Albany festival brings out food, local culture

LARKFEST IN ALBANY ATTRACTED over 80,000 people to historic Lark Street this past Saturday. The festival had local musicians, a variety of different foods to try, and a great time to be had by all in attendance.

On Saturday, September 19, 2015, the Lark Street Business Improvement District held their 34th annual LarkFEST on historic Lark Street, closing it for pedestrians between Madison and Washington Avenues. Spanning eight blocks, the festival held more than 60 vendors and hosted 14 major sponsors, while eight bands played on LarkFEST’s two stages located at opposite ends at Madison and Washington Streets. The festival’s stands offered local cultural food such as Korean, Thai, and Caribbean, in addition to the classic hotdog and hamburger stands that appear at state fairs. Additionally, caricaturist stands, boutique vendors, and a local flower shop all offered their services to passersby. The day-long event started at 10 am and concluded with its final musical acts at 5:30 pm. More than 80,000 people attended the event.

I had only been to Washington Park for Tulipfest, which is nearby, so I’m not too familiar with the surrounding area. As a result, when I did see the type of residential-commercial area around LarkFEST, I was surprised at how much it reminded me of Manhattan, New York City. The brownstone town houses looked just like those in East Village and around Central Park. Restaurants, flower shops, and boutiques all littered the first floors of buildings, with their upper floors containing apartments. Plus, certain streets still had little pockets of cobblestone streets. Lark Street definitely seemed like the place to be for the arts.

LarkFEST itself proved to be much larger than its eight blocks made it out to be. The streets were packed, with lines for food indistinguishable from passersby. I personally enjoyed those soda fountain stands that have refillable tin cups. I bought one of those in the morning and refilled it with root beer all day. If you’re not much of a pop person, then those local, freshly squeezed lemonade stands are the bomb. Almost every business had their own stand in front and even offered specials to those who sat inside.

I only had a chance to check out The End Men, one of the bands that performed at LarkFEST. Falling under the genre of heavy blues, the band relies on blues distortion and a rock beat. Matthew Hendershot took up the mic and guitar while Livia Ranalli crushed it on drums. Trumpet player Joe Page and tenor saxophonist Matthew Elia were included in the mix for LarkFEST and made The End Men unique from a typical four piece band set. Their music set the mood for LarkFEST’s outdoor and lively atmosphere.

I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this event before; in fact, I only heard about it from a friend, who actually didn’t end up going with me. Regardless, LarkFEST was a food-filled, fun-filled blast with great local music and colorful stands run by boutiques in the area. I would definitely suggest checking it out next year, if you can get there.