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Albany's Mardi Gras has something for everyone

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- The runners and the bicyclists took to the street for races. Everyone else took to the street for food, music and party fun Saturday.

The eighth annual Albany Mardi Gras celebration given the handle "Rock, Roll and Run," got off to a start at 6:45 a.m. with wheelchair and hand-crank chair marathons. Those events were followed by runner marathons, bicycle races and a plastic-turtle race with $5 a turtle going to support the Flint RiverQuarium.

So much for the "Roll and Run."

The Evan Barber & the Dead Gamblers band put the "Rock" into the street party event as the 1 p.m. opening act on the Broad Street main stage.

"I'm really glad to be here to open the stage and set the tone for the day," Barber said. "I hope everyone has a good time."

A good time meant 16 bands with music on two stages, food, beer, climbing walls, food, inflatable bouncy amusements, face painting, food, costumes, dancing in the streets, food, funny hats, masks, food and lots of smiles at the celebration that lasts into Sunday.

"We started this eight years ago as a street music festival," said Bo Henry, Albany restaurateur and leader of the Bo Henry band. "It just grew and now it is a city event."

The event brings thousands upon thousands of people, most with their families, downtown for a day in a city that many at the event said is starving for things to do.

"We look forward to this all year. There isn't much else to do," said Rebecca Burnett. "It is something that adults and kids can do together. That's why we stay down here where the kid's games are."

Burnett's two young boys, Bryce and Blake, will eventually be given to grandparents so she and her husband Bryan can move closer to the band stage.

"We'll give them to grandpa," Burnett said, "then we'll stay here all night and party."

Adding authentic masks and costumes to the party, Danny Reeves, of Party Plus Wedding, said he goes to New Orleans to bring back quality masks and costuming supplies to stock his tent's shelves.

"I don't get my stock from the internet, I want the quality things they have in New Orleans for our Mardi Gras," Reeves said. "This good weather we have will help people come out."

The economy might be down but food vendors were dishing out every kind of food to be found in the South and around the world. There were "alligator kabobs," ribs, wings, barbecue, Philly cheese steaks, Polish and Italian sausages, funnel cakes, fried turkey legs, fluff fries, ribbon fires and French fries and more.

At the Good Eats Concessions tent, Robin Gibbs, offered something that probably didn't ever grace a table in Greece or Mexico, but sounded delicious, "Greek Fajitas."

A new business open seven months on the 200 block of Broad Avenue in the middle of the party, Chill Bar & Lounge attracted a good crowd from the event.

"This is good. This gets a lot of people to come and see what downtown Albany has to offer," said Quantan Thomas, bar owner. "I think we should have more events downtown. I believe in downtown."