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MBlogo small(1).jpgMeatballs mean different things in different parts of the world. In Germany, they're made with anchovy or salted herring; in Greece, you'll find mint leaves in the ingredient list; across the globe they are baked, fried, steamed or braised.

But no matter how you make them, this year in downtown Albany there's a very important ingredient - fun.

On September 28, 2014 the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District is hosting Food Fight | MeatBall Edition from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The food competition pits Albany County restaurants against each other in eight categories. Meat not your thing? Good news - categories include everything from best meatball to best vegetarian or vegan and everything in between.

For $1 per portion, the public will have the chance to taste meatballs from a number of restaurants including Jack's Oyster House, Wolfs 1-11 and more to vote for the People's Choice winner.

What's that? You want to help decide another category? Ask and you shall receive!

We're looking for a member of the public to help judge a category in the Food Fight - and on top of the fantastic job of helping to decide a winner, the person chosen will also get a downtown Albany t-shirt and a $100 gift certificate to a BID business of their choice.

Find out how to enter to be a judge here.  

See you Downtown!


We're very happy to announce that the Lark Street Business Improvement District is back up and running! With new staff, new motivation, and new initiatives, we are looking forward to being back on Albany's radar. With this first blog, (in a very long time) we want to talk about something fun that everyone knows and anticipates every year.. LarkFest!! September 20th is right around the corner, and although that means the summer is coming to an end, what better way to close it out than with New York's largest one-day street festival?? From 10am-5:30pm Lark Street will host hundreds of vendors with crafts, art, food, drinks, public information, retail and more! One of the best parts of LarkFest is the live music, with TWO stages- one near the Madison Avenue end of Lark Street, and one near Washington Avenue. Performers start at 11:30am and are continuously running until 5:30pm. We're very excited for this years lineup, with some great local/nationwide talent, and some amazing performers who have been waiting to play LarkFest for years!! 

The 2014 Lineup:
Madison Ave. Stage-
12pm-1pm: Graham Tichy Trio
1:30-2:30pm: The Chris Dukes Band
3-4pm: The Chronicles
4:30-5:30pm: Conehead Buddha

Washington Ave. Stage-
11:30am-12:30pm: Holly & Evan
1-2pm: Wild Adriatic
2:30-3:30pm: Titanics
4-5pm: MIRK! 

All information is available online at 
If you're in Albany.. or even New York State, we invite you to come hangout with us on Lark Street for the day. There's something for everyone, and you don't want to miss this summer closeout festival! 

There's a lot of music at the Times Union Center each year, but it's rare that the performances aim to bring the nation's history to life.

This September though, the Spirit of America - a free, live-action show by the US Army Military District of Washington - returns to the Albany entertainment venue to do just that.

Spirit of America_06.jpgThe production highlights key moments in history from the Revolutionary War to current operations which are reenacted from the soldiers' perspective, and is performed by active-duty soldiers from the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" and the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army. Elements of The Old Guard include the US Army Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the Caisson Platoon, the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, the Continental Color Guard and the US Army Drill Team.

Two hours in length, Spirit of America is performed by more than 300 soldiers who train during the month of August and perform at various locations in September. This year, aside from Albany, the group will also perform in Boston, Massachusetts and Hershey, Pennsylvania. The large-scale theatrical production is combined with traditional military ceremony for a performance that highlights military discipline, historical reenactments and traditional and modern music.

Scheduled performances are:
September 19, 2014 at 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM
September 20, 2014 at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM

Spirit.jpgWhile all performances are free and open to the public, the 10:30 AM show is being highlighted as the best opportunity for a school field trip.

For educators interested in attending with their students, a Spirit of America Teacher's Guide is available to supplement textbooks with activities and assignments for grades 5-12. The guide also supplies background on the military units in the show.

Though free, tickets are required for admittance. They can be picked up at the Times Union Center Box Office at 51 S Pearl Street, ordered online (for a nominal fee) or by mailing in this form. Tickets will be available up until the day of the show. To request tickets for larger groups, call the Times Union Center at 518.487.2100.

More information can be found at 

For one week in August, there will be free bicycles available for community members around the Capital Region to use. Part of BikeShare month, the initiative is a pilot program in the area including Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Troy.

Thumbnail image for SoBi bikeFrom August 9 through 15, 2014, roughly 20 bikes will be dispersed between three locations in the Capital City for use between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM - in Downtown, the location is Tricentennial Square.

Bikes will be locked to existing racks at the three locations using locks that are attached to the bike. Once registered, participants will receive an ID number allowing them to use the bikes. There is no cost to participate, although a credit card will need to be on file as security for the bikes. In addition, participants will need to sign a waiver and show identification.

Albany is the last area city to host BikeShare, a program which started July 10, 2014 in Schenectady and was announced by the Capital District Transportation Committee.

Bikes can be reserved using the bike keypad interface, the SoBi (social bicycle) mobile app or online; to return them, participants need only lock it to any hub station or public bike rack. The other two hub stations in Albany are Washington Park by the Lakehouse and Lark Street between Washington and Madison Avenues.

For more information, or to register, visit A registration table will also be in Tricentennial Square during the day from August 12 through 15, 2014.

Have you ever looked at a masterpiece like the Mona Lisa and thought to yourself "Yeah, I could do that"?

That's the feeling you're likely to get when you see Smokey Joe's Café at Capital Repertory Theater. Watching the nine-member cast sing and dance is akin to watching da Vinci's each and every stroke of the brush. Their voices and movement inspire even those of us only brazen enough to sing in the shower or alone in the car because, well, they make it seem so easy.

Smokey Joe'sIt's comforting to think that it takes a lot of practice - or to at least hope it does.

For anyone not familiar with Smokey Joe's Café, it's worth mentioning that unlike many other musicals, there is no plot to follow. Instead, you are serenaded through dozens of songs by Mike Leiber and Jerry Stoller, whose names you might not know but whose songs you most likely do. Included in the 39 songs are On Broadway, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock, Fools Fall in Love, Love Potion #9, and Stand By Me.

Even without a theme more specific than the duo's music, the cast interactions make for seamless transitions from one song to another, so your focus is pulled into the awe-inspiring vocals and choreography.

The fun-filled music will also inspire you to move - clapping your hands along, tapping your feet, trying to keep yourself from dancing in the aisles (though doing so is encouraged)... You know, things that typically accompany musicals.

Playing at Capital Rep until August 10, 2014, Smokey Joe's Café makes for a great night out and is sure to evoke memories for those who grew up with the songs, and create new memories for everyone who attends.

The Capital Repertory Theatre is located at 111 N Pearl Street. For tickets and more information, visit or call 518.445.7469. Performance times: 7:30 PM Tuesday through Thursday; 8:00 PM Friday and Saturday; 3:00 PM matinee Saturday; 2:00 PM matinee Sunday. Tickets range from $20 to $60; $16 for students with valid ID 

Upcoming special events include:

  • July 22, 2014: The Chef's Table performance includes live pre-show music with John McIntosh and complimentary hors d'oeuvres for ticket holders from The Hollow Bar + Kitchen and The Merry Monk beginning at 6:30 PM in the lobby.
  • July 23 and 30, 2014: Discussion nights with the director and cast members will take place following the 7:30 PM performances.
  • August 3, 2014: The 2:00 PM matinee will be preceded by a behind the scenes event featuring a complimentary light continental breakfast and discussion led by producing artist director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. Food service begins at 12:30 PM with the presentation following from 1:00-1:30 PM.  

 (Photo by Richard Lovrich)

People from as far away as the Netherlands have been drawn to downtown Albany since last month to do something they can't normally do on the streets: Play pianos. As the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District's "Play Me, I'm Yours" exhibit, which includes 13 playable pianos around Downtown ends later this month, a local filmmaker saw the opportunity to help garner both attention and participation.

With a decades-long connection to pianos, Albany filmmaker Mike Camoin set out to make a film that would encourage more engagement with the exhibit before it ends on July 27, 2014. After asking BID executive director Georgette Steffens how he could help spread the word, the decision was made to create a short film.

Thumbnail image for Filming at piano"The production of a film based around the 2014 Sculpture in the Streets exhibit is yet another example of the range of piano interactions we are seeing," Steffens says. "While everyone is invited to play, there are a number of other ways to engage with the pianos as well. Runners have made their locations into a course; cyclists have taken breaks during rides to play; bands have taken pictures at pianos to promote upcoming shows; visitors have posed for pictures next to it, or taken pictures of their children or dogs. People from the Capital Region and beyond are proving every day that while the installation will only be in Downtown for a few more weeks, memories of having visited it will extend to the distant future."  

With the help of close friend Greg Aidala, who has been voted Best Local Comedian five times, Camoin's daughter Isabelle, who has studied multiple instruments and drama at the New York Theatre Institute in Troy, NY, and two summer college interns, "Waiting for My Uncle Maestro" was born. The two and a half minute film utilizes the team's unique brand of humor and talent, designed to promote awareness of the pianos. 

For Camoin, who owns the company Videos for Change, the piano has always been a place where family and friends gather.  Upon discovering the "Play Me, I'm Yours" program in Albany, he immediately saw the value and potential of having access to such an instrument on the streets of downtown.

"With connections to the Albany area, pianos, and having worked previously with the Downtown Albany BID, it was a natural fit to create a film that encouraged people to engage with such a unique exhibit that has such a short lifespan in the Capital City," Camoin says.

Currently the only US city hosting the international touring artwork, the downtown Albany pianos have presented a unique opportunity to encourage residents, employees and visitors alike to find their inner musician. Since June 13, 2014, people have uploaded close to 200 videos and photos of the pianos to, with countless more being shared on social media. Anyone who visits the installation is encouraged to join the community conversation by continuing to post to that site.

To watch Camoin's film, click here: To learn more about the exhibit and download a walking tour map, visit

There's always something going on in downtown Albany, but this week we invite you to join us for in celebrating both new businesses and an anniversary. The events we have planned are listed below. Which will you be joining us for?

Enchanted Florist | July 8, 2014 | Starting at 10:00 AM | 54 Columbia Street

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for logo.jpgOn Tuesday, join The Enchanted Florist in Albany as owner Louis Bannister celebrates both his love of flowers and his 1 year anniversary in Downtown.

Cake and refreshments will be available beginning at 10:00 AM, and there will be a drawing to win an arrangement worth $75 (be sure to bring a business card to enter).

Oh, and if you'd like a chance to win one of their popular Grab & Go Bouquets, like their Facebook page at The 425th and 450th people to like it will win.


The Vault Café | July 8, 2014 | 10:30 AM | 100 State Street

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for vault cafe.jpgWe'll be celebrating the grand opening of The Vault Café at 100 State Street. The name stems from the former bank vault in which people can enjoy their lunches, and to play up the theme, owner Sandra Poulen created a robbery-themed menu. Stop by for things like The Lock Box Burrito, Bonnie & Clyde Wrap, The Robber Salad and more.

The Vault Café is open 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM Monday to Friday. For more information, find them on Facebook at or call 518.694.0379.


Broadway Plaza Liquor | July 10, 2014 | 4:30 PM | 418 Broadway

Awning (2).jpg

Thursday night is basically Friday, right? This week, start your weekend a little early by helping us welcome Broadway Plaza Liquor to Downtown. The grand opening celebration, which starts at 4:30 PM at 418 Broadway, is complete with wine tastings and opening specials. 

While there's never a shortage of ways to enjoy downtown Albany, you only have a few more weeks to experience the playable pianos that make up the 2014 Thumbnail image for Piano dog.jpgSculpture in the Streets. Even if you aren't a piano player, we recommend making the most of the exhibit by using them to add something unique to your photos and videos while making some great memories.

The 13 pianos around Downtown are part of the international touring artwork Play Me, I'm Yours. Currently, the only city you'll see the exhibit is right here in Albany. Designed by regional artists, each piano has a completely different look.

Maps of all piano locations can be picked up at the Downtown Albany BID office at 40 N Pearl Street, various locations around Downtown, or viewed/downloaded online at

For inspiration on how to engage the exhibit - and to make your out of town friends and family members very jealous - you can see the pictures and videos people have posted of their own experiences at

cyclists.jpgLooking for some other ideas? Here are some we've come up with:

  • Take wedding or engagement photos at the pianos for shots few other people in the world will get
  • Take family photos at one or all of the pianos
  • Videos of family members playing or practicing, or singing along
  • Get some friends - or strangers - together for a dance off while someone plays
  • Propose to your significant other
  • Set an exercise route to stop by all 13 pianos. You can run, walk, or ride by and add something fun to your routine
  • Gather friends or family who play for a friendly competition

What other ideas do you have for ways to make the most of the pianos? You only have until July 27, 2014 before the exhibit ends!

With USS Slater's arrival slated for July 1, 2014 between 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM, we thought we'd share some of the story of the last Destroyer Escort afloat in America. According to a press release, the hope is to have the ship, located in downtown Albany at the intersection of Broadway and Quay Street, open to the public by July 4. Once open, the ship's hours will be Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. For updates, check their website or Facebook page. The information and photo below were provided by a USS Slater representative.

Thumbnail image for USS SLATER Starboard Aft 2014 (2).JPG

What is USS Slater's history?
USS Slater, the last Destroyer Escort afloat in America, was launched in 1944. She served gallantly in both the Battle of the Atlantic and the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. In 1951, Slater was transferred to Greece under the Military Defense Assistance Program. Renamed AETOS (Eagle), she served as an Hellenic Navy training ship for forty years. In 1993, after deactivation, she was brought back to the United States by a group of former Destroyer Escort Sailors. Since 1998, she has been undergoing restoration while being open to the public in Albany. The ship is owned by the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum.

Why does the ship look so different now?

USS Slater's paint scheme has been returned to her 1945 dazzle camouflage. Prior to World War II, the Naval Research Laboratory was working on reducing the visibility of ships at sea.  This research continued to evolve during WWII and included two different routes; attempting to harmonize the ship with its surroundings or painting bold and harsh patterns to confuse the enemy. Slater's paint scheme prior to the drydocking may not have seemed special but was, in fact, calculating in design. The ship was hued in a way that would allow her to blend into the ocean if seen from above, or visually meld with the horizon if seen from the sea.  With Slater's new paint scheme, the second tactic of WWII-era naval camouflage will now be on display.

What is dazzle camouflage?
Dazzle camouflage, refers to a purposely confusing paint scheme meant to distract the enemy.  It's difficult to hide a ship in the ocean, so researchers and Naval officers ran in the opposite direction by introducing a combination of bright colors, sharp zigzagging lines, and jagged geometric shapes.  From afar, it becomes difficult to determine the size, direction, and speed of the ship due to the drastically clashing silhouettes painted on both the hull and superstructure.  The enemy was tasked with aiming a torpedo at a ship's anticipated location, which took longer to determine based on the introduction of dazzle.  While Slater is not hiding from the enemy, we're excited to for the opportunity to convey a "new to us" aspect of naval tactics.  

Who gets to ride the ship back to Albany?
In addition to a working crew of volunteers, Destroyer Escort Sailors from World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam are expected to be on board for the 24-hour journey. Regardless of the ship that they served in, USS Slater has become every DE Sailor's ship. For the time they are aboard, Slater is "their ship." A unique opportunity awaits.

When will Slater return to Albany?
USS Slater is expected to depart Caddell's in Staten Island at 0500 hours Monday, June 30th. The ship should be passing West Point at 1300 hours and the Walkway Over the Hudson at 1600 hours. These estimates are subject to many variables including, but not limited to, actual time of departure, actual maintained speed, and marine traffic. Please keep in mind that, where travel on the Hudson is concerned, nothing is ever definite. The ship should arrive in Albany sometime between 0700 and 0800 hours Tuesday, July 1st.

What happens on the voyage?
USS Slater will pass numerous historic sites as she journeys up the Hudson River to Albany, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, USS Intrepid, West Point, and Hyde Park. A tentative gun salute is planned for West Point, with a return salute from a Cadet Squad. Honors will be rendered at Hyde Park, home of FDR, one the originators of the concept of a Destroyer Escort. FDR's son, Franklin, commanded the Destroyer Escort USS Ulvert M. Moore during WWII. With little fanfare, USS Slater drew crowds along the banks of the Hudson as she headed south. For her return, it is expected that many more well-wishers will journey to the river's edge to view history as Slater sails past. The best places to view Slater are public parks and recreation areas along the Hudson River.

How can the public support USS Slater?
Donations to the Museum are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donations may be mailed to DEHM, PO Box 1926, Albany, NY 12201. Visit the website at and click on participate to make donations online.

Did you know that perforated toilet paper was invented in Albany?


Chances are you did if you've played a local mobile trivia game.


Based at the downtown Albany Holiday Inn Express is shuttle driver Mike Andrews, who decided a few months into his new job that it was, well, boring.


Mike Andrews"You just shuttle people from one place to another," he says of most shuttle rides. "There's not a lot of engaging. It's 'Where are you going?' and 'Are you scheduled to go there?' and nothing after that. Absolutely nothing. It's all silent or people are talking amongst themselves."


As someone who loves to talk to people, the quiet atmosphere of simply driving people back and forth led him to a creative solution.  Mike went to hotel general manager Dee Earle and proposed a way to get people to engage not only with him and the hotel, but also with Downtown.


With Dee's approval, No Cash Cab was born. Inspired, as you might have guessed, by the show Cash Cab, Mike asks his passengers multiple choice questions about Albany. Instead of cash, passengers are given prizes that represent the Capital Region including things like Downtown Albany BID t-shirts, ValleyCats hats, and priority club membership points (for those who are members of the hotel's group). The questions cover everything from Albany's history and politics to celebrities and their connections to the area.


"It's guest relations. When people come off the train or off a plane, I'm the first guy they see, so it's up to me to get them primed up to stay at our hotel and to go to different restaurants and things like that in Downtown," he says.  Perhaps because of what they expect from shuttle services, most people don't expect to be greeted by trivia and prizes, and that's all part of the fun.


VIDEO: Mike discusses No Cash Cab


Mike works to get a minimum of eight questions in - the number a person needs to get right to win - during a ride, but has about 20 total for longer trips around the city. While people are at times hesitant to play because they don't know much about Albany, he reassures passengers that the questions are multiple choice. Plus, he tries to order them in a way that as the questions go on, previous answers will help guide a more educated guess. For example, he asks what the main trade was back in Henry Hudson's time (beaver pelts), then asks what the state animal is (beaver).


He's also working to make the city's history more tangible for visitors to the Downtown area.


We have a winner"The questions are specific to where I am. If I'm near the Capitol, they're specific. I'll start with the building. It took 30 years to complete. I try to be as close to the historical building or site as possible so people can actually see it," the Albany native says.


No Cash Cab has been going on for three years now, and Mike's already seeing people return to the hotel just to play.


"This one lady, she brings a group of people back every year and she says I won last year and I'm going to win again this year! That's how crazed people get over this because it's fun," he says, beaming with excitement.


Sometimes though, it's the people who least expect the game who need it the most.


Mike tells the story of a family who was in his shuttle once - parents, kids and grandparents together.


"I'm taking them out to dinner and I say 'Hey everybody let's play No Cash Cab!' and everybody's like 'huh?' I explained to them that it's a trivia game that we play and you might win a prize," he says. "I started going through the whole thing. The father, once we brought them back to the hotel, he says 'You know you just made my family's whole day. We came up here for a funeral and you just made our whole day.'"


That's when it hit him, he says; at that point he knew he was doing something right.


For the future, Mike hopes to be able to outfit his shuttle with lights and other technology to make it feel like the TV show on which the game is based. As close as he'd like it to be to Cash Cab, there will always remain one important difference: No matter win or lose, hotel patrons will always be brought to their destination.


Holiday Inn Express Albany - Downtown | 300 Broadway
518.434.4111 |


Photos provided by Mike Andrews.

The Albany Buzz Bloggers:

Downtown Albany Business Improvement District

Exciting Entertainment. World-Class Dining. Exquisite Art and Culture. Luxury Residential Opportunities. Since 1996, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) has worked in Albany's central business district making a direct impact through three core initiatives: business development, marketing and quality of life. From assisting developers to realize unique residential spaces to working one-on-one with business owners on their marketing plans, the BID is on the street day-in and day-out, ensuring that downtown Albany is the premier Capital Region destination for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors. Learn more about the BID at or .

Lark Street Business Improvement District

Lark Street is the vibrant heart of Albany, and known as "the village in the city" offering a one-of-a-kind experience for residents and visitors alike. From shopping to dining to nightlife to the arts, Lark Street has it all for a Live-Work-Play lifestyle. The cobblestone streets and beautiful brownstones evoke the feel of neighborhoods in New York City and the many events such as Art on Lark and LarkFEST draw thousands of visitors to this unique community and keep them coming back. :: Your Official Guide To Albany NY & The Capital Region

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