City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Architectural renderings were released this week depicting the proposed exterior design of Universal Preservation Hall. Renovation work is expected to get underway at the historic Washington Street building in October, with a grand re-opening anticipated during the first quarter of 2019.
Constructed in 1871, the Victorian Gothic structure has served as a staging ground for everyone from Teddy Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass to Bruce Springsteen E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.
A century after its construction, the building began to fall into disrepair and in 2000, the city condemned the building. Members of the community rallied to save the structure from demolition. Today, the nonprofit group UPH owns the building and in 2015 got an added boost when it became an affiliate of Proctors. The Schenectady based organization will lend their expertise in securing programming and coordinating ticket sales and marketing,
When it reopens, UPH will provide an acoustically perfect theater-in-the-round experience with a capacity of 700-plus people, said UPH Campaign Director Teddy Foster. The building will feature new heating and air conditioning systems, a kitchen, an elevator and new light and sound fixtures with acoustic treatments.
New entry doors will be set on the building’s Broadway facing-side to provide theater-goers close proximity to a multi-level public parking garage on Woodlawn Avenue and the main room’s flexibility will allow for the relocation of seats as events dictate.
Once completed, it is anticipated UPH will stage approximately 200 events annually, and fill the city’s void of a year-round, mid-sized venue that has been absent since Saratoga’s 5,000-seat Convention Hall went up in a fireball in 1966.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Following a year of preparation and three days of workshops, seminars, networking sessions and informational panels, Dan Tordjman was appreciating some well-deserved down-time on Wednesday, a day after wrapping up the first-ever Equestricon, which was staged Aug. 13-15 at the City Center.
The convention, billed as “the largest program schedule assembled for any fan event in the history of horse racing,” pretty much matched up with organizers’ expectations, explained the event’s co-founder.
“What we were trying to prove was that there was an appetite for this kind event - a fan base in horse racing interested in learning more about the game, and an industry interested in meeting face-to-face with potential customers,” Tordjman said. “I think we were able to do that.“
The ebb and flow of visitors during event days on Sunday and Monday - as people made their way between the racecourse and the City Center - was augmented by the convention’s largest gathering on Tuesday, when the track goes dark, he said.
For Tordjman, Tuesday’s highlight was the fan-friendly experience which posed attendees for photographs alongside the Kentucky Derby trophy and served as a fundraiser for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF). “One of the most indelible moments was when someone from PDJF came on and could barely get one word out before they broke down crying and thanking us for doing it,” he enthused.
The crowd of approximately 1,000 people registered to attend in advance of the convention were supplemented by a free-flow of visitors attending independent events, many of whom had come from out-of-state and were visiting Saratoga for the first time.
“I think Saratoga has been on a bucket list for a lot of people and with Equestricon happening this year, they figured this was the time to make the trip,” said Tordjman, who credited the city for its hospitality – “they rolled out the red carpet for us” - and added that “everything is on the table” regarding Equestricon’s future staging ground. A formal announcement is expected “in a month or two,” although he anticipated a probable return to Saratoga Springs in 2018.
Monday was punctuated by a keynote address regarding horse aftercare by longtime journalist Soledad O’Brien, who has worked as a correspondent for Al Jazeera America, produced documentaries for CNN, and runs the Starfish Media Group production company.
“One of the things I see analogous between the stories I report and the thoroughbreds I had the opportunity to adopt over the years is that in every story people want to work. They want good valued work, (and) horses, like people, like to work. You like to feel that you’ve accomplished something. They like to be run and exercised and walked – and get treats, too,” said O’Brien during a morning presser attended by more than a dozen credentialed photojournalists, print journalists, TV news camera operators and one millennial who aimed a smart phone at the speaker and announced, “I’m Facebooking-it live,” to anyone who cared to listen. Outside in the main hall dozens of Equestricon staffers wore black T-shirts emblazoned with yellow stencils that read: Ask Me Anything.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have three off-the-track racehorses, I would have said, ‘You have lost your mind,’” O’Brien explained. “I thought: racehorses are hot, somewhat crazy, and you would certainly never put a child on a racehorse.” That assumption was not accurate, she learned.
“My husband and I got into getting horses from aftercare about 10 years ago and we were completely and utterly surprised at how successful it’s been. We went to the aftercare facility and every single stereotype we thought we knew about retired racehorses coming off the track wasn’t true,” O’Brien said. “Over the years we have had three retired racehorses, and a bunch of other horses - different breeds - and there’s no difference between them. They do the same things our other horses do.”
O’Brien, who calls herself “a mediocre-to-average rider who just loves horses,” said the racehorses have smoothly transitioned into great new jobs, retrained as jumpers and specified one in particular, whose name is “Joey” as being her young daughter’s favorite.
“We got him off the track and a couple of days later we were riding him. He’s got the sweetest disposition. At the end of the day, those stereotypes were certainly not true and I think that was my biggest learning curve, recognizing the opportunity with these horses that needed new homes and new jobs.”
Mike Wolf and Frank Fritz, the respective faces of the History Channel series “American Pickers,” will be filming episodes of the show across New York in September and are looking for leads of large, private collections or an accumulation of antiques that they can spend the better part of the day picking through.
The documentary series features the travels of Wolf and Fritz as they journey the country’s back roads from coast-to-coast, antique-picking on a mission to recycle forgotten relics, meeting often-entertaining characters along the way and learning something new about America’s buried past.
Beginning on Saturday Aug. 19, residential, business and wireless customers within the existing 518 area code must add the “518” prefix to existing 7-digit local telephone numbers.
Last September, the state Public Service Commission approved a new area code to be added to the current 518 area code region to ensure a continuing supply of telephone numbers. The 518 region serves all or part of the 17 counties in eastern upstate New York, including Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Warren and Washington counties.
The addition of the numbers serves as an introduction of a new 838 area code that will be “overlaid,” or superimposed, over the same geographic area as the 518 area code. Current telephone numbers, including current area code, will not change. However, all calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10-digit phone numbers.
Beginning Sept. 19, customers in the 518 area code region requesting new service, an additional line, or a move in the location of their service, may be assigned a number in the new 838 area code.
The price of a call, and the price of other telephone services, will not change due to the new overlay area code. Calls to reach 911 Emergency Service will remain three digits, and existing 211, 311, 411, 511, 611, 711 or 811 services will also remain three-digit dial numbers.
The Commission recommends that customers identify their telephone number as a 10-digit number (area code + 7-digit local telephone number) when giving the number to friends, family members, business associates and others.
Furthermore, the Commission recommends customers ensure that all services, automatic dialing equipment, applications, software, or other types of equipment recognize the new 838 area code as a valid area code. Some examples are: life safety systems, fax machines, Internet dial-up numbers, alarm and security systems, gates, speed dialers, mobile phone contact lists, call forwarding settings, voicemail services, and similar functions. Business stationery, advertising materials, personal checks, and personal or pet ID tags should include the area code.
All calls within the 518/838 area must be programmed to dial using 10- digits and the digit prefix “1” must be included for all calls to other area codes.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Horses and the Hudson Valley Guns N’ Hoses – area baseball teams comprised of regional fire fighters and law enforcement officers – will take to the field 7 p.m. Saturday Aug. 19 for a game at East Side Recreation Park on Lake Avenue, in a benefit for the family State Police trooper Joel R. Davis. Admission is $10.
The 36-year-old trooper was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute on July 9 in Jefferson County. Davis is survived by his wife and three children, according to state Police.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - A special guest appearance by Boston Red Sox baseball legend David Ortiz will be among the highlights of this year’s Saratoga Wine and Food Festival on Sept. 8- 9.
The sports star, known affectionately to his fans as “Big Papi,” will participate in Friday’s Fired Up! event as well as two smaller gatherings on Friday evening, spotlighting his new line of cigars and Arias wine.
“He is not only a baseball hero, he is someone whose life and career have been an inspiration to millions of people.” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “We are proud that such an outstanding and beloved public figure and role model will play a part in this year’s festival and gratified that a portion of the proceeds from his VIP appearances will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, an organization that supports lifesaving pediatric care for children in need.”
Ortiz recently launched a line of wines with the local Ianniello & DeCrescente families. "Arias" is named after David’s mother, Angela Rosa Arias, who tragically lost her life in a car crash in 2002. The multi-colored wine label illustrates two hands raised with index fingers pointing upwards, a salute Ortiz often made to his mother after hitting a home run and now is a symbol to encourage the human spirit to rise against adversity. The Arias portfolio includes a merlot, chardonnay, cabernet and sauvignon blanc.
He has also introduced a cigar line, "Big Papi David Ortiz Cigars,” crafted by "El Artista Cigars" based out of the Dominican Republic. Its band displays a red silhouette of Big Papi also pointing upward, as in his post-home run stance.
Ortiz will headline a 7 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. meet/greet and photo signing for 100 Fired Up! ticketholders who donate a minimum of $50 or more per person to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund; brief remarks to all Fired Up! guests in the main tent, followed by a video presentation on the Children’s Fund; and a 90-minute “Big Papi’s Arias Wine & Cigar Bar” experience for 100 people that will take place in the Hall of Springs Jazz Bar from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from each event will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, a charity which funds pediatric services for children in New England and the Dominican Republic.
Presented annually at the end of its classical season, the Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is an epicurean showcase featuring two days of gourmet events showcasing fine international wines, innovative chef-prepared menus, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars, expansive tastings, upscale auctions and a luxury auto show. Held under elegant tents on SPAC’s lawn, the weekend is anchored by three events: an Adirondack Road Tour and Luncheon; Friday’s Fired Up! Grill Competition and Saturday’s Grand Tasting and Concours D’Elegance, the festival centerpiece. Presented in partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum, proceeds from the festival benefit education programming at SPAC and the Museum.
A featured event at Saturday’s Grand Tasting will be the final round of SPAC’s “Home Rangers” Amateur Chef Competition, which includes a cook-off between the competition’s amateur chef finalist and BlueStar celebrity chef Melissa Doney. Chef Doney was a competitor on Season 8 of Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen hosted by Gordon Ramsey.
Among the judges for the final round will be BlueStar All Star Chef Jay Hajj and Ariana Philips, editor of Food Network magazine. Chef Suvir Saran, an accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator as well as a farmer who specializes in bringing Indian cooking to the American kitchen will be the final judge.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 8: Adirondack Road Tour & Gourmet Luncheon | 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. This spirited 1 ½ hour, professionally-led road rally for auto collectors winds through beautiful Adirondack roads to finish at the historic Lake George Club, where a delicious cocktail reception and three course wine-paired luncheon will be served. Event price: $100.
Fired Up! Grill Competition featuring Special Guest David Ortiz| 7 -10 p.m. Chefs from the Capital Region’s finest restaurants will battle it out for the FIRED UP! title as guests enjoy great music, gourmet food, BBQ, a cold refreshing Stella Artois, wines and spirits. The event is held under an oversized tent on SPAC’s lawn. Event price: $85
David Ortiz Meet and Greet | 7 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. This opportunity will be available to the first 100 people who purchase a specially priced Fired Up! ticket of $135, which includes a $50 donation to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Event price: $135
“Big Papi’s Arias Wine & Cigar Bar” | 8:30 p.m. -10 p.m. David Ortiz will host a VIP experience for 100 people that will take place in the Hall of Springs Jazz Bar from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event will feature an opportunity to mingle with the baseball legend and other guests while enjoying Arias wines, gourmet hors d’oeuvres and cigars. All of the guests will receive an autographed bottle of Arias. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. Event price: $175
SATURDAY, SEPT. 9: Grand Tasting and Concours D’Elegance, noon – 4 p.m. All guests will have the opportunity to savor exquisite foods created by more than 20 chefs in the Capital Region; a mystery wall, and cocktails, wine and beer. In addition, The Saratoga Automobile Museum will present a show of luxury collector cars including classes of Shelby Cobra, Porsche, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, among others. Event price: $85. A VIP Grant Tasting ticket, which allows earlier entry to the Grand Tasting and exclusive access to the VIP area, is available for $175.
The Saratoga Wine and Food Festival is Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s primary fundraiser for its educational programming, including Classical Kids, a collaborative program in which SPAC works with local schools to teach elementary and middle school aged children about the classical performing arts.
Tickets to the festival and more information about the complete festival schedule are available at spac.org; by calling 518-584-9330; or in person at the SPAC Box Office.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A project seven years in the making reached the early stages of fruition Tuesday as workmen installed the first of 60 to 70 historical/ mapping signs and an additional slew of direction markers along Broadway.
The signs feature a historical component and local timeline on one side, and a map of the area and business panel directory on the other.
The signs are the brainchild of the Downtown Special Assessment District – a nine-member group started in 1978 by property owners and given the ability by the state legislation to be tax property owners in the downtown district.
The overall cost of the signage is approximately $275,000 and is the result of both public and private funding, said Harvey Fox, chairman of the Downtown Special Assessment District.
“It sounds like seven years, but it’s really been a lot longer,” Fox said Tuesday. “This has been talked about and thought about for a long time, and it’s finally coming to fruition.”
Broadway, Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Who: Staff Sergeant Alaine Sueme.
Where: Marine Corps Recruiting Sub Station, Saratoga Springs.
Last week, you sprung to action when witnessing a two-car collision in front of the supermarket on Weibel Road. What happened?
I was walking out of the grocery store toward my car when I heard a loud screeching noise. When I looked, I saw a dark gray SUV have a head-on with another vehicle, go off the road and hit a tree.
What did you do?
I took off running towards the car. It looked like those people were going to need help.
What did you see when you got close?
I was only 30 meters away but when your adrenaline kicks in everything happens in slow motion. I saw the windshield shattered, the air bags deployed, and a person in the driver’s side with her head against the steering wheel. I called out to her, ‘Ma’am, ‘ma’am, are you OK.’ Very timidly, she said she was. I opened the driver’s side door and began asking her first-responder questions: what day is it? Do you know where you are? When is your birthday? She answered them all, but she was very dazed.
Your training provided you the tools you needed?
I’m CPR-certified, and I’ve taken a combat life saver course. Training as a Marine, we go through a lot of life-saving techniques. At that point it was second nature. I was thinking: I need to get there as fast as I can, because someone’s hurt and I want to make sure everyone’s OK – provide CPR, or first aid if need be.
What was going through your mind at the time?
I was looking at the way she was responding and what injuries she might have. There was a welt on her chest from the seatbelt. The vehicle was smoking at that point, so I wanted to get her out of the vehicle as a fast as possible. Her nose was a little bit bloody. I asked her: Does your head hurt? Does your neck hurt? She said no, so I determined it would be OK to remove her from the vehicle. I sat her down on the grass and stayed with her to make sure she was OK.
Have you heard back from the woman?
I told her my name is Alaine so I don’t think she knew I was a Marine.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A few months into her tenure at the helm of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Elizabeth Sobol explored the venue’s historic stage, the jigsaw pieces of a unique concept formulating in her mind.
“One day I was standing out in the amphitheater and looked up at this massive stage while thinking about this crazy idea,” recalled SPAC’s president and CEO. “I wondered: How many people can we seat up there? As it turns out, it’s 300.”
Earlier this week, the fruition of that “crazy idea” went on full display when the venue hosted the first of four SPAC On Stage events, which spins the performers’ podium 180 degrees and places audience members at the back of the stage to face the musicians. A panoramic of the setting sun. the great lawn of SPAC and the columned architecture of the Hall of Springs lazily recline in the distance.
The four-part series will be staged consecutive Monday nights in August. The grand experiment kicked off Aug. 7 and by all measures of sound and vision was a major success.
“We’re making SPAC history tonight!” Sobol told the audience assembled for the series premiere featuring The Hot Sardines. The ensemble, which boasts triple-horns, sassy vocals and a rhythm section that channels the vintage essence of New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets and New Orleans jazz halls alike, proved to be a perfect choice.
“Tonight, we’re doing this for the first time together, so let’s let our hair down and have a ton of fun,” Sobol announced, the foundation of a rollicking piano punctuated by the brassy horns of The Hot Sardines.
“Tonight, you can take photographs,” Sobol instructed. “Tonight, you can dance.” Some couples did just that, swooning to the sounds of classic jazz interpretations.
The visuals are splendid, with no seat more than a few meters from the stage, and however it was done, the sound on this night is perfect: each musical intonation easily observed, and the volume boosted at an enjoyable level.
The experience is both intimate and surreal. The lawn and amphitheater, absent of patrons, is eerily quiet, and even the venue’s security detail collectively wear perplexed looks. Audience members are directed to their seats via an ascending staircase at stage left, warmly greeted as if entering a gallant eatery, and are directed to their pre-numbered seats by walking across the historic stage where everyone from Jim Morrison to Mikhail Baryshnikov have strutted their stuff.
The U-shape seating configuration cradles the stage, with a half-dozen or so rows flanking the band podium on either side and a bleacher-type fixture housing seats that climbs at its center.
SPAC on Stage takes place Mondays at 8 p.m. in August. Time for Three will perform Monday, Aug. 14, Black Violin on Aug. 21 (tickets for this show are sold out), and three-time Grammy nominated Afro-Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will conclude the series on Aug. 28.
“When the notion of SPAC on Stage was born, there were bands that I wanted to bring in that I thought would do this so perfectly,” Sobol said. “We’re almost sold out of the whole series and 22 percent of our ticket buyers for this series have never been to SPAC before, so that’s huge. I wanted to introduce a type of music we weren’t really touching on at SPAC and this was the way to do it. You’re bringing the audience out of the amphitheater and onto the stage to be with the artists.” Sobol said audiences can expect the series to be revisited in future seasons.
Time for Three will be showcasing a lot of their new material during their SPAC appearance Aug. 14.
“Inviting the audience on stage to get that close to us is going to be awesome,” said Time for Three founding member Nick Kendall. “I think it plays into the unexpected characteristics of Time for Three. You’ll really get to witness the interplay between the three of us. So much of (our sound) seems like it’s being created in the moment and by being a lot closer you’ll be able to see that interplay that sometimes is missed at a big concert hall or a stadium.
“We have played at SPAC before with the orchestra, so iIt’s going to be really cool to turn that on its head, and bring the audience on stage.”
Time for Three and its three classically trained musicians — violinists Nick Kendall and Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer defy traditional genre classification. The trio performs music from Bach to Brahms and beyond, playing originals and their own arrangements of everything from bluegrass and folk tunes to mash-ups of hits by the Beatles, Brittany Spears, Kanye West, Katy Perry, and others. The group has performed at venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, to the ABC TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”
The variety of venues well suits the SPAC on Stage series as well as the ensemble’s performance chops. “It reflects the energy of our band. We love the surprise nature of it. We’re just as comfortable playing on street corners as we are in concert halls,” said Kendall, adding that the group’s three co-creators inspire a fusion of sound that creates a larger symphonic fourth.
“At the root of my desire in music is the appetite to create,” Kendall said. “There’s such a reciprocal energy, especially with my bandmates when we perform; I’ll go out, spark an energy and if the energy comes back – well, that’s what I live for, whether it’s with another musician or with the audience.”
Monday night the energy created in that magical place between audience and band will be given a whole new sea of possibilities in which to flourish.
Audience filing in to the U-shaped seating configuration during first of four SPAC on Stage performances Aug. 7, 2017. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Ramblin Jug Stompers will perform at Skidmore College at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 as part of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery Upbeat on the Roof series.
The band is comprised of banjoist Bowtie Blotto, guitarist Steven Clyde, “Wild Bill” AKA Sergeant Blotto AKA rock journalist Greg Haymes and Renaissance man Michael Eck – whose prolific poetic and songwriting skills have been showcased in the greater Capital Region for several decades. The Stompers’ exuberant style combines the washboard, guitar, mandolin, and banjo in a spirited quartet.
The UpBeat on the Roof concert series, now in its seventeenth season, features an eclectic mix of musicians from across the Capital Region.
The museum is located on the Skidmore College campus at 815 N. Broadway. Due to the popularity of the concert series, visitors are advised to arrive early. Free parking is available in parking lots adjacent to the museum. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved inside the museum.
For more information on UpBeat on the Roof, call 518-580-8080 or visit http://tang.skidmore.edu.