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Throngs flocking to local events

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Local venues and community events are drawing big crowds.

Sunday’s Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra Holiday Concert at Glens Falls High School drew 875 people. The prior Tuesday’s Adirondack Voices Winter Glow attracted a record 472 people at Christ Church United Methodist.

The Strand Theater in Hudson Falls drew a standing room crowd exceeding 375 people for its Ballet Meets the Beatles event that combined classical ballet and the tribute band Across the Pond.

The 300-seat Charles Wood Theater says it has had 40 shows sell out this year, including the upcoming Dec. 18 Glenn Miller Orchestra concert, presented by promoter Eric Mallette, and three concerts on Dec. 21, 22 and 23, by Delaney Silvernell, the Queensbury native and NBC’s The Voice contestant.

Delaney Silvernell: 900 tickets — The Wood Theater in Glens Falls has sold out all three shows, Dec. 21-23, by the Queensbury native and NBC’s The Voice contestant.

Also sold out is the family-friendly holiday party with a “Frozen” theme, on Dec. 22 — well beyond previous years, when the same event drew more like 150 people, Ms. Murphy said, adding that Reality Dance has few tickets left for its take on The Nutcracker this weekend — including a daytime performance for school groups. It sold out its spring recital as well.

“We expect a busy December,” Ms. Murphy said, “but this is not anything we were expecting, and it’s been like this from October through December.”

She said that for the year, the Wood’s 140 public shows have sold 29,000 tickets, up from last year’s 27,000.

The Adirondack Theatre Festival is a big contributor, Ms. Murphy notes, with numerous sell-outs especially for the musicals Loch Ness and Front Page Flo. Most ATF performances ran near capacity.

Here’s a quick look at some of the sold-out and best-selling events of 2018.

Wood Theater: 40 sell-outs

On the verge of its 15th season, the Wood Theater has “well beyond” 365 “lit” days, director Emily Murphy says, counting times when the theater was used for rehearsals, workshops and such, sometimes by several groups simultaneously.

Other big sellers: WCKM Regional Radio Group’s two Bee Gees tribute shows both sold out months before the October concert date. So did earlier tribute shows this year: Jersey 4 (Frankie Valli), Eaglemania (the Eagles, drew 266 people), Tusk (Fleetwood Mac tribute, 205).

Three of Adirondack Ballet Theater’s four Nutcrackers last weekend sold out.

The St. Mary’s-St. Alphonsus Players, directed by Mickey Luce, sold out their run of The Sound of Music last January. Broadway Upstate children’s troupe sold out performances of its summer show Shrek. Coalescence belly dance show: Sold out.

Glens Falls Community Theatre’s Young Frankenstein in November played to houses at 90 percent capacity or more.

One factor, Ms. Murphy believes, is the theater’s switch this year to Ovation Tickets for the box office, which she said is more flexible, has an easier user interface and is better suited to the presenters’ specific, differing needs.

Next step, she adds, is upgrading the theater’s Website in 2019.

HF Strand keeps building

Ballet Meets the Beatles did so well for the Strand Theater in Hudson Falls earlier this month, they are planning a “Hudson River” regional tour for the concert pairing that will include performances at the Alvin Ailey Theater in New York City on April 26 and at The Egg in Albany next fall. They expect to also take it literally “Across the Pond,” to London, where Chevalier director Sara Knight has connections, Strand director Jonathan Newell said.

Other top shows at The Strand this year: Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre drew a near-capacity crowd of more than 250 people. Britney Spears drummer Ernest LaRouche, a Hudson Falls native, twice filled the Strand with his Boston-Journey tribute band The Dirty White Boys.

Vermont jam band The Rustic Overtones drew 250 people. Topping 200 people: Local guitarist Bob Bates’ two Buddy Holly tribute shows.

Upcoming “star” events include master guitarist Alvin Lee on Wednesday, Jan. 9 — a high-power rockabilly-Americana artist whose booking agent reached out to the Strand, Mr. Newell reports, after hearing of Martin Barre’s good experience here.

Mr. Newell adds that renovations at the Strand “should be done by mid-year 2019,” drawing on a $250,000 state grant, and $50,000 from National Grid, as well as much volunteer work and community support.

Pending projects: Completing backstage green room and facilities; upstairs practice hall, storage and offices; roof work; facade and marquee; finishing off the balcony; and potentially replacing the flexible riser seating on the theater’s main floor with permanent raked seating.

Final capacity with permanent seating, if they go that route, will likely be about 350 people, Mr. Newell said.

Note that this Sunday, Dec. 16, the Hudson River Music Hall — umbrella for the Strand and its sister venue on Maple Street — marks its eighth anniversary with a party, cake and concert. Details, page 15.

New Park Theater, GF

Elizabeth Miller’s Park Theater in Glens Falls opened to major fanfare in mid-April. The theater’s flexible seating means capacity ranges from about 100 for cabaret shows to 220 in theater-style rows.

The opening weekend concert by The North and South Dakotas drew about 200 people, general admission, standing only.

Sold out, or nearly sold out shows so far include two versions of “Hamiltunes,” local actors sing-through of the hit Broadway show, at about 220 people each, theater manager Bridget Dunigan said.

Several sing-along/open mic Broadway cabarets also drew about 200 people each.

The Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy show drew about 140 people.

The bagpipes-traditional fiddle cabaret show by Ben Miller and Anita McDonald last May drew a capacity 130 people.

875 people attended Glens Falls Symphony’s holiday concert on December 9.

The Adirondack Film Festival screenings at the Park in October were at capacity for every screening — about 120 people, to accommodate the screen. Shane Alden’s new short film premiere of For The Right Reasons last month drew about 120 people. Hui Cox and Laura Roth’s monthly jazz-standards concerts drew a total of about 500 people, combined.

“Anything with local people,” Ms. Dunigan says. She’s looking to grow participatory dance events, next.

Mrs. Miller also points to holiday parties and other private events utilizing the whole space, including Doc’s Restaurant downstairs, as a growth area.

Cool Insuring Arena: Hockey

Cool Insuring Arena’s biggest seller of 2018?

Director Jeff Mead’s one word: “Hockey.”

Ten Adirondack Thunder ECHL hockey games in 2018 drew more than 4,000 spectators, Mr. Mead reports, including the February 24 Hall of Fame night — at 5,445 people — and the final regular season home game on April 6 — 5,247.

Opening night of this season on October 20 drew 4,805 people.

The Section II high school basketball tournament last February drew 10,210 people over four days, “always a good week for us,” Mr. Mead said.

The Adirondack Stampede Rodeo drew 7,160 people over two days.

For concerts and special events, Primus on May 25 drew 2,500 people. Garden Brothers Circus in April: 3,210 over two shows.

The newly announced Ice Motorcycle racing coming on January 26, Mr. Mead expects will sell well, he said.

Also anticipated: The Arena has passed two of three hurdles to bring the New York State Boys High School Basketball Tournament back to town for three seasons, 2020 to 2022. In the past, the state tourney generated average attendance between 15,000 and 17,000 people, Mr. Mead said.

Also helping the bottom line in 2019 Mr. Mead said, last April they finally received state reimbursements for grants to improve the facility — so going forward, the arena will not be burdened with the more than $150,000 in interest payments it was making on anticipatory loans it had taken until the state’s more than $2.6 million grant came through.

LG Festival Commons, Wine, plus

Lake George Mayor Bob Blais reports that the Festival Commons space continues to fill dates, rising steadily from four events in its inaugural season of 2016 to 16 events in 2018 and an expected 20 events or more coming in 2019.

The busiest, he said, included Adirondack Winery’s Wine and Food Festival the weekend of June 23 and 24, which reported a total two-day attendance of 6,393 people. Other top attendance events, the Mayor said, included the Americade Motorcycle Rally and Adirondack Nationals Car Show, which both used the space for vendor expos.

Last weekend’s new Christkindlmarkt vendor show brought in 4,800 people over two-and-a-half days, during the all-important off season, “proving exactly what we had hoped for the space to do,” the Mayor said.

Country music icon Charlie Daniels, and the Adirondack Independence Music Festival featuring Twiddle both also did well this year, Mayor Blais said.

New events for 2019 may include a Clam Bake and Music Fest in mid-June, a bicycle event called Tour de Freedom in May, a possible Italian festival in June, and a second American-themed music festival by Jonathan Newell and The Strand/Hudson River Music Hall, which currently does a late-summer “British Invasion” festival.

GF Shirt Factory

The Glens Falls Shirt Factory’s weekly Thursday evening Food Truck, vendor and entertainment festivals caught on this year. Shirt Factory owner Eric Unkauf tracks attendance and demographics with weekly sticker surveys of patrons. He had as many as 3,000 people at several of the weekly gatherings, he reported.

Anecdotally noted: The Shirt Factory’s Holiday Open House weekends, last week and over Thanksgiving, were also packed.

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