Posted at: 09/17/2012 12:25 AM
| Updated at: 09/17/2012 7:38 AM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - In the past, people have described Albany's LarkFest as an "alcohol induced free-for-all", but this year, after a few changes have been made, that isn't what people seem to be saying any more.
When tens of thousands of people swarm into your neighborhood every year for something called LarkFEST, it isn't always easy to raise a family.
"In recent years it definitely has been getting worse," says Karen Strong, of Chestnut Street.
Strong says, in the past, she'd see festival goers vomiting on the sidewalks or urinating on peoples' stoops, but this year things seems more tolerable.
"People that were walking by with alcohol, trying to get it in (to LarkFEST) were stopped by police," observed George DePiro, a 10-year resident of Lancaster Street. "The officer was kind of like a bouncer."
This year, the city prohibited festival goers from bringing in coolers from the outside, instead mandating that they purchase beer from Lark Street merchants using a specially marked mug.
"It's kind of a no-brainer to not let people bring their own booze," DePiro said. "It took them this long to get that right, but it made a difference."
Others seem to be in agreement.
"I thought that the Lark Street BID (Business Improvement District), the city, and the police officers all came together and did a great job with the neighborhoods," said Christopher Burke, a longtime Lancaster Street resident. "They kept it a nice event this year."
"It was an improvement," Karen Strong declared, "A big improvement."
It just so happens Gene Bunnell and his wife were out of town for LarkFEST this year.
"We don't run from it although I don't regret when I'm not around," Bunnel, a seven year Center Square resident, stated. "When we got back, we found e-mail messages for us and apparently people thought it was a little better and they felt more comfortable with it (LarkFEST)."
There were kudos all around: for the beer policy, for the extra porto-potties, and for the police presence.
To walk down Lark Street Sunday afternoon, you'd never know LarkFEST had occurred just the day before. Streets were clean, vibrancy returned, and the eclectic neighborhood of stately brown stones and wrought iron railings was back to normal, with an ongoing thought from Maude Baum.
"I think that the neighborhood needs to look at LarkFEST and think about whether its valuable for our community or not," Baum said.
"I would love to see LarkFEST continue," she continued, "but I would like to see it be more of a Lark Street event so that the businesses on Lark Street are part of what's going on on an intimate basis so that when people come here they would understand what was here."
Baum owns a dance studio on Hudson Avenue at the corner of Lark Street.
Albany Police say they had no significant incidents to report associated with LarkFEST.