BY Molly Congdon
Singing, soup and snow were the order of the day Feb. 7 as Clifton Park celebrated WinterFest.
There were events sprinkled around town, with something for everyone, but one of the most eagerly anticipated was the 10th annual Clifton Park Idol contest.
Even though they weren’t standing on a glassy stage with their performance being streamed on Fox nationwide, the children brave enough to up step up on the smaller stage within the Clifton Park Center Mall cafeteria to participate in Clifton Park Idol during WinterFest certainly were in the spotlight.
There were two rounds: The first was for ages 6-12 and the second was ages 13-17.
Directly outside of Marshall’s Home Goods stood seven tall evergreen trees, with twinkling lights resting in the branches, with tall, black speakers interspersed among them. A 10-year-old girl with long, wavy brown hair clutched the microphone with both hands, one on top of the other. Her instrumental background music of “I’m Just a Little Bit Caught in the Middle” began to play and a smile came across her face.
“I’m just a little girl lost in the moment
I’m so scared, but I don’t show it
I can’t figure it out
It’s bringing me down I know
I’ve got to let it go
And just enjoy the show”
Her face reddened and a huge grin spread across her face as the audience clapped along to the beat in the middle of her
performance. When she released her final note, the attention turned to the judges: former Councilman Sandy Roth, musician and Shenendehowa administrator Frank Rosselli, and FM 101.3 producer John Howland, who each brought a different musical viewpoint to the table.
The diverse music selections showcased the personality of each contestant. Onlookers experienced the quick dance steps from Hannah Montana’s “Hoedown Throwdown”; the upbeat, alternative sound of the Kongo’s “Come With Me Now”; a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and the spitting bars of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.”
Then, Hannah Compa walked up to the stage wearing a sequinned shirt and a pink flower in her hair. A familiar melody began to play as the lyrics to Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” reverberated throughout the mall. Upon finishing, she immediately ran over to her mom and the two exchanged a crisp high-five. She apparently wasn’t the only one happy with her performance.
Round 1 winners (the 6-12 age group) were:
1. Hannah Compa, 9.
2. Julia Gold, 12.
3. Katie Lee, 11
4. Sarah Habura., 12.
Round 2 winners (the 13-17 age group) were:
1. Anne Marie Burke, 13.
2. Jasmine Gold, 18.
3. Molly McCarthy, 15.
One day some of these youngsters will be the stars of Shenendehowa musicals, professional vocalists or even Broadway stars. If they heed the advice they received from the judges and continue to practice, who knows where their voices could take them.
A short distance away from the Clifton Park Idol Contest, community groups such as American Cancer Society/Southern Saratoga, Arts & Culture Commission, Cub Scout Packs of Clifton Park, Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, Operation Safe Child ID, Shenendehowa Adult Community Center, Shenendehowa Community Coalition, Town Emergency Preparedness and the YMCA set up tables to promote upcoming events of their individual organizations, membership details and hand out general information.
Other tables were more out of the ordinary. RPI student mentors demonstrated EV3 LEGO Robotics, animation and Arduino technologies as robots wheeled and whizzed across the floor atop paths constructed from foamlike puzzle pieces.
On Toy and Hobby’s table sat a giant, plush giraffe with a bouquet of balloons tied around its waist to draw in kids who wished to have their faces painted. Small foam brushes were dipped in water, dabbed on a color and wiped across faces with precision. Soon children were transformed into tigers or their faces were full of fairy-tale fantasy designs. Others took the less drastic route and picked small icons such as a rainbow, peace sign, ladybug, lips, a flower or a ship to take up only a tiny portion of their cheek.
CAPTAIN had face painting as well, but also had an area full of red, pink, purple and white construction paper, sparkling cutout hearts and heaps of crayons, markers and colored pencils to make Valentine’s Day cards.
Kids Read Too, the children’s program connected to the Two Towns-One Book project, displayed one of the companion books — “The Black Book of Colors” — to this year’s selection, “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.” Flipping through the pages one can see that there are no tints or hues to capture the eye, each page is engulfed in blackness with Braille and textured pictures. “It focuses on how to see color without using sight,” said Carol Davies, co-chairwoman of Kids Read Too. The author “describes it with smells, tastes and textures. . . . Yellow tastes like mustard and feels as soft as baby chick feathers.” For an activity, kids were able to use cards to write their own names in Braille.
Steam and Simmer
The delicious, mouth-watering aromas that filled the Hilton Garden Inn Ballroom were a combination of soups from local restaurants participating in the “Taste Clifton Park” Best Soup Contest. From 2 to 4 p.m., men, women and children sampled nine different soups from eight restaurants: Angelo’s Prime Bar & Grill, Peddlers Bar & Bistro, Primal: Your Local Butcher, Ravenswood Pub, Rocco’s at the Jonesville Store, Rusty Nail Grill & Tavern, The Vista at Van Patten Golf and Wheatfields.
Some restaurants have been competing for years and provided stiff competition, such as last year’s winner, Wheatfields. It was the first year in the ring for Rocco’s at the Jonesville Store, which just opened in October, and it brought its Creamy Corn Chowder topped with Crab Salad. “It has a sweetness to it from corn and a butteriness from the crab salad; I think the balance of the two will go great together,” Executive Chef Daniel Sala said. “It’s our first gathering as a restaurant.”
Despite Sala’s description, it was going to be a difficult battle to see what soup would indeed best the rest. Angelo’s had a Cheddar Ale Soup with Harpersfield Cheesy Hops Croutons; Primal came with a Chicken Cheese Steak Soup, which was basically a Philly cheese steak sandwich in liquid form; Ravenswood submitted two entries, a Reuben Chowder and a Lancaster Ale and Sausage; Rusty Nail spiced up a simple Tomato Bisque with a side of Grilled Cheese Croutons; The Vista went with a traditional New England Clam Chowder; Wheatfield’s had prepared a creamy, orange Carrot and Bleu Cheese Bisque; and everyone was intrigued by Peddlers’ creamy, chunky Peanut Butter and Jelly Soup.
“It was a crazy idea when we were throwing around what to enter for this year and I said, ‘Why don’t we make peanut butter and jelly soup,” Kitchen Manager Elliot Dawson said. “It started off as a joke, but then I was like what the heck, might as well run with it. We took all the peanuts from whole and made fresh peanut butter and then with heavy cream we made a little roux and added cinnamon and nutmeg and then peanut butter and jelly soup was born.”
The stakes were high, but Rocco’s — in its first year competing — pulled off the victory and took home the title of the best soup of the year.
Don’t Break the Ice
Elsewhere in town:
u At 10 a.m., a dozen people gathered on the frozen surface of Barney Road Pond for an ice fishing demonstration. The emphasis was on appropriate gear, clothing and safety precautions and ice fishing strategies. Of course, some snow had to be shoveled before they could begin.
At 11 a.m. Kelsi Clark, a local volunteer, led a group on a one-hour snowshoe hike, starting from Whipple Bridge.
u Families took their children to Riverview Orchards to participate in a Winter Fun Scavenger Hunt, glide down snow-covered hills on saucers and tubes, consume gooey s’mores while sitting around a bonfire, munch on a light lunch and take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
A good day all around.