Last Saturday, UK pop sensation The Kooks capped off the first day of Albany’s 67th annual Tulipfest with an explosive and crowd-pleasing set.
Tulipfest is an outdoor spring celebration that attracts thousands every year. Crafts tables, art exhibits, chess, petting zoos, magicians, bouncy castles, two stages with all day long live music and a climbing wall are just a few of the activities the festival has to offer among a smorgasbord of seemingly hundreds of food vendors.
The event coincides with the blossoming of over a hundred thousands tulips in the park. On Sunday, Tulipfest hosted its 17th annual Mother of the Year award to commemorate the holiday.
I stepped off the packed shuttle bus at 2:30 p.m. and found myself in a sea of people around the towering main stage (being 6’3” does wonders for navigating these things). Across the walkway were the flower beds — bright red, yellow, tulips which glowed in the sweltering sun. I kicked my shoes off and waded in the King Memorial Fountain.
Those who visit the Green Market every Sunday may recognize some of the same tables — Saratoga Crackers made an appearance. It was a good day for a barbecue, or twenty. There was food of all kinds, including bratwurst, fried dough, slushies and big barrels of lemonade. I picked up some chicken tenders and meandered through the arts and crafts.
There were enough sculptures, chotchkies, oils on canvases, photos on canvases and mood-heightening quartz crystals.
I kept a lookout for the Smallbany table, where I had bought a belt for five bucks at last year’s festivities. A security officer watched from atop his massive, brawny horse.
Yes, there were some animals. There were pony rides next to the bouncy castles and the climbing wall, and then there was the petting zoo. Baby goats climbed up each other’s hinds and playfully butted heads. A hen and her chickens sat nearby. The sheep were thick matted clumps with little bits of straw caught up here and seemed bored, and blase to the touch.
A magician was performing. I walked past the crowd of kids and ran into the people I lost in the food stands. Then I lost them again.
By 4 p.m., we packed ourselves around the main stage and, after a brief introduction from the mayor, greeted the Kooks with hoots and whistles. The band played an hour of music from their new album, plus some of the old hits.
Lead singer Luke Pritchard hopped on guitar and then the keyboard for a solo piece. Spirits were high.
An hour later we filed out of the park. At this point I remembered this was only the first day of the festival, which kind of amazed. Albany must be exhausted this week.
Even for the brief time I was there (the festival kicks off at noon, so I was a little late), it seemed like several days packed in one — and all of them were a blast.