By Kyle Adams
SCHENECTADY — Katie and Rachel Barkman had been working on their scarecrow routine for about a month. On Oct. 3, the sisters put on their best flannel, straw and face paint to dance during the Harvest Festival & Art Show on Union Street.
“It’s wonderful,” said Tricia Barkman, their mother, as they wrapped up their routine. “It’s a little chilly, but it’s fall. It’s a good, brisk fall day.”
The girls, ages 12 and 14, are students at the Dance Me studio on Union Street. They danced with a dozen or so other little scarecrows throughout the day as a cold, windy morning gave way to a more moderate afternoon and visitors slowly filled the street for autumn festivities.
Barkman said she planned to wander around as the girls repeated their routine, to check out the apples, pumpkins, cider and cider donuts, and the other treats and sales offered by scores of upper Union Street businesses set up on the sidewalks for the day.
Fall, she said, is one of her favorite seasons.
“I love the fresh air, I love the smell of the wood stoves going, apple picking, baking with my kids, Thanksgiving, obviously the foliage — I love going out leaf-peeping,” she said.
Now in its 10th year, the festival celebrates the season as well as the businesses of the Upper Union neighborhood, from the dance studio and pet stores to the restaurants that represent a broad variety of international cuisine.
Art and photography from nearby studios played a big part, with at least one plein air painter braving the cold to sketch a street scene.
“All of the businesses come out and give a little taste of things here and there,” said Joanne DeVoe, who works with the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District, which organizes the festival. “We’ve got music, we’ve got special drawings. There’s a trunk show of nice accessories. There’s sidewalk sales.”
DeVoe described the festival as “very grass-roots” and “family-oriented.” You won’t find a beer tent, she said, but there is a dog tent.
“It started pretty small and it’s grown nicely,” she said. “We don’t want to be slick or glitzy, but we like to thank our customers and clients, and we like to attract a few new ones.”
Union Street remains open for the festival, with vendors lined up on the sidewalks between Garner and Palmer avenues. DeVoe said that is in part to avoid shutting down an important thoroughfare, and in part to keep people closer to the businesses. As visitors strolled past tables and outdoor displays, many wandered in through the open doors of the businesses to see more.
Outside Ferri Formals & Bridals, owner Marylu Aragosa was rolling out a lacy white runway for a fashion show at 2 p.m. The show would feature models from local high schools, she said, showing off the store’s party dresses. Hair and makeup would be done by La Famiglia hair salon, just across the street.
Aragosa said she’s done the show at the Strawberry Fest & Art Show, also on Union Street, for the past two years, but this was the first year doing it during the Harvest Fest.
“The girls get excited, and when their families come to see them, we’re drawing people from other communities,” she said.
“It’s been exciting to make [the festival] a successful event, to work together to get the community out and support the local businesses,” she said.
By Kyle Adams