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The 10 Most Significant Community/Cultural Events

This is another wide-open category. We kinda expected . . . well, we’re not sure what we expected. Woodstock ’94? The opening of the Knick Arena? Mario Cuomo lighting the Christmas tree at the Empire State Plaza? Judging from the responses, it would appear that we like to get our party on. Politics, music, flowers, the New Year . . . give us a plausible reason, and we will party on down!

We combined the votes for Tulip Fest and Pinkster Fest, principally because the former subsumed the latter. They’re not quite the same thing, however; Tulip Fest is Pinkster Fest on steroids. And we mean that in a good way. From a normal-sized festival, it has grown into the spring showcase for the city of Albany. Thousands descend on Washington Park to eat carnival food, buy cool stuff from vendors and admire the most visible symbol of Albany’s Dutch heritage, the lovely tulip. Katrillions of lovely tulips.

And God help anyone who tries to mess with our damn tulips: After the great tulip massacre, when some black-hearted fiend decapitated thousands of the hardy flowers, Washington Park around Tulip Fest has become as well guarded as the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Albany First Night—oh, how we miss you.

Larkfest (LarkFest?) is another opportunity for Albany’s “village in the city,” Center Square, to host a gang of enthusiastic suburbanites who try the great restaurants, eat more carnival food, buy more arts & crafts from cool vendors, judge a public art show and drink a boatload of beer.

Then there’s Alive at Five, which outgrew its humble beginnings across from the old train station at Tricentennial Plaza to become a party-hearty music fest Thursdays in the summer.

As for one-shot cultural events, nothing tops the 1986 Albany Tricentennial Celebration, the memory of which is a lasting monument to the hard work of a lot of people, not the least of which the late, great Albany Mayor Tom Whalen.

Which brings us to Saratoga Springs’ annual Dance Flurry festival, a weekend-plus of family-friendly dance and music that draws terpsichorean-inclined enthusiasts from all over.

There’s an odd tie for No. 8: the ongoing monthly arts festival 1st Friday, and the amazing, memorable 1984 visit by presidential candidate Jesse Jackson to Albany’s Wilborn Temple.

Finally, we cherish every memory of the Rock Against Reaganomics concert-rallies in Washington Park. There were angry political speeches. There was folk and rock & roll. The late, great Tom Nattell read poems about the contras. We brought our own beer. In our innocence, we had no idea that Ronald Reagan was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ combined, compared to what Reagan’s vice president’s son would be in the White House. And the Ironweed premiere was our moment of Hollywood glory—we were ready for our close-up, and made the most of it.

Survey respondents ranked up to 10 choices, and points were tallied as follows: 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, and so on.

1. Tulip/Pinkster Fest (30)

2. Albany First Night (28)

3. Larkfest (21)

4. Troy Riverfront Fest (19)

5. Alive at Five (18)

6. Albany Tricentenial Celebration (16)

7. Dance Flurry (14)

8. Tie: Albany First Friday (10); Jesse Jackson’s campaign appearance at the Wilborn Temple Church (10)

10. Tie: Rock Against Reaganomics (9); Ironweed movie premiere (9)

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