Whenever someone asks me what I love most about Saratoga, I take out my long list and have several answers ready for them. One of the biggest reasons I adore the city, though, is the community atmosphere one sees and feels every single day here. I am always drawn to the celebrations and holidays in Saratoga and am never disappointed with the outcome of the hard work and planning that is so evident in each event. This day was no different.
I could feel the excitement over the day's upcoming festivities, from the moment I parked my car on Broadway, stepping out to breath in the fresh, crisp air of an early Saturday morning. It was only 8:30, September 20th, though you'd never know it by watching the hustle and bustle outside Saratoga's City Center and High Rock Park. The Center's 30th year anniversary celebration was underway, with numerous vendors setting up stations that would help make the day a huge success.
The National guard was already beginning to raise a rock climbing wall for visitors. They were hoping for a line of adventurous youngsters who'd be anxious to step into safety gear, then climb to the top of the wall, once the 'doors' opened at 10am. When I spoke to the young service men who'd volunteered to help out for the day, they told me they believed many kids would join in, that they'd have fun learning how to use the harness, foot and handholds, drawing on their own physical strength and determination, to help them make it to the top.
Stewart's ice cream cart was already in place,standing by itself on the corner. Even though I knew they wouldn't be offering their .30 cent treats until 4pm, I smiled,picturing the faces of little kids and adults alike, as they enjoyed their own personal favorite of this tasty treat. Several long tables were covered in arts and crafts, with artists intent on keeping youngsters busy throughout the day's activities. Coloring crayons had been placed next to print outs of 'Family Crests', where I watched as they were colored in with images of all things family-oriented. I imagined the pages would be brought home to hang on refrigerators and talked about over dinner.
Children were gathered together and seated at other tables in front of the City Center, busy making eye-glasses and bracelets out of colorful pipe cleaners. They laughed while they tried them on afterwards, running around and chasing each other in the parking lot. I found myself watching as parents snapped their pictures, capturing bright smiles and making memories from the day.
I could see that many visitors were already holding the passport promotion booklet, "Play Hide and Seek with Mr.B. ", They were getting ready to collect their stamps from participating stores. Doing this would give each of them a chance to win the raffle gift basket at the end of the day. This prize was valued at over $500, filled with gift certificates, a mug, pillow, candy, olive oil, cookies and a toy. The basket was won by and eventually presented to Pete McTygue, who, I'm sure, was more than happy to bring it home. I wandered down to High Rock Park with groups of people. There, students and teachers from BOCES culinary school stood, busy prepping for the dishes they'd cook for all of us attending the event. Every recipe used fresh fruits, vegetables and meats from local farms in the area, supporting the ' grow local, buy local ' belief that is shared by everyone here in Saratoga Springs and surrounding towns.
I sampled Roasted Beets, from both Pleasant Valley and Kilpatrick Family Farms. Though I'm not usually a fan of the deep-purple root vegetable, I guess today was different and I can truthfully tell you they were delicious! If I could have, the rest of the morning would've seen me repeatedly standing in line, sampling another Wild Mushroom Risotto dish. Oyster and Shiitake Mushrooms from Mariaville Mushrooms and milk from Battenkill Creamery, in my opinion, certainly make it the "dish to die for". Garlic Couscous with vegetables and chicken was a close second and the savory squash soup, well worth more than one taste.
Walking around, with all of these delicious aromas filling the air, I stood and watched instructors guide their students in making each and every dish the best it could be. People were strolling around the cooking tables, patiently waiting, while all sorts of vegetables and meats were sliced and diced, then pan seared in light, flavorful cooking oils. I could go on and on about the cook-off, but talking about it makes me hungry all over again, so I'll stop. Let me just say it was a lot of fun to watch each station compete for the winning dish. I also shopped the Farmers market while I was there. It was set up with several vendors throughout High Rock Park. I ended up purchasing some mini eggplants (which I had never tried before) and Brussel Sprouts,still on their long, thick stalks. I also chose a stunning bouquet of colorful flowers that I brought home to enjoy.
'Dream Ponies' arrived, offering rides for children in the crowd. Besides bringing the ponies, there were furry rabbits and adorable baby goats for their petting zoo. Before they were even set up, I could see a line of children who 'ooohed and aaahhhed ', wanting to spend as much time with the animals as they possibly could. It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces all around me. The women who ran the petting zoo were both animated and friendly, excited to share their love of the business and their knowledge of animals with the groups of people that had gathered around them.
It was definitely a 'feel good' kind of day and I was happy to be part of it.
I'm sure that it took a good deal of planning to get the day's activities in place so everything would run smoothly from start to finish. At the end of it all, It's estimated that several thousand people attended the day's event. Hundreds of ice creams sold for a mere .30cents. The streets and lawns were lined with families at dusk. Parents and children gathered together, sitting on colorful blankets that had been spread out over the ground. The crowd grew quiet as they watched the featured movie, 'Despicable Me 2', before heading home for the night. I believe it's safe to say that Saratoga's City Center planned and pulled off a wonderful event, celebrating their 30th year, while giving back to the community we all love so much. These are the things I adore about Saratoga. I love that we consistently gather together, both in our business and private lives and that we are ready to share the wonderful friendship that exists in both.