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Thursday, 27 August 2015 18:33

City Prepares for 100k

Despite Attendance Cap, 100k Anticipated for Travers Day

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any municipality preparing to host a major event such as baseball’s World Series, a World Fair, or a visiting monarch would do well to reach out to the public and private leadership in the City of Saratoga Springs for a bit of advice. 

Every year, without fail, the City hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world during Saratoga racing season, a feat requiring constant communication and smooth, dance-like coordination between stakeholders to pull off. 

This year, with racing’s own visiting monarch in the form of Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah, plus Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago performing Saturday evening at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), crowds could reach 100,000 people on Travers Day, August 29, but the experienced small city in the country is more than ready. 

“We definitely have more staff on duty than we normally would,” said Gregory Veitch, chief of police of the Saratoga Springs Police Department. “We anticipate it being one of the largest track sizes that we have seen in a long time. It’s going to be a big deal and we’ve been planning this for quite some time. There will be an increased presence by all law enforcement, emergency medical and fire. We aren’t doing this in a vacuum.”

In the century and a half of summer racing seasons, successful public safety and coordination at local, state, and federal levels has played an important role in keeping fans and visitors returning year after year. 

“A lot of thought has gone into our coordinating with other agencies, and we are very appreciative of them,” said Christian Mathiesen, commissioner of Public Safety in Saratoga Springs. “I know the sheriff’s department will be very helpful, especially with traffic. The fire department will have an increased presence, and EMS will have two engine crews instead of one and one HAZMAT truck at the racetrack. The Police Department will have some changes in the traffic patterns, and overall staff will be optimal to take care of issues at the track and throughout the City. My advice to everyone is to come early and be patient, not to expect to breeze right into the City.”

Visitors will be driving in to attend the concert at SPAC around the same time the people are leaving the racecourse after the last race, so traffic patterns may change to accommodate the increase and timing. Visitors are asked not to honk their horns, as this can startle the horses. (See page 14 for important traffic safety notices).

Public safety is just one piece of the larger entertainment puzzle put together by public and private partnerships in the City. As a destination locale, there is quite a bit of effort put into assuring everyone has a good time. 

“We began talking and staying in touch as soon as American Pharoah won the Triple Crown,” said Todd Shimkus, CCE, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. “The Convention and Tourism Bureau, Downtown Business Association, CDTA, the Mayor’s office, the Police Chief – we even talked with Amtrak the week after he won.”

Those conversations continued throughout the season. “There has been months of preparation ahead of this year’s Travers in anticipation of American Pharoah coming to Saratoga,” said Todd Garofano, president of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. “Once NYRA [The New York Racing Association] announced that attendance would be capped at 50,000, we all turned our attention to creating and promoting viewing parties at Saratoga area bars and restaurants. Our message is that while the Travers is sold-out, Saratoga is not. We want fans to come and participate in what is a historic weekend for Saratoga. A website was created, www.2015saratogatravers.com to list and promote the viewing parties around town.”

Shimkus understood the reasons behind NYRA’s cap on attendance at the track, but said the rest of the town leaders were confident that the City could welcome many more, which is why they worked so hard to set up viewing parties. 

“This is about creating an experience that people want to come back to time and again,” Shimkus said. “The cap allows the track to provide the best possible customer service to those attending, so it’s up to us to provide the best possible experience to City visitors not only to ticket holders, but for all those who can’t be there. We’re working hard locally to make sure we can accommodate everyone, that everyone has a great experience, with just the right food, the right product, and help people find hotel rooms – we are getting calls from around the world.”

Shimkus went on to say with confidence that it is not the first time the City has hosted a big crowd in Saratoga. The vast majority of businesses are locally owned by people who live here and have a sense of what they need to do to make this work. He said the process has been relatively smooth for years when it comes to preparing for crowds from a staffing perspective, food perspective, merchandise perspective, and promotional perspective.  

 

“I don't think anyone has any idea of what it takes to host something like this,” said Shimkus. “This hasn't happened in 37 years, [Triple Crown winner]. We'll be talking about this to our grandkids. Yes, traffic is difficult, parking is difficult, getting reservations is difficult, folks might have to wait in a line, but while standing there, take a deep breath and look around and know you’ll remember this race and this moment 40 years from now. The enormity of the event will make us all a little more patient when we think about how cool this really is.”

Published in News
Thursday, 29 January 2015 15:54

Chowderfest: More Delicious Than Ever!

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Now in it’s 17th year, Chowderfest is nothing less than a happening. Over time, it has ascended to a level where it rivals any event in this area. What makes Chowderfest distinctive is the time of year it occurs (this year’s event is on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), it’s tasty, and every year it keeps growing, growing, growing! 

 

Last year, The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, which coordinates the event, was pleased to hit a high-mark of 86 chowder outlets throughout downtown Saratoga Springs. In 2015, they have 92 at press time. Even so, don’t expect anyone to be standing around with a ladle, because year after year, chowder-loving consumers (with an emphasis on “consume”) descend upon downtown regardless of weather. Last year, just over 130,000 servings were enjoyed by an estimated 30,000 people. 

 

All the restaurants and purveyors are competing for your vote in a variety of categories. A triumph in any of them assures the winner bragging rights for an entire year. In fact, let us salute the 2014 winners one more time:

 

2014 Chowderfest Winners: 

People's Choice - Merry Monk

Most Chowder Served - Druthers

Best On Broadway - Stadium Cafe

Best Off Broadway - Olde Bryan Inn 

Best Dessert - Bettie's Cakes 

Best Newcomer - Thirsty Owl

Best Non Downtown - Fifty South

Best Chowder - Under 1,000 Served - Panza’s Restaurant

Dog Chow Down - Milton Manor Pet Spa

 

It’s a point of pride that spurs participants go all out to win your vote, and you get to enjoy the delicious consequences! 

 

As in previous years, the voting procedure is relatively simple:

 

- Pick up your official ballot at a number of places downtown. 

- Now the fun: sample to your heart’s content. Chowders cost $1 for a 3 oz. sample. Taste as many chowders at as many locations as you like and when you spot a favorite, pick up one of the participants’ stickers and place it on your ballot (don’t worry – they’ll have plenty.) 

- Completed ballots will have five stickers from participating businesses and can be turned in at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center or the Saratoga Springs City Center (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.) or the Saratoga Downtowner Motel (from 2 - 4 p.m.) 

- For an additional $10, Chowderfest attendees with a completed ballot can take home an official long-sleeve Chowderfest T-shirt with this year’s logo (2XL shirts are $12.) These have become collector’s items – further evidence of Chowderfest’s popularity.

- The tabulations will be going on all afternoon and winners are to be announced inside the Saratoga Springs City Center at 6:30 p.m. that evening.  

 

Other Highlights of Saturday’s Chowderfest:

 

- Free Shuttles  

A great new addition to Chowderfest. You can avoid any parking inconveniences and get on a free shuttle from two locations. Buses will be running from the Wilton Mall at Saratoga (next to Dick’s Sporting Goods) to the Post Office, and from Saratoga Casino & Raceway (Jefferson Street Entrance) to Congress Park from 10-6. Just follow the parking signs at either location.

 

- Dog Chow Down

Also, coming back for the seventh year in a row will be the Dog Chow Down,” with special chowders made for your canine friends. And at 1 p.m. the contestants making dog chowder will go head to head to win the coveted Best Dog Chowder trophy in the Saratoga Downtownerparking lot (413 Broadway.) The Chow Down will feature Mayor Joanne Yepsen and her dog; both will help to choose the trophy winner.

 

 

For more information, visit Discoversaratoga.org/Chowderfest or call (518) 584-1531.

 

Published in News
Thursday, 30 January 2014 13:39

How Saratoga’s Soup-er Bowl Began

Gavin Landry Recalls the Beginnings

NEW YORK – As it approaches its 16th edition this Saturday, Chowderfest has achieved iconic status. A signature event that is so intrinsically interwoven with the fabric of our lives that we sometimes assume that it always has been here. 

 

But yes, there was a Saratoga before Chowderfest. It just wasn’t as tasty. 

 

Just over sixteen years ago, Gavin Landry was President of the Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau when he formulated the concept of Chowderfest and presented it to the Winterfest committee at the Gideon Putnam Hotel. 

 

At the time, it was presented as a way to augment the Winterfest week of events and, to an extent, generate a bridge with downtown Saratoga Springs with the activities going on in the Spa State Park. But within short order, while Winterfest continues to be a strong event to this day, there was no doubt that Chowderfest had dwarfed it in terms of popularity and participation. 

 

Thanks to the groundwork Mr. Landry laid down sixteen years ago, Chowderfest grows larger each year. We reached him at his new post at Empire State Development in New York City, where he shared some insights into Chowderfest’s origins.

 

Looking back, How did you develop this idea?

GL: I created Chowderfest to generate tourism demand during a need time for Saratoga’s annual calendar. The idea behind Chowderfest was to help create awareness for the various wonderful restaurants that were members of the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau.

 

Who helped get things off the ground in the beginning? 

GL: The key players that helped launch this initiative were Mark Baker, Jim Sheridan (Gideon Putnam), Denise McDonald and Joe Dalton. It could have never been accomplished without the help of our wonderful restaurateurs such as Steve Sullivan and the Morris Brothers and my great team at the Bureau especially Kathy Price and Kathy Denkenberger. They were a tremendous help to get it off the ground.

 

What were some of the major goals at the time?

GL: The goal was to invite trial by the people participating in Chowderfest. We wanted to drive them to the actual restaurant to experience it. The idea was to encourage future return trips by already having visited the restaurant; experiencing the décor, the ambience and knowing the distance the restaurant is from their home.

 

Do you remember how many participants there were in the early years?

GL: The first year we started, we had 16 restaurants join us. It resulted in 5,000 restaurant visits. Last year there were over 70 restaurants, bars and shops serving chowder. They served over 115,000 cups of chowder and the crowd was estimated at 20,000 – 25,000 people. This year, I’m told there are over 85 chowder vendors.

 

You probably have a few anecdotes and stories about the first years…

GL: Every year the Chowderfest ballot count grew and grew. I would have all the ballots put into boxes and delivered to the Holiday Inn Saratoga Springs. I would count them in by hand in order to do a notification the following day with the newspapers. 

 

By the time I left the Bureau in 2007, it took me nine hours to tally up all the ballots. That year, it happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, I remember thinking I need to have a better solution than to be counting ballots at half time during the Super Bowl.

 

Also, the addition of the Doggie Chowder to allow man’s best friend a chance to participate was something we were especially proud to incorporate.

 

 The idea of incorporating Chowderfest t-shirts into the mix proved to be popular. Some of the older ones are collector’s items these days if you can even find them

 

GL:The t-shirt enhancement started in year one. I believe we also gave away a sweatshirt pretty early on. I always reserved a certain number to give to charity, such as Saratoga ARC and to the sponsors, but yes, they all sold out.

 

Who were some of the artists that developed the early logos and set the standards for each year?

 

GL: Hud Armstrong was my artist for all of the original art through 2007. Our goal was to create stylized art using the same characters in different scenarios that demonstrated happiness during that time of year. A little known fact is that in all of the artwork we had a squirrel that harkened back to some early debate about the squirrels in Congress Park.

 

Has your schedule allowed you to visit a recent Chowderfest? 

GL: I have not visited Chowderfest in person since 2007 but have enjoyed watching the videos online, which I think Ralph Pascucci of Myriad Productions is still shooting.

 

What are you doing now? 

GL: In 2013, I became Executive Director of Tourism for New York State, working with members of the Tourism Division to lead the iconic I LOVE NY program, and develop and implement new strategies to support the growth of the tourism industry across the state.

 

Shout it Louda! We Love our Chowda!

Some fun “ChowderFacts”:

 

- Participating Chowderfest Restaurants:

First year: 16

2013: 74

2014: 85

 

- Chowder Servings:

First year: 5,000

2013: Over 115,000

2014: ???

 

- What’s New This Year?

The Chowderfest Hat Contest! The hat contest is on Henry Street from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. It’s a family fun event with Best Hat (inspired by your favorite chowder, of course) with prizes for adults and kids.

 

Who Is Defending Their Title?

2013 Winners:

Dog Chow Down Winner: Impressions of Saratoga

Best On Broadway and Best Newcomer: Druthers

Best Off Broadway: Seven Horse Pub

Best Non-Downtown: Longfellows

Best Dessert-Themed Chowder: Ben & Jerry's

Most Chowder Served: Parting Glass

People's Choice under 1,000 bowls Served: The Local Pub

People's Choice: Seven Horse Pub 

2014 Winners will be announced at 6:30 on Saturday evening at the Saratoga Springs City Center

 

For more fun chowder facts and other information

 

Visit discoversaratoga.org/chowderfest

 

Published in News
Friday, 06 December 2013 10:42

Dig In!

Restaurant Week now through December 12 with “Toys for Toga” Donation Drive

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Think of it as one big weeklong dim sum sampler platter, with 57 choices (as of press time) spread over Saratoga County, and you get the idea. 

For foodies, dining enthusiasts and holiday shoppers alike, the (lunch and) dinner bell has rung. Restaurant Week has returned. 

As usual, the task is to make a great happening better and one thing worth noting is that the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau has added an important new aspect to the event.  In conjunction with DeCrescente Distributing Company and Olde Saratoga Brewing Company they have initiated the “Toys For Toga” campaign. 

During Restaurant Week, you can donate a new and unwrapped toy at any of the participating restaurants. 

These donated toys will be distributed on December 16 to local charities Franklin Community Center, Captain Youth and Family Services and Mechanicville Area Community Services Center. Last year, these 3 non-for-profits assisted over 1,400 children at holiday time.

A complete updated list of participating restaurants can be found throughout Restaurant Week at discoversaratoga.org/restaurantweek.

Restaurants span from Clifton Park through Wilton.  These are the new restaurants that are participating in the ninth edition:

Nanola - Route 9, Malta

Legends Café – Congress Street

Healthy Living Market and Cafe – Wilton Mall

Lucky Joe’s – Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Merry Monk Saratoga – Henry Street

Thirsty Owl Bistro – Broadway

The Brook Tavern – Union Avenue

The Crown Grill – Broadway

Peabody’s – Phila Street

Javier’s Nuevo Latino Cuisine – Maple Avenue

Nanola is worth noting as they just opened last month, so Restaurant Week is a perfect time for them to invite you to sample. Nanola is a New Orleans themed restaurant, specializing in both American and Cajun/Creole fare.

Restaurants have the choice of offering any or all of these price options: $5 or $10 lunches; $10, $20 or $30 dinners. 

Todd Garofano, Bureau president said, “The change in price structure we implemented last year was overwhelmingly successful. It allowed more restaurants (we had a record 54 restaurants last year) to participate throughout the county which led to more visitors trying them. Saratoga County restaurants truly offer something for everyone this week.” 

Whether you discover a new or re-discover an old favorite, Saratoga’s Restaurant Week is always a tasteful signpost on the event calendar. Bon appetit!

 

Published in News

Blotter

  • Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office  CLIFTON PARK — The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Extra Space Storage in the town of Clifton Park for a report of a suspicious vehicle. Investigation into the incident resulted in the arrest of the following persons for burglary in the 3rd degree (class D felony), criminal possession of stolen property in the 5th degree, and petit larceny (class A misdemeanors): Michael J. DeMartino, Jr., 40, of Stillwater, and Kristin M. Frisch, 41, of Gloversville. DeMartino and Frisch are alleged to have made unlawful entry into the Extra Space Storage and to have stolen property from…

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