Updated 05/24/2012 10:45 PM
Crowds thirsty for a 14th year of Saranac Thursdays
What started as a small outdoor happy hour has turned into Utica's biggest party. Saranac Thursdays are back and they're expected to draw about 3,000 people to the F.X. Matt Brewing Company every week. Sarah Blazonis reports.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- A sea of people flooded onto Varick Street for this year's Saranac Thursdays kick off. For some, it's a tradition.
"I'm a regular. I'm the greeter. I'll meet you at the gate!" said Shirley Siuta, a longtime Saranac Thursdays attendee.
For others, it was their first time, but all said a favorite part was being at a place where somebody's likely to know your name.
"Seeing old friends," said Bonnie Sanchez, who traveled from downstate to make the event for four years before moving back to Clinton.
"It's like a high school reunion," Siuta agreed. "We run into people we know, we meet new people."
"The music, the drinks, just coming out. Everybody getting together, having a good time," said New Hartford resident Gary Burak.
Music has become a main part of the tradition, and, of course, it's a place for the brewery to showcase what it does best.
"We have two new beers: Our Blueberry Blonde Ale and also our Saranac Shandy, which are both just great, refreshing beers for the summer," said Meghan Fraser, marketing coordinator for the brewery.
And just as the crowds are drawn to the event, local vendors set up shop to drum up some extra business.
"It's one of our only local events that gets the whole city together. It's good for the brewery, the city, bars on Varick, local businesses like us," said Ben Enea.
Enea set up his Maggio's Italian Ice cart across from the admission tables, a prime spot to catch the eye of the thousands of passersby.
Folks also say they're glad to know all this fun is going toward a good cause. A part of the admission fee goes to support the local chapter of the United Way, helping the organization to raise $30,000 every year.
"It goes into a community fund that is supporting health, education, income, and the community safety net in Herkimer and Oneida Counties," said Adam Lawless, community engagement manager for the United Way.
With $300,000 raised in the last 13 years, the United Way is one, but certainly not the only, group that's happy Uticans are still thirsty for Thursdays.
For more information about the event and this year's musical line-up, visit www.saranac.com.