Saratoga Springs.. Oh The Places You'll Go

June 2011 Archives

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Forty-eight hours- that's all the time I had to show my mother my new home in all its grandeur. And although it seems like a decent stretch to do this and that, it was a race against time the entire visit. It was an extremely short trip in which she was passing through merely to get her piano; my husband and I have been storing it for her for the past five years. My parent's recently bought a home in Florida that was finally big enough for her to retrieve one of her favorite pieces. Prior to her visit, I asked her multiple times what she wanted to do. She always responded with, "Anything and everything that has to do with Saratoga and the surrounding area." Now, if you've lived here long enough, even a mere six months like me, you know that the list of things to do and see is endless.

The first day was too short. It was my son's birthday so we tried to focus on things he loves to do. We started the day early and drove up Prospect Mountain in Lake George with some family friends. The intention was to have a picnic lunch all together on the peak. Unfortunately we didn't plan for it to be as cold and windy as it was on top of the mountain and ended up retreating to Shepards Park. There, we enjoyed our huge Roma sandwiches as we watched the boats cruise along the water. We then let all the children play on the playground and strolled along the waterfront until they were tired enough for their naps. That evening, which one could say is less "Saratoga," we spent some time, and money, in Wilton Mall playing in the bounce area at the food court and watching Cars 2.

The next day, we got up early again and we decided to do some shopping downtown Saratoga. We walked in and out of stores getting little mementoes for my mom and gifts for my dad. Over and over she would stop and gaze at the buildings and say she was just amazed on what a beautiful town and area this was. Subsequently we stumbled upon Ravenous, where my mother insisted we had to have lunch. Later, with our bellies full, we decided to walk it off in Congress Park. Of course a visit to Congress Park wouldn't be complete without a ride on the carousel. Later that afternoon, after another naptime, we decided to head back up to Lake George for Shoreline's Pizza Cruise. With pizza, entertainment, drinks, and a breathless view all together in one place, it was a nice way to spend our last meal as a family before she left. Of course, even though dessert was provided on the cruise, I informed my mother that she couldn't leave town without trying Stewart's ice cream- which to me is the best ice cream I've ever had and one of my first experiences in this town. And as quickly as she came, she was gone again, back to the Sunny State.

My only frustration with the past two days, however, is the thought of all the things we didn't do. There's Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Historic Park, Circus Café, SPAC, Yaddo Gardens, Beekman Street, the Saratoga Winery, etc... the list can go on and on. Prior to her leaving kept I apologizing on all the things we didn't get a chance to do, but as she pointed out, there wasn't enough time in two days. She did, however, say that she truly understands why I have fallen in love with this town and looks forward to another visit soon.

So I guess if you had forty-eight hours, what would you consider a "must see" or a "must do" in this area? Love to hear your thoughts!

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"Who cares how time advances? I'm drinking ale today." ~ Edgar Allen Poe

It was Saturday morning and I felt like a child about to go to Disney. Let me be honest and explain to you that I am a huge beer geek. Therefore as beer geeky as I can be, I knew it was going to be a great day for beer lovers. After all, it was the 2nd Annual Saratoga Brewfest at Ellms Family Farm in Ballston Spa and my husband and I had VIP tickets; a small splurge for our Mother/Father's Day present to each other. We were amped to say the least. We had a babysitter until late that evening, read up on the visiting breweries, and had our pretzel necklaces ready. Yes, it was going to be a great day.

Riding with some of our neighbors deep into the country side of Ballston Spa, we arrived shortly after the doors opened for the VIP session. We were given a nice little goodie bag that included our tasting cup, a koozie (who doesn't like those), a pen, and other whatnots. From that point, time just flew by as we enjoyed ourselves with the catered lunch and all-you-can-drink VIP beers. There were only a few points throughout the day that we actually paid attention to the time: one, being when the general session opened; two, when the Belgian tent opened; three, when Adirondack Brewery opened their special cask; and finally when the event was over. For several hours we were whirled into the madness of trying any sample we had never tried before as well as talking to any brewery representative.

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One of the breweries, Wandering Star Craft Brewery, was an exciting find to see there since they had such a difficult time getting their licenses. Chris Post, owner and founder, was beyond amazing. He was generous enough to spend some time talking with us and even gave my husband a few pointers on home brewing. Another great discovery, which almost came too late in the day, was Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout; we were lucky enough to get samples from the last bottle! By the end of the event, we didn't even come close to finishing our 15 samples. Although some pointed out to us that we were participating in "alcohol abuse" by not using all our vouchers, I like to think we truly enjoyed our samples while lounging in the shade of the VIP tent listening to the band play. It was, after all, a wonderful day.

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All and all, the day lived up to what we imagine. Yes, there were some things this festival lacked in compared to other festivals, but for the 2nd year... Good job Saratoga Brewfest! I will definitely be there again next year and singing your praises to others. Festivals like these are always a great time and we always leave with a few extra friends. My biggest let down for the day, however, was from Adirondack Brewery with their cask "CocoWhat?". This beer was an amazing five-gallon, once-in-a-lifetime, brew. It's a shame this one doesn't have a permanent place on their tap list to say the least. I can't remember all the details, but it was aged in a rum barrel with vanilla and coconut. Sounds amazing right?

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If you didn't get a chance to go, no worries, there's another beer festival around the corner. On July 23rd, the 2nd Annual Capital Region Craft Brewers Festival will be taking place at the Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy. I can guarantee that I'm already planning on attending and you should check back to see how it goes (of course I hope you join me there). However, if you did attend the Saratoga Brewfest, and hopefully you did, what was your favorite moment or sample you tried that day? Love to hear your thoughts! Cheers!

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I have to say, spring and summer are my two favorite seasons. Not because of the warm weather, although that factor does help, but mostly because it means so many fruits are readily available. One of my favorite memories while growing up was shrimping in the Lowcountry and then going to the nearby farm to pick some fresh strawberries. To me, nothing says summer better, then eating strawberries fresh from the fields and warm from the sun. It didn't help that strawberry picking was a regular habit in my family growing up as well. My mother was guilty of taking us strawberry picking as children. We would be on our way to who-knows-where and if she saw a sign for strawberry fields, she would easily detour the ten to twenty miles to have us four children pick the dessert we would be eating later.

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I don't know why, but it's been easily eight to ten years since I've been out in the fields getting some of my favorite fresh fruit, and between all these rainy days, I couldn't help but think about all the those times back when. To my surprise, I found there are a lot of strawberry farms here in the Capital Region, one farm which I just had to go to- Hand Melon Farm. Located right outside of Schuylerville (pronounced "Sky-ler-ville" according to the locals who corrected me rather quickly), in the town of Greenwich, this "pick your own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and peppers when in season" farm is no more than thirty minutes from our home here in Saratoga Springs. The best part of this Hand Melon Farm is that it was open for strawberry business June 10th and are only two dollars a pound.

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Needless to say, you don't have to tell me good news twice and my family was there opening morning along with a dozen other families. It was a beautiful farm, nestled on a back road with mountains in the distance; it is a true picture perfect opportunity for scrapbooks I'll never complete. My husband, who grew up in the farming country of Ohio, had never been strawberry picking and it was humorous watching my son and husband going up and down the rows picking strawberries as fast as they could eat them. We also learned at Hand Melon farm that there are several different types of strawberries. I am no strawberry connoisseur, but found the Annapolis to be more tart and lemon-like while the Jewel was juicy and sweeter.

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By the end of our visit we had picked roughly 7.5lbs in under an hour; all of which has now been turned into jam, pastries, and other strawberry goodies. In the end, my family left with a lot of good memories, laughs, but most importantly, a lot of red, delicious strawberries. It was such a good experience, that we are actually going again soon. Like I said, I love strawberry picking and like my mother, I see myself detouring those ten to twenty miles making my kids work for their dessert. Some people hate becoming their parents, but this is one ritual I don't mind taking on.

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1.) Wear appropriate clothes and footwear. It probably doesn't hurt to wear sunscreen either. Remember, this is a real farm.
2.) If you forget to bring a basket to pick your strawberries, don't worry. They provide flats or quart size containers.
3.) Don't forget to stop at their country store on Route 29 for other goodies. I picked up a strawberry cookbook which came in handy.
4.) Don't forget to take cash. They also accept checks.
5.) Be sure to ask about the different styles of strawberries! The staff there is beyond friendly and helpful pointing out the best spots to pick strawberries!
6.) Hand Melon Farm is open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, and Saturday-Sunday 9am-5pm.
7.) If you have children, bring a camera. You'll get a kick out of taking pictures of your little one covered in strawberry juice.

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On August 16, 1977 the King of Rock and Roll left behind millions of fans not willing to say goodbye. He was a legend in the music world and is still revered as one of the most influential musicians in the 20th century. This past weekend, in the quiet town of Lake George, men and women flocked from all over the world to pay tribute to the King. It was a weekend of leather jump suits, blue suede shoes, hound dogs, and love songs. Over four days, the entire town seemed to celebrate the King; from tribute artists on the Minne-Ha-Ha, concerts in the park, vendors selling Elvis memorabilia, or dressing up like the King. The Lake George Elvis Festival was an experience of a life time which my entire family enjoyed and will not forget anytime soon.

On Thursday night it started off as a pretty simple festival with an Opening Night Ceremony at Shepard Park followed by an Interpreting Elvis concert showcasing Dwight Icenhower and Ted Torres. From that point, the "C'mon, Everybody" fun heated up with an Opening Night Party at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery.

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Friday, with my husband and little one in tow, we headed out to see the first round of the Elvis Tribute Artist Competition. To be honest, I had no idea how competitive this competition was. There were tribute artists from all over the world; from the United Kingdom to Sanford, Florida. Some played guitars, some did not, but all were dressed head to toe in Elvis gear. It was wonderful watching everybody with their own interpretation. It was a talent show like no other. Later that night, my girlfriend and I headed out for the Tribute to Rock and Roll History concert. Now much of the music was "beyond my years," but it was a blast nevertheless. A couple, who was seated beside us, had traveled all the way from Plattsburgh, NY and explained random music trivia to us throughout the show. The concert itself premiered several artists performing different music icons. My personal favorite was Mark Gagnon as Johnny Cash and Dwight Icenhower as Sir Elton John.

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Other artists included Denny Diamond's as Neil Diamond, Jesse Aron as Roy Orbison, Robert Washington as James Brown, and Ted Torres as Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. After the show, patrons then continued the celebration at Boardwalk Restaurant.

Saturday, with much needed coffee from the night before, we returned to Lake George to continue the festivities. With the day barely started, we lined up with other Elvis fans along State Route 9 to watch the Elvis Classic Car parade. Honestly, I think this was my son's favorite part and besides knowing that they were old cars, it was fun to watch.

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Afterwards, we made our way down to Shepard Park to watch more Elvis performers. Next we followed it up with a lunch at Boardwalk Restaurant while being serenaded by another Elvis tribute artist. If that wasn't enough, we then boarded the Minne-Ha-Ha at 1:30 to watch Ted Torres pay homage to the King with the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake George in the background. Later that night, after a nap, more coffee, and a friend watching our son, we returned to the Lake George forum for another concert; Evolution: The King's Journey. What an experience! During this show, Ted Torres, Dwight Icenhower, and 2009 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Champion Bill Cherry, performed song after song of Elvis' most popular hits. Women lined up along the staged as Bill Cherry handed out silk scarves. It was absolutely hilarious and my husband and I enjoyed every minute. Of course one of the best parts of the show was meeting other fans, some of which whom had actually seen the King in concert.


Sunday, the fourth and final day, I'm afraid my family and I were too tired to continue to rock and roll. But they had an Elvis Gospel Music Contest, an Elvis Wedding Ceremony for several couples, the competition finals and awards, and a festival wrap party at Steel Pier. All of which, if I wished I could have gone to, but I don't think there would have been enough coffee in the world. Nevertheless, the Elvis Festival was as entertaining as any festival I've ever been to. I don't believe I've ever been to a concert where I've seen a wider scope of fans; much less fans so willing to share their stories. So basically what I am saying is if I wasn't an Elvis fan before, I sure am now. Many of the songs I heard over the weekend never knew were Elvis hits. And if you missed out, well you always have the Las Vegas show less than two months away. As the King would say, "Viva Las Vegas!"

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Just a side note, I like to thank Kelli Fritz for helping me with the photos!

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Danielle Berry

Originally from the South Carolina Lowcountry, Danielle Berry is a southern girl through and through. Born into an Air Force family with three other siblings, her life included moving every four to five years up and down the East Coast. Although saying goodbye was never easy with every move, a new town always meant more friends and unfamiliar, yet exciting, things to do. Eventually her parents settled in the small town of Beaufort, South Carolina; a quaint coastal town between Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. There, she found the porches were long, but the conversations were always longer.

A Converse College alumna, she met her husband, Jared, on a reluctant blind date her freshman year. Married in 2007, she followed him to Southeast Georgia where she was hired as an interior decorator and project manager for James Michael Howard. In 2009, they welcomed their first son, Michael, and she became a full time stay-at-home mom.

This past January, she followed her husband to Saratoga Springs. Although the porches aren’t as long, she has found that the conversations with the locals are. With an overwhelming amount of experiences awaiting, she is excited to be given another opportunity in a new town, with new friends, and new adventures.