The “Pearl” of Saratoga Springs Events!
30th Victorian Streetwalk Preview
By Arthur Gonick
Overhead photo by Deborah Neary
SARATOGA SPRINGS – We looked it up, so you don’t have to.
“It’s pearls!” said Tonya Pellegrini, Director of Marketing & Promotions for the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association.
“Great. I know one thing I’ll be wearing on December 1,” Tonya said. The occasion: the Pearl (30th) Anniversary of Saratoga Springs’ signature event – Victorian Streetwalk. The one day you can walk ON Broadway. The one downtown event that garners worldwide publicity for Saratoga Springs.
“No, don’t look at the forecast!” Tonya exclaims. We had met for coffee, and she showed up with a case full of posters and promo pieces in tow. “I know it is going to be a beautiful evening!” She said with a smile.
In truth, Victorian Streetwalk has made weather irrelevant. Snow? Bring it! That’s even better in some respects. Unseasonable? Fine too.
Beginning with the tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 pm on Thursday, December 1, nearly 40 venues will come alive with holiday window displays, family entertainment, and a good-feeling vibe that is one of a kind.
But you know, while the Victorian Streetwalk appears to descend from heaven like magic, enabling people to just show up and expect everything in place, the truth is even more magical.
Victorian Streetwalk is the coming together of efforts on the part of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Association member merchants – each looking to (good-naturedly) outdo each other in the all-important ‘dazzle’ category - window display division. If you were Downtown last Sunday, you saw many of them decorate the centerpiece tree and getting the cottage ready for Santa and Mrs. Claus’ arrival. But at the top, one person has to pull a zillion details together.
Someone in a position to know this is Susan Farnsworth, who had the keys to this ‘Rolls Royce’ from the beginning, “Yes, because of all the merchants busy with their own places – sprucing their displays, making everything perfect for guests, creating their stop at a city-wide open house, this is an event without a committee (unlike other DBA events, like Fall Festival). It’s a committee of one.”
And this year, in its “Pearl Anniversary,” Victorian Streetwalk has a new person with the keys to the Rolls, or perhaps a horse-drawn sleigh is more appropriate.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Tonya, who is experienced in both creating and managing events (visit http://pellegrinievents.com).
“This is one I have been working on since June. What an amazing experience! I have attended over a dozen Streetwalks easily. But now, even with my background… well, let’s just call it a multi-tasker’s nirvana!” Tonya concluded.
Susan Farnsworth acknowledged this statement. “Each year, I had a detailed, month-by-month ‘to do’ list and a notebook for each year, so organization is critical. Patience...you cannot be a person who freaks out.
“The biggest challenge each year is closing Broadway,” Susan continued. “It is extremely complicated involving NYS DOT, The City of Saratoga Springs, three construction companies, a lot of permits and planning. Most people have no idea.
“Fitness is essential, I usually walked the whole festival area from 4 to 10:30 pm. But it was always worth every, single minute. My favorite event.” Susan concluded. “I hope people ‘go live’, so I can see it from Israel!”
I asked Tonya a hypothetical: I have a visitor to impress. A first-timer to Victorian Streetwalk, but we only have an hour. So what are the three things we must see?
“I’d start at Universal Preservation Hall,” Tonya said. “The Octavo Singers and Saratoga City Ballet will be performing in a spectacular setting. Then, go to the tree: Santa’s cottage, real reindeer, and the tree itself. Then, I would say the Ice Man’s sculptures are my third pick, near the Collamer lot.”
Of course, if you see those three, you have pretty much walked the Streetwalk from end-to-end, so don’t be surprised if you are diverted once, or many times. For instance, G. Willikers’ window. Or any of many others.
You may need a bit more time – your friend will understand. In fact, it will probably be his/her idea to stay longer.
I also asked Tonya how she thinks she will feel at about 6:30 pm, when everything is rolling and she, like 20,000 others, are free to soak it in and enjoy. “Excited, nervous and exhilarated!” She said.
An event promoter enjoys two special moments. The first is when you book something special - you now how good it is, and you can’t wait to show others. The second one is when everything is in place. The promoter gets to kick that ‘first domino’ over; the one that sets it all in motion; that gets the party started.
This year, that person will be wearing pearls.
If you see her, tip your hat (like the proper Victorian that you are), and say thank you.
Note: While Saratoga Springs is a dog-friendly Downtown, please note that on December 1, you are asked to leave your best friends at home, due to the expected crowd with many children and live animal exhibitions.
For more information, including maps and entertainment listings, visit www.saratogaspringsdowntown.com