Albany Mardi Gras Street Festival and Albany Marathon slated Saturday

Mar 02, 2015

By Brad McEwen, Albany Herald

ALBANY — Thousands of revelers and runners are expected to fill the streets of downtown Albany Saturday when the Better Albany Group hosts the annual Mardi Gras Street Festival following the completion of the annual Albany Marathon.

#This year marks the 14th year of the Mardi Gras and organizers are optimistic that once again, many area residents and visitors will turn out along the 100 block of Pine Avenue for an afternoon of entertainment, featuring live music, kids activities and a host of different vendors.

#According to Better Albany Group member and Thronateeska Heritage Center Executive Director Tommy Gregors, between 20,000 and 30,000 people attended the festival, and he expects to see similar numbers this year.

#“As long as we have good weather, we’ll have a good turnout,” said Gregors. “We’re excited about it. There will be good food, good entertainment and good times.”

#This year’s event kicks off at noon and will run until 8 p.m., which is an earlier closing time than in years past. Gregors said the decision to close a little earlier was driven by the fact that most of the crowds last year came earlier in the day and left before the 11 p.m. closing.

#In what has become a tradition in recent years, the festivities will begin with the Albany Humane Society Pet Parade, followed immediately by the first musical act of the day, Rollin in the Hay.

#Rollin in the Hay will be followed by the Southern Arts Music Ensemble, the Bo Henry Band, Broken Glass, J Blues Band, and Unbreakable Bloodline to close the evening.

#In addition to the multiple bands, guests will be able to visit a variety of different food, beverage and merchandise vendors, as well as take part in different activities for the whole family such as face painting, carnival rides, bouncy houses and rock climbing.

#Admission to the festival is $5 per visitor and children 10 and under are free with each paid visitor. The RiverQuarium, which is located inside the Mardi Gras location, will also be offering reduced entrance to the exhibit at just $5 per Mardi Gras visitor.

#Participants of the Albany Marathon, which will conclude its full and half marathons that are taking place that morning, will also receive free admission to the Mardi Gras.

#With both the Marathon and the Mardi Gras events, Saturday will be a busy day for downtown Albany, which Gregors said was one of the goals of the Mardi Gras.

#“We started this 14 years ago to attract folks to come downtown and see what the area has to offer,” said Gregors. “I think it has done that and that people look forward to it.”

#Showcasing Albany is also one of the primary focuses for the marathon, which is now in its 9th year in Albany. According to Kristen Schuette, manager of marketing and communications for the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and assistant race director of the marathon, the event is a good way to showcase Albany to visitors.

#Schuette said this year participants are from 36 states, as well as some from Canada, Barbados and Kazakhstan.

#“It brings so many people to Albany that might not have a reason to come here otherwise,” Schuette said. “And when they come here they stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. Last year’s marathon had an economic impact of around $600,000.”

#One of the reasons Albany’s marathon draws visitors from all over the country is because the full 26.2 mile marathon is a USTF (United States Track and Field) certified race that is a qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon.

#“We’re consistently in the top ten for qualifying for the Boston Marathon,” said Schuette. “Eighteen percent of our field qualified last year.”

#In addition to providing runners with a good qualifying course, the event’s reputation has continued to grow over the years as those in the running community spread the word that Albany’s race features a great route and great volunteers helping to provide a good experience for participants.

#“We have over 1,700 volunteers, and they do a great job,” said Schuette. “Our volunteers are top notch. One of the beautiful things about the marathon is that it brings the community together for something good.”

#Last year more than 1,000 runners, walkers and even wheelchair and hand crank competitors crossed the finish line along the banks of the Flint River, including the nearly 700 that completed the half marathon.

#The wheelchair and hand crank competitors will be begin the race at 6:45 a.m. and will be followed by the rest of the full and half marathon competitors at 7 a.m. There is a seven hour course limit for both full and half marathon as well. Participants are encouraged to arrive at the starting line on Front Street near the Veteran’s Park Amphitheatre by 6:30 for an opening ceremony.

#More than $12,000 in prize money will be awarded to winners in both the full and half marathon, with $3,000 going to the first place male and first place female, $2,000 going to the second place male and the second place female and $1,000 be awarded to the third place male and the third place female.

#Entry fees for the full marathon are $90 until March 4, and $105 March 5 and 6. Entry fees for the half marathon are $75 until March 4 and $85 after that. Paid participants will received a race t-shirt as well as various other gifts and medals will be given in different age categories.

#For more information about the marathon visit albanymarathon.com. To learn about becoming a marathon volunteer, contact Meredith Bursed at mburnsed@albanyga.com.

#To learn more about the Mardi Gras, contact Thronateeska Heritage Center Museums Director Teresa Smith via email at tsmith@heritagecenter.org or by phone at (229) 432-6955.


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