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Albany’s Annual Tulip Celebration Stays Virtual For 2021

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WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
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Albany's annual festival is being held virtually again this year, as a month-long event.

Last May, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order banning all gatherings of more than 10 people due to the COVID-19 outbreak. That left city hall scrambling to save its traditional May Tulip Festival, which had to be held virtually, and stays, for the most part online a year later.

Albany's Public Relations Coordinator Ryan Murray says this year's offering runs the entire month of May and promises much more than 2020's five and a half hour video.

“Instead of five and a half hours in one sitting, which is very difficult for everybody to sit there, we would have more broken up pieces. So if you were interested in the music, we would have some unique music options. If you're interested in the flowers we’ll have the flower tours again, if you want the kids to watch the magic shows, things like that, would have those options. So we're going to have content almost every day of the month of May, in a variety of different versions that relate the Tulip Festival. So we'll have a bunch of flower tours, a bunch of music, and possibly some history stuff. And every day we're getting new contacts with submissions for it. So we have a lot of stuff going on. But unfortunately, it's just too hard to keep 80,000 people under control in a park during a pandemic. So that was kind of our theory behind it. And we wanted to give people a better experience this year now that we have some experience of our own with virtual. “

As for Tulip Queen events, which have always been at the heart of the festival, the city's Office of Cultural Affairs says there will be no customary crowing this year on Mother’s Day weekend. A schedule is not yet finalized, though events are likely to take place in June.
 

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Credit City of Albany Instagram
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The Tulip Queen serves as Albany's Ambassador for one full year. She and her court spend that year involved in volunteer projects.

2020 Albany Tulip Queen Kaya Rifenberg-Stempel says the pandemic presented several challenges.

“It was really interesting. I'll say that. The past year was kinda tough for everyone. I guess it was different than I expected because I was kind of hoping we get to do more in person events, but I understand why we didn't, obviously, we've got to be safe. Like we were still able to do some in person things, like we did do a literacy program in November, which was nice. But we really didn't have as many events as past year, past courts did. And like the whole Tulip Festival got canceled, you know, so we had a different like, coronation ceremony. We did a lot of virtual things. So it was nice. We got an opportunity to, to connect with community that way and we also did a lot of like donation drives, which was cool.”

Rifenberg-Stempel says she and her court will have a role welcoming the next class.

"We had an opportunity to record pre-recorded videos just talking about the Tulip Court and what we do. Aside from that, I'm not really sure if we're going to have a big role, but it'll be nice to just appear, at least. I hope the next year’s Tulip Court does more in person things, and I hope they might invite us along, but if they don't, that's fine, too. Yeah, I just wish them the best of luck. And I mean, overall, I can't really complain. We had a good enough year.”

Murray says Tulip Festival videos will premiere on the Albany Events YouTube and Facebook pages, and public access TV.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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