It almost felt like a family reunion.
Laughing children chased each other around Monument Square while parents chatted nearby, sipping county fair-style lemonade. Food trucks stood in for dad at the grill, dishing out burgers and sliders to al fresco diners as the sun set over the river.
Everyone, it seemed, was on a first-name basis. And if they were not yet acquainted, passers-by like myself were quickly introduced to shopkeepers, neighbors and friends.
There were no strangers here.
Friday, May 29, was the Kids & Pets-themed night of Troy Night Out, the city’s long-running monthly arts and culture celebration.
The event is held from 5 to 9 p.m. on the last Friday of each month. More than 40 shops, galleries, bars, restaurants and organizations participated, drawing hundreds to the historic Downtown District.
From a quick glance at the Troy Night Out app, I could see there were activities geared towards children, and plenty of options for pets and their parents, too.
An Alice in Wonderland costume iced tea party held at Sweet Sue’s, (203 River St.), a dessert shop and café, sounded pretty adorable. And I had to pause for just a moment to wish my 3-year-old lab mix were well behaved enough to hang out at the Lucas Confectionery’s (12 2nd St.) dog-friendly back patio while I lingered over a glass of Pinot.
Maybe next year.
But there were plenty of other fun, grown-up things to do, so I decided to head towards the event’s hub – The Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River St.).
There, on the first floor, attendees viewed works celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Art Center’s Fence show, its largest annual exhibition that features works by Arts Center members.
On display were 382 works by 236 artists, including drawings, paintings, photography, collage, fiber arts, and sculptures of clay, wood, metal and glass.
Upstairs, a special exhibit titled ‘Street Art for Street Kids’ was held, hosted by Latham-based charity Jajja’s Kids.
The exhibit featured watercolor paintings done by Ugandan children, as well as artwork donated by Capital Region artists. Bold, brightly colored African jewelry and crafts made from found and recycled materials were also for sale.
Proceeds from the exhibit will help to provide school tuition and housing for homeless and orphaned children in Kampala, Uganda, said Diane Reiner, the organization’s founder.
Reiner, a Colonie resident, started Jajja’s Kids, (meaning ‘grandmother’) with the help of co-founder Ronnie Seruyange in 2006.
The charity has since grown from a few donations into a recognized nonprofit, providing a safe, permanent home, food, clothing and education for 17 boys ages 8 to 17.
After taking it all in, I asked Reiner about the connections between Troy Night Out and Jajja’s Kids – children, community and art.
Reiner expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be involved, noting how important the night was to raise funds and awareness for the cause.
“It’s helping to get our name out there,” Reiner said. “Troy Night Out, for us, is about spreading the word – and making that connection with people.”
Faith Burkins is a writer, Delmar native and journalism graduate from SUNY New Paltz. Connect with her on Twitter @FaithBurkins, or on Instagram @Faithtastik.