By Jason Irwin, Chronicle Rock Columnist
The fourth annual GEM Festival — “GEM” for Glens Falls Entertainment and Music — is about hit the street — literally.
For the first time in its brief history, GEM Fest obtained permission from the City of Glens Falls to shut down Glen Street for much of the day on Saturday to make way for the arts — musical and otherwise.
It’s also the first year they’ve expanded to two days.
If you don’t know what GEM is — just take a stroll around downtown this weekend, starting with Friday afternoon and evening, July 26, and continuining all day and into the night on Saturday, July 27.
The festival centerpiece is the music, taking place at several locations around downtown Glens Falls, including outside stages, local bars and restaurants.
I know many of the bands that are performing. This is a great opportunity to really embrace some of our amazing local talent.
Some familiar names will be returning: Local original acts Paradox Saints, Candy Ambulance (poised for a big tour Northeast tour…) and Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival Band are among those on the bill.
A few popular out-of-town acts will be present, including Pennsylvania rock outfit Chestnut Grove.
Some new names like Albany progressive band Timbre Coup will be making their GEM debut, and there are sure to be a few lineup surprises (there always are).
Now, I’m a “music-minded” soul, but trust me — GEM is not just limited to music.
The second lead side to GEM Fest is the visual arts. Nearly a dozen regional artists have signed on to live paint alongside the musicians throughout the festival.
New this year: They’ve added a Saturday GEM-Palooza family friendly music and festival, in City Park.
Also on tap: Visual artists doing live paintings on site, comedy at the Park Theater, an expanded indie film fest and contest, kids’ activities and more vendors.
Check out the full listing of GEM events in The Chronicle for all the whos, whats, wheres and whens.
I was able to sit down with GEM Fest founder and organizer Brian Michael this past week to get some inside information on the festival — and more about what’s new this year.
The new APE connection
Jason Irwin: GEM has been adopted by local nonprofit group APE (Art in the Public Eye). Why did you seek to incorporate into this organization?
Brian Michael: GEM is in its fourth year. I’m looking ahead…at the next six years. How do we get to where we want to be and sustain growth?
This year, we have a board of directors. We have a whole team of artistic people who are used to running events. Everyone has their specialty…legal, film, media….
I try to do all these things — I’m kind of a jack-of-all trades. But at the end of the day, you have to trust growth to something bigger than yourself. I think APE represents a great step toward that goal. They have been involved in the past, but this year they have really taken hold. It’s also nice to offload some responsibility, so I can tackle other projects.
How have you grown?
JI: How have you seen the festival grow?
BM: This whole thing started small.
It’s amazing what has happened in just a few years.
We have Glen Street this year. That’s a big deal. There is a lot that goes into the approval for that. We have live music, artists, vendors — the works.
The street will be shut down on Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. An event like this really helps to put Glens Falls on the map when it comes to an all-encompassing music and arts festival that really brings the town together.
Comedy, film at Park Theatre
JI: What else is different this year?
BM: Well, the festival is two days now.
We have Friday afternoon and evening events in addition to Saturday.
Comedy sold out last year, so this year we are doing two shows (at the Park Theatre). Comedian Kate Clancy is hosting the show there, which is being headlined by Brian Barganier.
This year, the comedy event includes magic too. There is a film event (also atthe Park), and also the “GEM-boree” event for kids on Saturday (in Glens Falls City Park), organized by Letizia Mastrantoni, who owns “Events to a T.”
There is literally something for everyone.
Even the music: There is a wide range of genres, even more so than in the past. The live artists are all amazing. That’s all coordinated by artist and GEM co-founder Anthony Richichi. He knows his stuff.
‘Promote the local arts’
JI: What’s your message to the public?
BM: We are just really trying to help promote the local arts. Music and art should be accessible. It’s the platform that this entire event was built upon. Everything is going in the right direction. We have a great team and have had tons of support. In general, we hope that people will check out the festival and have fun!
Be downtown this weekend.
Get more information on GEM Fest at www.facebook.com/GemFestAdirondack.
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