Spotlight on the Electric City with the Return of IlluminoCity

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Schenectady, like many upstate New York cities, has had its ups and downs as a former industrial city known for lighting and hauling the world.  


Now, the city offers a unique example of a community that has rallied behind its roots to successfully experience a revitalization that is one for the history books.  

During the holiday season, Schenectady truly shines with the half-a-century-old Holiday Parade in November that brings tens of thousands of people to downtown to experience all the great things the city has to offer. 


But the Holiday Parade is only one day, and city leaders are building on the momentum of that day with the launch of IlluminoCity last year.  


As the name reflects, IlluminoCity partners the city’s businesses and nonprofits together to put their best foot forward and light up downtown from the Holiday Parade through the end of the year. 


“It’s looking to build on the resurgence that has happened in the community and use lighting to make buildings and businesses more attractive and more unique, to give people a reason to come back downtown, from just before Thanksgiving through the New Year,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, who came up with the idea for IlluminoCity. 


The Mayor joined with the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation and various city leaders, stakeholders, and sponsors to bring IlluminoCity to life. Last year, 28 businesses and 27 nonprofits participated and decorated and lit up their buildings with several design categories as options, including Schenectady Pride, the Griswolds, and others. 


The event not only lit up downtown, but also shined a light on the great collaboration and work of businesses and nonprofits year-round in the community. Participants were awarded a total of $25,500 for their lighting with various prizes to support a range of non-profits. 


“When IlluminoCity was first announced, I thought it was a great effort to partner businesses with nonprofits on a fun and creative project and competition that encourages collaboration and helps to promote our great city.” -Haley Viccaro, Schenectady Greenmarket 


Schenectady Greenmarket was awarded $2,000 as the first prize winner in the Schenectady Pride category. They used the funding along with their partner business, the Schenectady Trading Company, to launch composting at the market on Sundays with FoodScraps360 and Cornell Cooperative Extension/Schenectady County Recycles. 


“The positive feedback from people was the best part. It made everyone smile and when they let us know that they liked it, we appreciated it very much.” -Amanda Magnetta, Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery  



Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery partnered with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios and was voted the winner in the People’s Choice category. They used their grand prize award toward C.R.E.A.T.E.’s mission to contribute art, color, equity, and life into the community. 


After a successful inaugural year, the event organizers are planning an even bigger, better IlluminoCity this year and hoping for more participants and sponsors to be a part of it. Last year’s sponsors included presenting sponsor National Grid, along with Union College, Pioneer Bank, and MVP Health Care. 


“I became involved because I loved the mission of IlluminoCity. I think it is very important everyone in the community works together. Unity makes a community strong and flourish.” -Michelle Davis, Pioneer Bank 


A formal announcement of the return of IlluminoCity is imminent, with more information and surprises in store. You can get a sneak peek at their website here: If you are interested in being a participant in IlluminoCity or a sponsor to support this year’s IlluminoCity, see more information online. 


“We’re looking to have more businesses and building owners participating this year, and it opens up the opportunities for partnerships and overall messaging for the event,” McCarthy said. “It’s the strength of not just one event by itself, but the collective activity that really is building Schenectady.”