Mark Perfetti/For The Recorder The South Side is crowded Saturday for the second annual Italiafest.
By JOHN PURCELL
Recorder News Staff
Bridge Street was brimming with activity Saturday as people got a taste of Italy on Amsterdam’s South Side.
River Ridge Italiafest was held throughout Saturday along Bridge Street in the city, which featured Italian food from South Side restaurants and vendors, along with a variety of other food options, while Italian music created a festive atmosphere. There were also several family-friendly attractions such as free amusement rides raffles and giveaways throughout the event.
Amsterdam Recreation Department Director Robert Spagnola said determining the exact amount of people who attended Italiafest is difficult since it’s a free event, but he believed there were around 5,000 to 6,000 people throughout the day.
“The mayor and the Common Council all put a concerted effort forward to bring people to the city of Amsterdam and I think it’s paying off,” Spagnola said.
He did not believe the scattered rainfall had much effect on attendance, because showers only lasted for a few minutes at time.
Fifth Ward Alderman James Martuscello, who represents the South Side, deemed Italiafest an “overall success,” and said he was pleased with the turnout and how the event had expanded.
“It’s nice to bring the city together once again,” he said. “We really realized the last couple of years the city residents really enjoy these kind of outings.”
The Italian festival had been an annual tradition for many years before it was stopped and reignited last year.
The Recreation Department organized Italiafest, which was sponsored by the River Ridge Living Center, a rehabilitation and skilled nursing facility. There are also several other supporting sponsors.
Spagnola said there were more than 100 vendor spaces at Italiafest this year, which doubled the amount of vendors from last year. Free amusement attractions were also located on the parking lot along Bridge Street.
“It was a little trickier getting everybody in there, but once the day started I think everything went really well,” Spagnola said.
This year’s event also had three stages for live performances, including Primo Mobile DJs and Total Package Entertainment DJ. Louie and Lisa Velez performed at the South Side Veterans Memorial stage. Music for Life then performed on the Main stage followed by headliner The Joey Thomas Big Band.
“It was nice to have entertainment on both ends of the street,” Spagnola said. “I think that worked out well. Everybody didn’t have to be on one end.”
Martuscello said word of mouth helped attract more people this year.
“I saw more new faces this year than last year, because word spread from last year about how good it was so people made a point to come and see it,” Martuscello said. “I heard people from out of town came and I met some people from Schenectady who were there.”
Spagnola said his favorite aspect about the day was how it brought the community together.
“It’s nice when people say, and I heard this throughout the day, ‘I got to see people that I haven’t seen in forever,’” Spagnola said. “Somebody said, ‘I saw friends of mine from high school that I haven’t seen in 30 years.’”
Spagnola said there did not appear to be any issues with parking despite the large turnout.
Parking was available at the former Chalmers Knitting Mills site located adjacent to the South Side entrance of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge. People could also park at the Riverfront Center and Mount Carmel Church, with a shuttle service transporting people to the event.
Martuscello said the main disappointment he heard from attendees was many of the vendors ran out of food.
“That’s a very good problem to have. It’s a good sign that the vendors are going to come back,” Martuscello said.
Photos by Mark Perfetti