Thoughts on LarkFest in the future?


From a LarkFest past. / photo: Sebastien

LarkFest was this past Saturday in Albany -- as you know. And a few bits/perspectives about the street festival are circulating today on the Monday after.

First, from the Times Union, word from that the Lark Street BID could make LarkFest alcohol-free in the future in order to cut down on the costs and complications related to the fest.

And from August Rosa -- a co-owner of the Lark Street beverage shop Brew, and a Lark Street BID board member -- a call to not change the festival. A clip:

... Albany events are so important, especially when surrounding towns (you know where I am talking about) are getting lots of buzz. They take chances. They have nothing to lose.
In fact, Brew might not have existed in the first place if LarkFest didn't exist. In 2004 as a freshmen at St. Rose I came down to see LarkFest on a whim and The Dandy Warhols were playing. I couldn't believe that one of the recent bands I downloaded from LimeWire was playing on the block! This was the first thing that established Lark Street as the cool place to be. From there I came down every week to grab a bite or pop into shops. I ended up living on the block in a few apartments. I ultimately opened up a shop here because I really do think that Lark Street can be what it was 10 years ago.
People just have to let it be. Lark Street is not a suburb. If certain individuals want to dilute Albany's culture then the businesses will move. ...

The topic of what the Lark Street commercial corridor is, and should be, has come up a lot in the last year or so as some people have said the stretch is in decline and others say it's just going through some cyclical change. The question of what LarkFest should be in the future fits right in with all that.

So, we're curious about your take on the future of LarkFest -- whether it should change, and if so, in what ways?

Earlier on AOA:
+ Thinking about the future of Lark Street
+ Lark Street and the competition among the Capital Region's hip urban areas
+ Ideas for Lark Street's longterm future


the lark street BID seems unwilling to admit that it's not 1986 anymore. you are living in a city of 100k people, many of whom are young and want restaurants, bars, venues, events with alcohol, etc. on and around lark/center square, the "vibrant heart" of albany. young people are moving to cities so they can have these things in walking distance. if those things continue to dry up, why would anyone move here? because the architecture is nice? please.

there are many suburbs in this area that you can live in if you want seclusion & quiet. please stop trying to make one of the only full-fledged urban neighborhoods in the capital district into niskayuna 2.0.

"If certain individuals want to dilute Albany's culture then the businesses will move. ..."

I don't think Albany's culture should be people coming in from the suburbs, getting drunk, and acting a fool in our neighborhood.

If Larkfest isn't the festival you want it to be, don't go, find another festival.If you live in the neighborhood and feel it is forced upon you, do what I do, get out of town for the day (It was beautiful at Thatcher on Saturday). It's one thing on one day, you can't expect it to be all things for all people. But that's why there are so many other things and so many other days.

A large portion of the active businesses on Lark Street cater to the nightlife scene. This industry has a very important place in urban culture, but we cannot forget the need for diversity. One extremely flagrant fact that the leadership in Albany has not addressed, is that there are three independent BID's vying for the attention of the community. If we move towards a shared model, where each area works to compliment each other and operate in unison I believe we can see a bit of economic prosperity that seems to be apparent in other capital region communities.

I personally think that the money spent for functions like Lark Fest would be put to better use on smaller more frequent functions that helped to build community versus one big booze fest that robs a community of its culture for the day. I would assume that most of the money is spent on emergency and police services to monitor the crowd, but wouldn't it make more sense to enrich the community that lives around center square? Maybe more events like art on lark, that were less about partying, and more about culture could benefit the city generally. We let the park play house sit empty for a majority of the year, yet it is a prime place to have friday night community theater events, or family movies, or feature local musicians.

Everyone says that Troy is the best place to spend a night out due to its vibrancy. Albany and Troy are physically very different cities, and since Troy has one downtown BID, they are able to focus all of their efforts and resources in one area. Albany, having so many "business corridors", fights with itself to attract the attention of spenders, leaving everyone to fight for scraps. The issue is not about wether or not to continue Lark Fest in its current incarnation, but more so to look at the consumer, look at the problems plaguing the city, and make an informed decision to change what seemingly offers no forward progress. We cant let ourselves fall into the trap of fearing change.

I think there should definitely be no alcoholic beverages. residents are complaining about the participants' behavior. Otherwise I think it's a great event. One man succumbed to a seizure, but the police were right on hand to deal with the issue.

I live in the 'burbs and when someone ask, "let's go to a resturant" the first thing that comes to mind, "which one around Lark". Festivals like this keeps Lark St on the front burners and keeps Center Square businesses occupied.

This event is planned far into the future, so if local residents don't like it they can plan a day to spend somewhere else and chalk it up to a small price to pay to live in center of Albany.

I love the neighborhood, which is why I bought here after renting for nearly five years--but some of the comments are missing the point. Getting away from the neighborhood for the day is well and good if you don't want to attend the event, but you can't get away from non-residents' vomit, urine, dog feces, trash, and illegal park jobs in and around our homes. I saw several men urinating on one of my neighbors' carefully maintained floral displays. Cars were parked dangerously and illegally on the wrong sides of several streets, making it dangerous or impossible to drive home. There was garbage all over my front steps. The trash cans in the neighborhood were overflowing with stinking garbage after a day. These are quality of life issues that should not be dismissed, whatever the solution may be. Perhaps visitors would be more sympathetic of Albany residents gathered en masse in their suburban cul-de-sacs and befouled their property.

Honestly, I would rejoice at seeing this event cancelled completely and permanently. It may have been more tame this year (from what I've heard - I didn't leave my apartment until nearly 5pm and then walked all the way around Center Square to meet a friend on Madison), but it's an outdated event that now caters only to the worst of our students. I love the idea of having more events on Lark with this money. Keep in mind this comes from someone who wants to see even more bars on the street, even more live music in those bars, and opening hours for those bars that extend to 4am (so please don't accuse me of being a neighborhood association member).

Yes, it's easy to get out of town for a day. I did so last year, and went to NYC where it was less crowded. But to hear this as an actual suggestion, especially from the drunks who trash the place from outside, is bizarre. For those who don't live in the neighborhood, I'd love to hear their reaction at being told to just leave their homes to avoid an event that is despised by so many of their neighbors.

I knew about this festival when I bought a house in the neighborhood. I knew how it creates parking, litter, and urine drama.I considered it as a trade off for the privileged of living here. I'll always be confounded by those who made the same decision as me, but now feel justified in their outrage over things they should have known to expect. People in their suburban cul-de-sacs placed a high value on having their space, peace, and quite, we didn't. I imagine someday my values might change, I just hope if that ever occurs I won't blame others for the decisions I made.

The money spent on increased security and other costs for lark fest would be better served paying a beat cop to routinely patrol up and down the street, year round. Lark street needs to address its seedy side and the frequent aggressive panhandling if it's going to have any sort of renewal.

The impact of LarkFest on the neighborhood has greatly improved in the past several years. The crowds are smaller and better controlled. Putting in barricades with defined entrances has reduced the number of people wandering down to camp on stoops. People who have hated the event for 20 years are going to continue hating it and demanding it be discontinued. I live in the neighborhood and think it's a great one-day event. The trade-offs are worth it (though there's always room for improvement).
In addition to LarkFest, I would like to see every Friday on Lark Street look like First Friday. That would go a long way toward diversifying the scene.

I had a booth as a massage therapist this year. I've had one before, for the past three years.
This year, however, there was a shift in the energy at around 2pm or so. People were converging en masse outside of Tapasia which was serving beer for $4. While I worked on those who signed up for my services, the majority of the people who decided to stay at the restaurant never moved onto the rest of the festival. Some stood and laughed, made lewd comments while I tried to do my job.
Around 2:30, a fight broke out, causing us to make the executive decision to shut down our tent earlier than expected. Instead of making money and increasing my client base, I had to act as a babysitter to young adults who should've known better and several who tried to use the stairwell beneath our entrance as a bathroom. This wasn't a problem in years past.
So to tell me that it's the nature of the beast or that it's typical festival behavior when it has an impact on my business? That's ridiculous. I can't serve alcohol to my clients. It's also illegal for me to treat a drunk client.
I'm completely for an alcohol free Larkfest. I'm not going to apologize for owning a business that doesn't profit off of alcohol.

I see the drinking as less of a problem than in years past, granted I haven't been in years, but while I was there, and I headed out before 5, it was fairly tame. No one puking everywhere, no one urinating on buildings or attendees. Maybe it got worse as the day went on.

I certainly did see plenty of opportunities for improvement though. The first thing, and primary one, would be running the very same fencing that they use on the outside of the LarkFest area on the left and right along the sidewalk for the first, say, 30 or 40 feet in front of the stage - maybe back to the soundboards. This would keep the sidewalk in use as a moving area and disallow people from trying to cut through the crowd at its densest. Just seems like it would make things a bit friendlier because then you don't have people getting jostled and then riled up because someone disrupted them.

As far as the trash goes, finding a place to deposit the garbage, including those little pudding samples!, was tough. Bringing in some temporary cans for the day and having more places to recycle would probably go a long way to reducing the complaints about trash all over the ground that hangs out for days.

I am with Eliot - I want more police presence on Lark in general. Agreesive panhandling makes me, as a woman often walking alone with a baby, not feel super warm and fuzzy. But like Jackers said (and okay, full disclosure, I live with him, because we're married... ) Larkfest is Larkfest. The same sort of trouble occurs around TulipFest and all sorts of other events in the city. But I chose to live in the city (strategically far enough away from Lark that I am unlikely to get my stoop peed on) so I deal with noise and ruckus but I also walk to playgrounds, grocery stores, and restaurants year-round. I think I got the best of that deal. My one bugaboo is these festivals not doing much to promote local businesses and vendors. Make it more of a boon for the city! I don't want to buy sausage and peppers from some NYC-based carnie. I want Dali Mama and Sliding Dirty!

I've lived in Albany for about 8 years and don't see why residents have to lower the expectations for the behavior of people who attend these events. When has it ever been okay to throw your trash all over the place, smoke weed, and urinate on other people's property? I'm sorry, but people should have common decency and respect and unfortunately that is one thing missing in Albany. There's nothing wrong with having a beer or two, but it seems like every holiday/event is an excuse to get wasted. I'm all for increasing the police presence at these events. That's not going make or break a person's good time, but controls for folks who are getting out of hand.

I'd love to see more diversity in the line-up. I'm disappointed every year by the music, as the bands seem to reflect the same demographics again and again. There are so many talented musicians of color in Albany. It's time to give them a platform at all of our events. I personally did not go because I wasn't interested in the type of music being offered. Also, to folks calling for an increased police presence on Lark St., I encourage you to think about how this might add to issues of segregation in our city. There are 2 distinct sides of Lark St. which, as a person of color, is quite uncomfortable. Police presence has never been a good or effective strategy to address poverty and systemic racism in any city. Please keep in mind that what might feel safe for you, does not at all feel safe for others.

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