No Saranac Lake Block Party this year

SARANAC LAKE – The streets of downtown Saranac Lake will be a little quieter on the first Thursday in August.

The Saranac Lake Block Party will not take place this year, ending its 10-year run due to what its organizer described as a drop-off in enthusiasm for the event and mixed feelings about it from downtown business owners.

Sandy Bandru, owner of the event planning company Your Local Concierge, has organized the Block Party since she began it in 2003. She said it “lost some momentum” in 2011, when it was reduced to Main Street from River Street to Academy Street, leaving out Broadway.

“We lost vendors, and I think there was less turnout and less enthusiasm,” Bandru said.

The Block Party had become an annual summer tradition in the village. Portions of Main Street and (until the last few years) Broadway would be closed to vehicle traffic from early afternoon through the evening. In place of cars, vendors, carnival games, bouncy houses, live music and food filled the streets.

“The intention was only to do good and bring more attention and business to downtown, and some people said they saw that, and some people said it was a hindrance,” Bandru said.

Many nonprofit groups set up booths at the Block Party to raise funds for their community projects. Bandru donated a portion of the event’s proceeds each year to local nonprofit organizations like High Peaks Hospice, the Tri-Lakes Humane Society and the Family Readiness Group of Saranac Lake.

“It was to help bring awareness to people about the support that they could have in the community with these nonprofits, and also give the nonprofits some visibility as well,” Bandru said.

It’s too soon to say whether the Block Party is gone for good. Bandru said this will be a one-year hiatus to “regroup and see if it was something that people really wanted or if it had its due course.

“It’s been a hard decision to come to,” she said. “I think that was part of stopping to regroup, was to say, ‘OK. Why am I doing this? Is it really about me or about helping the community at large?’ which really was the focus.”

Bandru said the decision to not put on the Block Party this year was based on some of the feedback she heard through Jeremy Evans and Barbara Rice of the village’s Downtown Saranac Lake Committee.

Rice, who’s a village trustee and co-owner of Rice Furniture on Main Street, said people she talked to felt the event needed to be tweaked or reinvented to make it a little fresher.

“I think it became predictable,” she said. “It was sort of the same thing year after year. Maybe just having a few new things would have made it a little more exciting or enticing.”

In the downtown business community, Rice said people had different opinions about the impact of shutting down the street to vehicle traffic for the day.

“My business doesn’t do well under those kind of circumstances, but we’re furniture,” Rice said. “Maybe smaller items or things like that sell better. But we definitely had a mixed bag. Some people felt it was a good day. Some people felt it was no big deal. Some people felt it hurt their business because people couldn’t get in.

“However most downtown business owners understand the value of doing something for the community,” Rice added. “Having a party to bring everybody into the downtown and celebrate our community, maybe you don’t make a lot of sales that day, but the hope is the good feeling you create from it will last and people will come into the downtown and maybe shop later.”

Events like the Block Party have come and gone in Saranac Lake over the years, Rice noted.

“A decade is a long time to do it,” she said. “It may have just seen its day, or maybe it will come back completely reinvented.”

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or