show from the Grammy-nominated, meme-generating group Smash Mouth.
Schenectady County’s yearly block party, Summer Night 2019, kicked off at 5 p.m. and wrapped up at 10 p.m., featuring music from seven groups across three stages, a demonstration from a Tae Kwan Do academy — broken wooden boards included — and food trucks galore lining up the street.
The action kicked off at 5:15 p.m. and the crowd gathered to check out rock group Honey Suckle Vine at the EQX Stage. A massive rock climbing wall, sponsored by Climb Time, stood just to the right of the blues group’s stage. Some who dared to climb were successful in working up to the top.
Ahmed Ibrahim of Schenectady managed to scale the 50-foot wall in about 20 seconds, wearing not athletic shoes, but rather a pair of black Old Skool Vans.
“It’s honestly groundbreaking technique,” Ibrahim joked. “I almost lost it, and then I started again and got to the top.”
Ibrahim only came to the event with a few friends because they mentioned the iconic ‘00s band Smash Mouth would be playing, but he still took full advantage of the activities lined up for the rest of the day.
“They said Smash Mouth, and I was like, ‘I have to go hear the soundtrack for Shrek live,’” Ibrahim said.
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Fireworks explode behind City Hall at the 2019 Summer Nite in Schenectady Friday, July 12, 2019.
He did. But before that, he and other attendees got a chance to check out sand sculpting by Phil Singer, which highlighted another animation classic.
Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear “Toy Story” sand sculptures caught the attention of passers-by as Singer kept making final touches to his creation throughout the evening, starting at 9 a.m. Children and parents alike stood around the detailed sculpture, staring in amazement, with some going up to Singer and complimenting his work.
Schenectady resident Ayla Kancirok was glad Summer Night fell on the same night as a volunteer-honoring Proctors event that she was scheduled to attend.
Before arriving at Proctors, she took a quick look at Woody and Buzz out front. She said it came at the right time given the release of “Toy Story 4.” She was glad it managed to include a throwback from the original film, the Etch-A-Sketch.
“From being here for previous sculptures, I have to say that this sculpture is probably my favorite one,” Kancirok said. “Having the Etch-A-Sketch from the first movie draws in people who saw the movie when it first came out, to kids now.”
Kancirok was excited to leave her event at Proctors to see the sculpture’s development later in the night.
But while Woody and Buzz saw attendee’s stopping for a couple minutes to take pictures, a demonstration by Pai’s Academy Tae Kwan Do students captured the attention of those looking for Instagram-worthy videos.
Students were seen in front of the EQX Stage around 6:45, participating in impressive choreography, jumping on the backs of their peers, and kicking through wooden boards.
PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Malieck Rowe, 5, of Schenectady plays in bubbles at the 2019 Summer Night on State Street Friday, July 12, 2019.
Although some pieces of the boards flew toward the audience’s direction, the crowd was incredibly receptive to the well-trained athletes, cheering them on and ducking when necessary.
“The choreography of it, it was mostly my students just being on point,” said instructor Brandon Brijlall. “And I’ve said to them time and time again, I’m working with one of the most gifted groups of athletes I’ve ever had the honor of training.”
Brijlall said being able to perform at an event like Summer Night and a crowd of thousands makes his role feel a bit more fulfilling.
“The crowd was amazing,” Brijlall said. “They give us our energy and they’re the reason we perform the way we do.”
Around 7:30 p.m., as 2017 Summer Night Battle of the Bands winner Bendt played through its set, audience members started heavily crowding around the Main Stage. Most had already filled up spots in the front of the barricades to catch a glimpse of Smash Mouth an hour in advance.
Through their set, Bendt members jammed out and prepared the crowd for their upcoming album. Track “Symptoms” won over the diverse audience, which was strangely shooting around styrofoam rocket launcher toys (giveaways from the night). But the high-energy guitar riff and raspy-vocal-fueled chorus proved to be just as soaring.
As the clock struck 8:30 p.m., crowd members were eagerly anticipating the night’s main act Smash Mouth and its “Shrek”-centric catalog.
They weren’t disappointed. The group came out, a few minutes behind schedule, to play hits like “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” and “Pacific Coast Party” as smoke rose from the stage and audience members continued to fire the toy styrofoam rockets at lead singer Steve Harwell. Harwell laughed it off a few times before jumping into tracks like “I’m A Believer” and, of course, the ogre anthem “All Star.”
To top it off, the night wrapped up with fireworks.