City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Brad Paisley stood atop the stage surrounded by hundreds of local high school seniors and asked for the details of their school mascot.
“Blue Streaks!” came the shouted reply.
“Blue Streak? What is a Blue Streak?” he pondered. “You guys are a streak of lightning,” he said, finally. “That’s very cool!”
And so it went Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where Paisley put the finishing touches on the stage show for his Weekend Warrior World Tour which officially debuted Thursday night at SPAC and will travel across North America and touch down in Norway and Sweden before concluding in late September.
Wednesday night’s “dress rehearsal” came with the issuance of an invitation to hundreds of high school seniors at Saratoga Springs and Averill Park. Many were thrilled to attend the free preview.
“Oh. My. God. I’m so excited. Me and my dad listen to him all the time, but this is my first time seeing him,” gushed Saratoga Springs High School senior Cheyanne Mattison, who alongside fellow classmates Marisa Pantoja, Larissa Benton and Alyssa Concho secured elbow space at the front of the stage on a May night that boasted temperatures near 90 degrees.
The West Virginia born singer-songwriter strolled the catwalk, took selfies, and showcased his guitar skills, mixing strains of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” into a slew of tunes for more than one hour, as the band tweaked its sound and technicians tested the pulsating lights and flashy screen graphics, all to the joy of the kids who gathered to witness the event.
“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Paisley explained, casually dressed in black jeans, a T-shirt, street sneakers. A baseball cap rested atop his head.
The musical presentation was combined with casual back-and-forth banter with students which effectively gave the large amphitheater the feel of an intimate living room. When informed that the Blue Streaks had just secured a Section II title in tennis, Paisley offered his congratulations alongside some advice.
“It’s great you won. Tennis is good, but make sure you guys get a back-up career,” he instructed, before sharing his thoughts with the assembly of 17 and 18-year-olds of something to look forward to.
“You know, people will tell you high school is the best part of your life. That’s bull-crap. It’s not,” Paisley said. “But, now college…” he said with a smile.
Paisley made his musical debut in 1999. He has released nearly one dozen studio albums and topped the country music singles charts numerous times. His new release, “Love And War,” features appearances by Mick Jagger and John Fogerty, among others.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Susan Hale strolled the streets of her ancestors, one recent weekday afternoon.
“My family originally came from Boston, and it goes pretty far back,” she said, tracing a lineage from 20th century Union College Professor Edward Everett Hale Jr. to 19th century artists Susan Hale and Philip Leslie Hale; 18th century American patriot Nathan Hale – who famously said "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," just prior to being executed for spying on British troops - to Massachusetts minister John Hale, whom the history books remember for his involvement during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. More than 250 years later, his fictional portrayal appear in Arthur Miller's play “The Crucible.”
It was at some of Saratoga Springs’ most prominent venues – most gone, some still in existence – where her great-great grandfather, Rev. Edward Everett Hale, delivered popular sermons in the late 19th century during biennialUnitarian Conferences that drew attendees from across the northeast.
It is Hale’s own talents, which stretch across a broad spectrum of the arts, that brings her to Saratoga Springs on this day. One project in particular – a children’s book she wrote and illustrated titled “Follow Your Dreams!” – Hale hopes will inspire an audience with Oprah Winfrey. The media giant is slated to speak at Skidmore College’s commencement at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on May 20.
“I want to give a box of books to Oprah’s school in Africa. How do you do that? When I heard that she was coming to Saratoga…I don’t know, it would be a dream to get my books to Oprah, because the story is about positivity, and persisting in spite of bullies,” Hale said.
In 2007, Oprah opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, a competitive boarding school in Johannesburg, South Africa, that offers education to disadvantaged students from across the country, Skidmore College will recognize Winfrey's commitment to education through her academy. One of the graduates of Winfrey’s school will also be receiving a Skidmore degree.
The protagonist of Hales’ illustrated book is “Pickles,” a real-life pot-bellied pig who the author took in, in 1997.
“I always wanted a pig - since I was a little kid, like Arnold on ‘Green Acres.’ She was a perfect house pet. She rode in the car with me across the country, from here to L.A., and after the book got done Pickles would come with me to school assemblies and book store signings,” said Hale, who received a bachelor of music degree in classical organ performance from Wheaton College in Illinois.
“Pickles is the neglected one who no one ever hears and who struggles to be heard. She sees a Fairy Pig Mother, who says to her: don’t let them get you down, just follow your dreams,” explained Hale, whose own markers of a lifetime of achievement spill out from the confines of her oversized briefcase. They include flyers promoting “The Pickles Power TV Show” that broadcast on Schenectady’s cable access, clippings from Los Angeles newspapers about her potbellied pig trying to make it big in Hollywood, images from Pickles’ media photoshoots, and prototype T-shirts emblazoned with the words: Dare To Dream - Pickle Power!
“I dream big,” offered Hale, whose oil paintings have been exhibited and classical concerts performed from the South American country of Ecuador to the northern climes of Saratoga Springs. (A clip of her performance at The Grove last summer of Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in G Minor” may be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36LEhH7-NKg). In October, she is slated to perform at Carnegie Hall. “That’s been a longtime dream,” Hale enthused.
After Pickles passed away, the book project went on the back-burner, but Hale said she has a renewed interest in updating the illustrations and re-issuing the book.
Pickles’ dream is to be a singer and the book illustrated the challenges she faces and overcomes to reach her goal. Hale also sings a narration in an accompanying CD. “Follow your dreams,” Hale asserted.” I’m living proof.”
Who: Joe Cutshall-King.
Where: Saratoga Springs Public Library.
What are you doing today?
I’m giving a talk on the story behind the story of “The Burning of The Piping Rock,” which is a novel I wrote about the Piping Rock Casino here in Saratoga in 1954. The book is fiction, but it’s based upon real characters.
When did the book come out?
What prompted you to write the story?
My family. I learned things about my own family in light of what happened when I was writing the book. It turned out to be a horrifying story, actually.
What was your family’s connection to the story?
My dad was a pharmacist. He worked as a manager for MacFinn’s Drugstore, which was at 396 Broadway in those days, and his boss was James Leary – who was, shall we say, extremely close friends with the Mafia – who ran all the casinos. When I was older, my dad told me that he sold the arsonist the materials to burn the Piping Rock, so that started my interest in it.
How much did you know about the story when you were a kid?
I was born in 1947 and at first, it was very secret. Gradually, as my family got further and further away, decades after the incident, they told the younger kids. But I never heard all of it, it was in bits and pieces.
You were born in Saratoga, but abruptly moved to Washington County?
We fled. One day I was playing on Lincoln Avenue and the next day I was being shoved in a car with everything we owned and we left. We went to Fort Edward just to get away from it.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in Saratoga Springs during your lifetime?
The improvements on Broadway. The vibrancy. I hear people lament that it’s gotten so expensive, but I’ll tell you: this is heaven. Beautiful and live-able.
You’ve written a screenplay of the novel. If a film were made, who would you like to see in it?
Jon Hamm to play my father. My dad was extremely good looking.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Every morning, Elizabeth Sobol begins her day driving down the Avenue of the Pines. Since taking over the reins in October at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Sobol has been forming a vision in her mind’s eye of a park for the arts.
“When I saw the reflecting pool, the Victoria Pool, the beautiful porticos and the baths, the Jazz Bar downstairs, the Hall of Springs and all sorts of these other nooks and crannies, I was like: wow. I started thinking about all sorts of site-specific work,” SPAC’s president and CEO said.
She asked about the jazz bar, and was surprised to learn no live music is played there; When she saw the reflecting pool, she was reminded of John Luther Adams’ 2014 piece “Become Ocean,” which was performed at Lincoln Center around that venue’s reflecting pool.
“I see the park filled with art-making. Music. Maybe some outdoor sculpture and interactive experiences. I think of the park as this magnificent convergence of man-made beauty and natural beauty.”
Sobol said she wants to eliminate any preconceived barriers that may exist separating the SPAC amphitheater – where the arts are staged – and the surrounding grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park.
“I’m all about no boundaries. Let people experience art in unexpected places where it catches them off-guard,” Sobol said. “I feel like this is a park for the arts, with so many spectacular places we can do performances.”
The other thing she wants to dispel is the bipolar notion that SPAC is either pop music, or classical music. “I think SPAC is one organism. It’s a world-class venue, and as long as everything that appears on the stage is world-class, it belongs without respect to genre.”
Teaming-up with other organizations is key, and already collaborations have been struck with Caffè Lena for a six-concert series, Skidmore College – for a performance that will be staged in June - and with UPH and Proctors for a yet-to-be announced event that will take place in the fall. There are also ongoing conversations with the nearby National Museum of Dance, and Saratoga Auto Museum regarding a potential Cuban festival that would feature live music, dance classes and a curated show of classic cars that would involve all three venues in their respective area of expertise.
“You’d walk in here and have this immersive experience, pulling it all together for you rather than a kind of silo experience,” Sobol said. “I think the more you feel art connects with basic human experiences, then it touches you in different ways.” The idea is to host year-round events that would fan out beyond SPAC’s geographical borders and into the Saratoga Spa State Park, “giving people these sublime experiences out in nature.”
“Some of it would be formal collaboration, some of it would be ‘pop-up,’ but I’m also imagining a poet’s corner here, where people can come and read their work,” Sobol said. “I want people to learn they can just come here in the same way they can go to a fair and entertain themselves, there’s food and rides and animals there’s all sorts of stuff – but with a proliferation of artistic experiences they can have here.”
“I’m also imagining having this whole day based on science and music that would end with Holst – ‘The Planets’ - performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with massive screens of NASA space footage and hundreds of telescopes placed down in the football field, so kids could go from not just being taught these connections between astronomy and music, but seeing and hearing and feeling it,” Sobol said.
Saratoga’s Arts Ranking
On April 24, SMU’s National Center for Arts Research released its third annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which ranks communities across the country, examining the level of supply, demand, and government support for the arts in each city.
The “arts vibrancy” is measured by nonprofit cultural institutions, organizations and venues particularly attractive to artists or tourists, levels of government support, and being robust in a variety of arts sectors.
The cities of Bennington, Vermont, and Hudson, and Oneonta, N.Y. placed high on the list. As a county, Saratoga placed in the 92nd percentile, meaning of the 3,144 counties across the country, Saratoga County ranks higher than 92 percent of the rest of the country, according to the report, which may be viewed at: https://sites.smu.edu/meadows/heatmap/index.html
Saratoga Springs Arts Commission Involvement
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who in 2015 appointed members to the city’s first Arts Commission, is in the process of attempting to strike a collaborative partnership with the city of Nashville, Tennessee.
“We’re identifying what that exchange and partnership will look like,” Yepsen said. “The first step will be sending an invitation to their arts commission to invite some performers, musicians to Saratoga Springs to begin the partnership and we’re hoping to do this in August or September. It might even turn into a mini-festival of national performers, so we’re going to move forward as an Arts Commission.” The creative pipeline could also result in the Spa City hosting music workshops featuring performers from “Music City.”
How It’s Done in Music City
Nashville with a population about 678,000, is more than 20 times the size of Saratoga Springs.
Overseeing things in the “Music City” is the 15-member Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, which was formed in 1978. The arts commission has an approximate $3 million annual operating budget, promotes and supports that city’s visual, performing and literary arts. The commission has autonomy from the council, meaning the granting process – while going through a transparent public process, don’t have to return to the City Council for approval, said Jennifer Cole, director of Nashville’s arts commission. Of the $3 million budget, $2.3 million is awarded to civic and nonprofit civic and charitable organizations that assist the commission in its goals, with the balance of monies used to fund special projects and administrative costs.
The arts commission in Nashville also receives separate funding for public art, through the city’s Capital Budget. In 2000, the council adopted a measure that ensures 1 percent of all city-issued bonds for public city buildings is targeted for public art projects. Potential public art projects are subsequently scored by “citizen panelists” - members of a seven-member Public Art Committee - and taxpayers are also permitted to weigh in regarding the art projects that will be placed in public areas, Cole said.
A separate group, the all-volunteer Music City Music Council was started in 2009, which doesn’t have governing powers but works as an advisory group to the mayor . They are an association of business leaders charged with developing strategies toward heightening the awareness and development of Nashville’s world-wide reputation as Music City. Music is to Nashville as horses is to Saratoga, with core employment in the music industry in Nashville per 1,000 population exceeding all other U.S. cities by large margins and New York and Los Angeles by 2.5 to 4 times.
Recently, the Saratoga Springs Arts Commission has held discussions recently regarding the impending loss of the 300-seat Saratoga Music Hall when converted to a court room. Yepsen said to compensate, there are plans underway to potentially enlarge and enhance the Dee Sarno Theater at the Saratoga Arts building on Broadway. Joel Reed, executive director of Saratoga Arts, said with some interior re-configuration, the theater could double its capacity from 100 to 200 people.
New Incubator Opens in Saratoga Springs
“There’s an opportunity for the city of Saratoga Springs with an incubator right here, through SEDC’s (Saratoga Economic Development Corporation) good work,” said Yepsen, referencing other existing regional incubators at the Center For the Gravity in Troy and The Albany Barn. “It could be a space for people to create inventions, or art, or a combination.”
By its own definition, the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy cultivates a community of makers, innovators and entrepreneurs to initiate creative collisions resulting in economic and personal growth. In Albany, that City, its Housing Authority, and the Barn partnered to redevelop the St. Joseph’s Academy building into 22 low-cost live/work residences for artists, and a multi-tenant creative arts incubator, enterprise and program space that includes work and rehearsal suites, a dance studio, and digital media lab.
Ryan Van Amburgh, Economic Development Specialist with SEDC, met with the city Arts Commission during its monthly meeting in April, shortly after launching SPARK Saratoga to empower locally based entrepreneurs. On Wednesday, the non-profit consulting firm announced a collaborative agreement with Saratoga CoWorks to site a new business incubator on Regent Street. Van Amburgh said discussions with the city’s Arts Commission are ongoing regarding a potential arts component, and that SEDC is engaged in a willingness to play a role in the city’s creative economy.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city Republican Committee hosted a campaign kick-off this week at the Pavilion Grand Hotel to introduce six candidates vying for seats in the November election.
The GOP slate includes: mayoral candidate Mark Baker; political newcomers Andrew Blumenberg – vying for a seat as City Court Judge, and Don Braim – who will be running for the position of Public Safety Commissioner; Saratoga County Supervisor candidate John Safford, and incumbent Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco and Saratoga County Supervisor Matt Veitch.
“This is the first step and a big step,” said Baker, who was born in Wisconsin and relocated to Saratoga Springs 34 years ago to become the first president of the Saratoga Springs City Center. During his tenure he worked with nine different city mayors.
Baker spoke about “regain(ing) a civil majority on the Saratoga Springs City Council” alongside his fellow Republican candidates, and spoke in general terms regarding city issues. Asked about the November referendum related to the city’s commission form of government, Baker said he will read the Charter Commission’s report when it is finalized.
“We’re dealing with the successes and the challenges of our successes,” Baker said, in response to a query of the city’s growth in recent years. “You’re going to have growth because people want to live here, and you’re going to have growth that allows people to have lower taxes,” he said. “We have a vibrant community that is alive and we have people that want to visit us, and that helps us grow our sales tax base.”
“Mark Baker – I can’t wait to work with you when you become mayor of Saratoga Springs; We’re going to get a lot of things done,” said longtime Supervisor Matt Veitch.
John Safford, who as a political newcomer in 2015 was defeated in his bid for mayor by Democrat Joanne Yepsen, said he brings a business and public service resume to his candidacy for supervisor, “to represent all of the citizens of Saratoga Springs (and to bring) the highest level of care to the under-served.”
Blumenberg, who since his hiring in 2007 as public defender, has handled more than 5,000 cases at City Court, is running for court judge; Braim, who worked in the city police department for 22 years, is running for Commissioner of Public Safety, and incumbent public Safety Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco is seeking his sixth two-year term in the position. He recalled rising above the “political games played and political enemies punished” when first elected a decade ago, and talked about putting the “public” back in public works.
Four incumbent City Democrats have announced their candidacy: Accounts Commissioner John Franck, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, Saratoga Springs City Court Judge Francine R. Vero, and current Saratoga County Supervisor Peter Martin – who will vie for the seat of Commissioner of Public Safety. Current Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, a Democrat, said he will not seek re-election. Saratoga Springs Democrats are expected to endorse their candidates later this month. Current city mayor Joanne Yepsen has yet to announce whether she will seek re-election.
The Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee – which can be viewed on the committee’s website at: http://www.saratogadems.org/platform/tatements in support of affordable housing and homeless services; a focus on public health and gun safety; and the importance of a safe, adequate supply of drinking water.
In November, voters will elect all five City Council positions – the mayor and four commissioners, one City Court Judge, and two Supervisors who will represent the city at the county level. The elected positions are for two-year terms.
A referendum will also be held regarding the city’s current “commission” form of governing. Should voters choose to change the city’s way of governing, that change will not be implemented until at least 2019.
Who: Ruth Crotty.
Where: Congress Park.
Q. What are you doing today?
A. Painting. My composition is down this stream, picking up the reflective light and catching some of that beautiful willow tree.
Q. Why did you select this location?
A. I’ve been over here the past two days scouting out locations. My studio is at the Amp Galleries, but the morning light here is quite beautiful.
Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.
A. We just moved in to town a year ago after living between Ballston Spa and Galway. We lived on a 85- acre farm for 44 years. When I first got married we in Saratoga Springs. That was in the early ‘70s. Having lived in the country, we drove everywhere. My goal now is to use my car only once a week, if I have to. I love being able to walk everywhere. I like the availability of everything.
Q. What was it like living in Saratoga Springs during the 1970s?
A. It was basically boarded-up at that point, but we still loved it. The bones of the city, you know? To me, it was aesthetically pleasing even back then. I love the architecture, the homes on North Broadway, the grand scale of the 1800s that was still here and still very much intact.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. I always wanted to be an artist. I’ve painted since I was 10 years old and I have a bachelor of fine arts degree from Tyler School of Art in painting.
Q. What are some of the other arts you’re interested in?
A. I like classical music and opera. I love “Carmen.” When I paint in my studio that’s the one that really get my juices flowing. My favorite film? I love “Casablanca.”
Q. Is there something you would like to see more of in the city?
A. To me Saratoga is idyllic. I like the walkability of it. There is so much: the restaurants, the arts and SPAC, the influence of Skidmore. To me, this town has everything. And the track. I like that it’s here for six weeks. I know August is busy and it could be annoying when you’re trying to do things during the day with the extra cars and the people, but to me, I like that excitement.
A small parcel of land which sits at a key intersection on South Broadway may soon belong to the city. The property, which once sited a gas station, sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade.
The city first considered using open space funds to purchase the 0.2-acre parcel in 2008 and subsequently develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures. Earlier this year, in her State of The City address, city Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported that the Open Space Committee was still actively working to acquire the parcel.
A Memorandum of Understanding issued last week noted that the property owner, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – desired to gift the parcel to the city.
“He spent a lot of time in the city when he was a kid,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen reported. “This will be a nice new gateway to the southern portion of the city.”
The one condition attached to the gift by the owner is that a memorial plaque be placed at the site in honor of his mother. A recent appraisal set the value of the parcel at $340,000. It has not yet been decided how the city may use the parcel in the future, but an open space area such as a pocket park or small pavilion seems most likely.
The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to enter into a memorandum of understanding – an intention to enter into a contract. Because there had been a gas station on site for decades, the premises will first be inspected prior to the council voting on whether to accept the gift.
Madigan: City 2016 FY Year Ends in A Strong Position
Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan reported Saratoga Springs closed the 2016 fiscal year in a strong financial position.
Unaudited year-end figures reveal a moderate annual operating deficit of $1.056 million - in large part driven by a $750,000 payment to settle a suit filed by The Anderson Group more than 10 years ago, Madigan said. The unaudited operating deficit, excluding this payment, was $306,000, or 0.695 percent of the $44 million 2016 Adopted Budget.
Actual 2016 revenue collected totaled $42,691,435. Actual 2016 expenditures totaled $43,747,818.
“The City Departments did a good job managing their 2016 budgets and I hope to see similar results for 2017,” the commissioner said, in a statement.
Unaudited figures indicate the city’s unassigned, unappropriated general fund balance is $9,009,362. The city has 3.3M in restricted (assigned) fund balance in the form of a retirement reserve, insurance reserve, capital reserves, tax stabilization reserve, and other miscellaneous reserves.
The Water Fund ended 2016 with a positive assigned unappropriated fund balance of $2.9 million - the fifth consecutive year the water fund reported an operating surplus. The Sewer Fund has an assigned unappropriated fund balance for 2016 of 1.8M. This is the seventh consecutive year that the sewer fund reported an operating surplus, Madigan said.
Vandalized Statues Restored and Returned to Congress Park
The “Day” and “Night” Urns and “Pan” statue in the Italian Gardens have been restored and were installed in Congress Park last Friday, said Department of Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. The urns and statue were vandalized last year.
The Day and Night Urns - inspired by the individual marble reliefs “Day” and “Night” by artist Bertel Thorvaldsen - were originally placed in Congress Park more than a century ago. Improvements were made in the urn bases to increase stability for the cast-iron pieces, along with new drainage to prevent long-term water damage. Additional stability was added to the base of the Pan statue to prevent any future vandalism, Scirocco said.
How To Grieve Your Assessment
Finance Commissioner John Franck announced a "How to Grieve your Assessment” class will be held 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday May 9 in the City Council Room.
Residents wishing to grieve their assessment must submit an application with documentation to the Assessment Office prior to Grievance Day, which is Tuesday, May 23. For more information, and to download a Grievance Packet, go to: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/DocumentCenter/View/4213.
Preservation Foundation Honored for 40 years of Preserving Historic City Sights
City Mayor Joanne Yepsen presented a proclamation on behalf of the city to honor the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and recognize the organization’s 40 years of preserving the architectural, cultural and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs.
“Had it not been for their efforts over the years, many of the historic sights and places we take for granted today would be known to us only through old photographs and memories,” Yepsen said. “In preserving our past, they have also preserved our identity. Their work is an indispensable part of what makes Saratoga Springs one of our country’s best known and loved places.”
Bike to Work Day May 19
The Capital Region “Bike to Work Challenge” will take place in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties on Friday, May 19. Trophies will be awarded in each county to both small (20 or less employees) and large organizations with the largest number of riders, and to the person who rides the longest distance.
The Municipal Challenge will award a trophy for the highest percent participation for any municipality in the region, in which the mayor or supervisor rode to work.
Bike to School Day will take place May 10 and, by county, the school with the most participating students will be awarded a trophy. For more information or to register, go to https://capitalmoves.org/b2w518/
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 8 at City Hall.
The Planning Board will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 11 at City Hall.
SCHUYLERVILLE - The Hudson River village that played a vital role in the turning point of the American Revolution can add “The Demon of Screamin’” to its feathered cap of historical significance.
Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and daughter Liv Tyler - an actress perhaps best known for her role in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy - visited the adjoined Saratoga villages of Schuylerville and Victory in January after learning of their 19th century ancestral ties to the community.
Those local connections came to light in an episode of the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” which premiered on the TLC channel this week.
Steven Tyler’s great-great-grandfather, George Washington Elliott, was a drummer who was present at the battle of Antietam and at Gettysburg. He set down roots in Saratoga County while in his 20s, shortly after the Civil War.
“I can see my dad in his face,” Liv Tyler told Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts, after being shown a photograph in a 1912 brochure during a segment that depicted “Mr. and Mrs. George Elliott and family, Schuylerville, N.Y.” with their 17 children.
Liv Tyler, the daughter of Steven Tyler and Nashville based singer, songwriter and pop culture icon Bebe Buell, was filmed while driving around Saratoga and visiting the office of the Saratoga County Clerk in Ballston Spa. She was joined by her dad at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Victory, where in the shadow of the a 155-foot tall Saratoga Monument, they visited the burial sites of their ancestors.
“I thought it was a fun show and great piece of history about her family,” said the Saratoga Town Historian Sean Kelleher. “When you start doing these family searches, you just never know what you’re going to find.”
It is not known what prompted the relocation to the Schuylerville area of George Elliott, who had African-America roots. In the 19th century, the greater Schuylerville area counted two Abolitionist Societies who lobbied politicians, published abolitionist papers, and invited speakers into their communities - Frederick Douglass among them, according to Village of Schuylerville Historian Kristina Saddlemire.
In the village by the latter part of the 19th century, local kids found their winter recreation ice skating on the frozen canal. They attended classes at Schuylerville’s Union Free School, a four-story building that stood on Green and University Streets, and played host to a visiting music teacher from Northumberland who would arrive by pony and provide piano lessons for the entire family.
Research conducted independently of the show points to at least one member of the Elliott family being employed at the historic textile mill building in Victory, Kelleher said.
The family were members of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Schuylerville. Of George and Eliza’s 17 kids, 15 were born in Au Sable Forks.
“Two of the children - Jennie May, and Arthur - were born in Schuylerville,” said Don Papson, co-founder and curator of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, in Ausable Chasm, N.Y.
Jennie May Elliott was born in 1889, and Arthur Earnest Elliott two years later. According to a 1976 obituary, Arthur was a groundskeeper who had been employed By Skidmore College and lived in Saratoga Springs for many years. Jennie May’s descendant, Mary Briscoe, currently lives in Watervliet. She recalled meeting many of her relatives as a young girl growing up in Victory, where she lived until the age of six, before relocating during the 1940s. Watching the TV episode, Briscoe said she was able to learn more about her own ancestors, particularly those who lived during the Civil War Era and beyond.
Steven Tyler’s mother, and Liv Tyler’s grandmother, Susan Ray Tallarico – whose maiden name was Blancha - was the daughter of Bessie June Blancha (Elliott), who in turn was the daughter of Robert J. Elliott and Edna Wheeler. Robert J. Elliott was one of the sons of George and Eliza Elliot, the first members of the family to settle in Saratoga. Their connection to Schuylerville and Victory seems to have lasted at least until the early part of the 20th century.
“Robert J. Elliott married Edna Wheeler. She was the daughter of Charles E. Wheeler, who as much as I can figure out was a photographer in the village,” Papson said. Advertisements published in local newspapers in the early 1900s take note of photographer C.E. Wheeler’s a shop located on Broadway in Schuylerville.
The historians best pin-pointed the family home as having sat on Pearl Street in the village of Victory and just around the corner from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on nearby Grove Street in Schuylerville.
Who: Marianne Barker.
Where: Impressions of Saratoga, Broadway.
Q. When did you first come to Saratoga Springs.
A. 1980. From Long Island.
Q. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city in that time?
A. It’s gotten so much busier.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge the city faces in the future?
A. Managing the growth and maintaining the character of downtown, its independent nature. The growth is great, it’s a sign of progress, but it also changes the dynamic. So, maintaining a balance.
Q. What are you doing today?
A. Placing orders, looking for summer staff.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. A veterinarian. I was going to be a large animal vet. I was on my way to do that when I met Dave, my husband. He started a screen printing company and I said: well I’ll help him for a couple of years then go back to school. I deferred my acceptance to Cornell, and here I am, without a single regret. I love this.
Q. Do you have animals?
A. I’ve always had dogs, kitties, horses on and off. We have a mini-horse here, he’s a mascot for the store. His name is Upset, named for the horse that beat Man o’War.
Q. What brush have you had with fame?
A. I was lucky enough three years ago to be invited by Congressman Tonko to go to the State of The Union address. So, I did that. There was President Obama, and Michelle Obama was sitting with one of the guys from “Duck Dynasty.” That was pretty cool. Just sitting in this crowd of people and thinking of all the historical things that happened in that room was amazing. I still get chills thinking about it.
Q. What’s the best concert you attended?
A. Garth Brooks. It was a fantastic show, country music fan or not. And Tina Turner has to take the cake at SPAC. That’s my favorite.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is launching a new programming series this summer that seats audiences directly on the stage of the iconic amphitheater.
The onstage seating capacity in the unique format is 300. The entire audience will sit onstage with the artists and no other seats will be sold for the four-concert series.
“Positioning audiences onstage for this series will offer them a unique, visceral experience – a connection with the performance unlike anything they have experienced previously,” SPAC President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol said, in a statement.
The series takes place on four consecutive evenings in August. New York City jazz band The Hot Sardines perform on Aug.7; Time for Three, and its three classically trained musicians — violinists Nicholas Kendall and Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer – perform Aug. 14; Classical, hip-hop and R&B fused ensemble Black Violin – whose members have appeared at President Obama's Inaugural and three Super Bowls – perform Aug. 21, and three-time Grammy Award nominated Afro-Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform on Aug. 28.
Tickets to SPAC on Stage are limited and are $40 to $50, and available at spac.org beginning May 3. And check out this video clip about the series: