In his weekly column, Thomas Dimopoulos takes us down the back streets of Saratoga to bring us the city's best stories.
It has been a year, as all years are, alternately filled with moments of inspired magic and of tragic loss. It was a year of dreams fulfilled, promises broken, and when the will of optimism was tested.
It was a year Barack Obama was re-elected president - six months after visiting the Capital Region - and CIA Director David Petraeus resigned, after admitting he had an affair. Lance Armstrong was stripped of Tour de France titles, Syria was involved in civil war, and in Russia, three members of the rock and roll band Pussy Riot were each sentenced to two years in jail for a simple act of “hooliganism.”
In 2012, the local community raised its collective voice in the aftermath of an underreported sexual assault and inspired action by demanding – and receiving – a determination that police will do a better job of informing its citizenry of public safety issues. Later in the year, a community outcry preserved the annual city tradition of staging a midnight fireworks show on New Year’s Eve.
Ballot counting primary night with a McDonald staffer
It was a year when public forums were staged regarding a potential change of the city’s “Last Call” hours for bars and restaurants, and a referendum placed on the ballot that sought to change Saratoga Springs’ commission form of government. Both measures ultimately failed. In district-wide state senate elections, voters bid farewell to long-time local political mainstay Roy McDonald, who was narrowly defeated in a GOP primary, largely because of his support of same-sex marriage.
Charter reform was defeated at the ballot
Whitney Houston, Dick Clark and Neil Armstrong were among those who died in 2012. In February, the city lost longtime resident Clarence Dart, who passed away at the age of 91. Hundreds paid tribute to the former Tuskegee Airman during a service at Saratoga United Methodist Church.
Tweet, March 30: Is it really a good idea to have a $640 million “Mega Ball” drawing this close to April Fool’s Day?
In May, the region made international news when a 49-year-old Saratoga Springs woman shed her clothes and went shopping at a Curtis Lumber store and a Stewart’s shop while completely naked. In Miami, meanwhile, a police officer fatally shot a naked man who refused to stop chewing on the face of another man.
In June, aerialist Nik Wallenda made his historic tightrope cross over Niagara Falls as viewers watched on live TV, although comparisons to Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 were short-lived after people realized Wallenda used a safety harness.
During the summer, Great Britain hosted the Olympic Games and Saratoga Film Fest celebrated the occasion by screening the Sex Pistols’ film, “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.” The Dave Matthews Band returned to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Duplex Planet founder David Greenberger performed at Caffe Lena, and Don McLean revisited his Spa City roots by staging a sold-out concert at the Zankel Music Center.
Manny at DiVinyl Revolution
In 2012, the city kept a record store when DiVinyl Revolution re-opened on Broadway, and the promise of a cultural, and a culinary growth was in the air.
Northshire Bookstore moving into downtown in 2013
Developer Sonny Bonacio announced the construction of an 11-screen multiplex movie theater on Railroad Place; the owners of a Vermont literary institution, the Northshire Bookstore, said they will open up shop on Broadway in 2013; and the Healthy Living Market and Café is slated to occupy a large space in Wilton next year, joining the recent and anticipated future migration and expansion of health food-conscious retailers in the region – Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, and the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, among them.
Tweet, July 14 - Caffe Lena celebrates Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday with a tribute by musician Michael Eck. In an unrelated matter, today is also National Nude Day.
Sam "The Bugler" Grossman prepares for the first Call to The Post on Opening Day
The business of horses endured a two-week shut-down of harness racing after 14 cases of Strangles were confirmed at Saratoga Raceway. The season kicked in to high gear on July 20 with Sam the Bugler’s Call to the Post on Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course. Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson announced plans to honor Saratoga’s 150th anniversary of racing with a slate of events that will be staged next year, and in August N.Y. Yankees’ pitching ace Mariano Rivera attended a race named in his honor and a $500-per-plate private dinner at Siro’s Trattoria, which helped raise more than $100,000 for Rivera’s foundation to benefit children.
N.Y. Yankees pitching ace Mariano Rivera (L) and Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson (middle)
Tweet, Aug. 15 – A man dies in a car crash on the Northway, one man dies in a small plane crash in Clifton Park, and a bear is spotted on the campus of Skidmore College.
The art of words was celebrated with the return of the Shakespeare in the Park festival in Congress Park in July, and in the month-long list of notable writers and poets reading their works at the 26th annual New York State Writers Institute series at Skidmore College.
“Her skull was cracked, her soul was leaking through the cracks,” read Joyce Carol Oates, from her unpublished psychological thriller “Daddy Love.” Author Mary Gaitskill mesmerized with her words, writer Rick Moody seduced with his rock and roll literature, and William Kennedy – on what would have been friend Hunter S. Thompson’s 75th birthday – hosted a staged reading of a 100-page play titled “The Light on Caroline Street,” which Kennedy said had “never before been heard by civilized people.” Kennedy also made Spa City appearances at a musical soiree at Skidmore College celebrating the release of his novel, “Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes,” and played a guest role in a discussion about Saratoga’s notorious gambling past, which was staged at the Canfield Casino in front of a standing room only crowd of several hundred people.
At the annual summer benefit at the Yaddo artists’ colony, guest author Will Hermes discussed his book “Love Goes to Buildings on Fire,” and invoked the names of The Ramones and the New York Dolls inside the historic music room where Aaron Copland performed for guests 80 years earlier. Yaddo guest composer Nathan Barr discussed his scoring for the HBO series “True Blood.”
Tweet, Aug. 30 – Clint Eastwood on stage at the Republican National Convention has a conversation with an empty chair.
Memorial dedication at High Rock park
On Sept. 9, the city staged a public ceremony at High Rock Park to unveil its 9/11 Memorial Sculpture. Crafted from five pieces of World Trade Center steel by artists John Van Alstine and Noah Savett, the memorial stands about 25 feet tall, weighs 14 tons and was permanently sited a few yards from the Spa’s historic mineral spring where George Washington visited in 1783.
Terry Adkins conducts music recital at Tang Museum
In October, slight tremors from an earthquake were felt in the city. At Skidmore College, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand debated Republican challenger Wendy Long in front of a packed house. Four days later and a few yards away, sculptor Terry Adkins, whose works are part of a permanent collection at both the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, performed at The Tang Museum.
The month concluded with words of warning from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ordered the Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga Spa State Park closed due to high wind warnings as the east coast braced for Hurricane Sandy. More than 150 were killed in 10 states as a result of the storm and in December a concert to aid victims of the storm was held at Madison Square Garden and broadcast to an estimated worldwide audience of 2 billion people. The 12.12.12 concert featured Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Who, and dozens of other artists in what organizers billed “the biggest music event ever.”
Tweet, Nov. 16 – Hostess announced the death of Twinkies.
Carolers at City Hall during Saratoga Springs Victorian Streetwalk festival
Tweet, Nov. 27 - Hundreds gather on Broadway to greet Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrive with elves, by horse-drawn carriage. Tomorrow: the city hosts annual Victorian Streetwalk.
Tweet, Dec. 14 – Mass shooting at Newtown, Conn., 27 dead, including 20 children. National conversation begins about gun control legislation and the country’s “gun culture.”
Tweet, Dec. 21 – The world does not end.
Seagull: win, place, or show
Ramon Dominguez in the Winner's Circle
Photo Credits: Thomas Dimopoulos
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