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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sign up for Floral Fete, a fun Saratoga 150 event

Is community spirit hokey?
Get out the bicycle, the baby carriage (with or without the baby), and the little old red wagon and sign up to roll your decorated wheels through downtown Saratoga Springs on Aug. 2 in a resurrection of the Floral Fete Promenade, a popular event at the turn of the last century.
The fete (rhymes with bet, like at the racetrack) is one of the major community events planned as part of the months-long celebration of this being the 150th year of thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.
Sign up, decorate your bicycles, wagons and carriages with flowers, and join the 7:30 p.m. stroll from Broadway at Route 50 south to Congress Park, where an ice cream social will be ready and waiting — as well as $1,000 for the most creativity entry and cash prizes ranging from $50 to $150 for a bunch of categories, including best kid’s bike, best adult bike, best wagon, best baby carriage and best contraption on wheels.
Floral Fete planners are looking to fill 100 positions in the promenade asap — men, women and children of all ages are welcome to participate. Learn more and sign up at
Marylou Whitney, who was instrumental in this and previous reincarnations of the floral fete, will lead the promenade, accompanied by flower-laden vintage cars, carriages and floats. But the whole idea is to get you — yes, you — on board.
Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, wanted to host a Saratoga 150 event in which the whole community is invited to participate.
So they came up with the floral fete and are inviting the community to an ice cream social at which five flavors of Stewart’s will be dished out while supply lasts. The event will also include live ragtime music, performing children’s groups, and strolling entertainers, will abound. Whitney and Hendrickson are also springing for 150 free carousel rides and a “150th birthday” cake.
The date of the event, Aug. 2, is the eve of the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the 150th anniversary of the first race in Saratoga.
It’s a big deal. Whitney, Hendrickson, fellow members on the Saratoga 150 Committee and assorted other people are doing their darnedest to rev up community spirit on this occasion. Many local florists have donated flowers for floats and carriages, according to co-chair Maureen Lewi.
No need to get sentimental about the good old days or wring your hands about the future. Get ready for a good old promenade. Get in the spirit. Make a plan, sign up.
This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Editorial writing: An honor to be recognized, but even better to be serving the community

The professor of an editorial writing class that I took getting my master’s degree in journalism at Ohio State University taught me to avoid “we” — as in we believe, we think, we urge — and to use active verbs, declarative sentences and plain English to recommend specific courses of action, to inform and to persuade.
I like to think that those lessons have served The Saratogian community well during the years that I have been writing editorials, among many other things as managing editor.
Today, however, I just want to say, “Wow.”
Digital First Media, which manages The Saratogian and is one of the largest media companies in the country, this morning announced its inaugural awards, the “DFMies” — cute, get it? — for work done in 2012. I am honored to have been named the winner for opinion writing, one of 26 awards in what the company expects to be an annual recognition program.
“These awards are a new opportunity for Digital First Media journalists to reflect on the importance of the work we do each day,” said Jim Brady, Digital First Media’s editor-in-chief said in a DFM press release.
“The most important thing” about the awards, Brady continued, “is that they provide a reminder of why we do what we do for our communities.”
I couldn’t agree more.
But as much as I eschew self-promotion, being recognized by colleagues in the industry and in my company is nice, too. “It’s a major award,” as the father in “A Christmas Story” exclaimed while unwrapping his leg lamp.
I hasten to add that all of the journalism recognition earned by The Saratogian is truly the result of a group effort.
Editors improve the work submitted by writers, including me, and create the headlines and presentation that draw readers’ attention online and in print. Reporters and photographers gather and report the news, sports and features in words, pictures and video. The stories are the seeds for our editorials and columns. I receive constructive pre-publication feedback about my editorials from our publisher, who has final say on the positions. And both news content and opinion are often the result of tips, ideas, documentation and research by community members.
It takes time to research substantive editorials, let alone write them. I’m in the midst of collecting information for an editorial about the elementary school where an unusually high percentage of teachers have asked to be transferred. I don’t know what our position will be, but I want to understand what the specific issues are and why the school district needs to hire outside advisers. At the same time, our reporter who covers schools and business is gathering information as well, so that we can provide more news on the subject as well as opinion.
The purpose of all this is for The Saratogian to be a place people can turn to, to find out what’s going on, to share news and ideas, and to be a catalyst for positive change.
My entry in the DFMie for opinion writing consisted of a column and two editorials about the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority; some of this work was also recognized recently in a statewide journalism award.
In receiving a DFMie, The Saratogian is in good company, large and small.
The largest member of our group in Digital First Media, the Denver Post, won the 2012 DFMie for breaking news for its coverage of the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., for which it also received a Pulitzer Prize. And, for instance, among other smaller publications in DFM, the Berkshire Eagle in nearby Pittsfield, Mass., won the 2012 DFMie for sports journalism for a project on concussions in football.
Excellent work is happening in newsrooms everywhere, coupled with an emphasis on getting and spreading the news through websites and social media. This is an exciting and challenging time in journalism.
It is an honor to be recognized, but it's even better to be serving the community.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ballet at SPAC is a treasure that you can help keep

Man cannot live on Phish alone.
The jam band brought thousands of people to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for three consecutive evenings of concerts this weekend. Phish is popular entertainment that rightfully has a home at SPAC.
But the classical arts are SPAC’s legacy, and world-class ballet remains a Saratoga treasure — for now.
With just one day’s turnaround after Phish, on Tuesday the New York City Ballet opens its five-day residency at SPAC with seven performances and 14 different ballets spread between Tuesday and Saturday.
I only want to say one thing: Go.
The New York City Ballet at SPAC.
You don’t have to know a thing about ballet. I don't. And I know you can’t go wrong with the “West Side Story Suite.” I've discovered that sitting inside is amazing, but usually I am happy to bring a lawn chair and watch the stars above as well as on stage.
The classical arts at SPAC are part of Saratoga’s cachet, which benefits everyone. But that’s not the only reason to support it: To have something so special, so close, it’s a shame to miss the chance to experience it. For children, it can be a life-changer, and children 12 and younger are free on the lawn for all performances except the July 13 Ballet Gala.
Since SPAC’s inception more than 40 years ago, the NYCB has been its primary resident in July, and the Philadephia Orchestra in August.  
But the subsidies have become too high for SPAC to reasonably bear. The length of the NYCB residency has shrunk in recent years from three weeks to two and now to one — and the one week is actually five days.
SPAC will pay about $1 million to bring the ballet here this year, and on Friday announced it has agreed to do the same in 2014. Ticket sales generally cover about 40 percent of the cost classical arts, with fund-raisers and patrons making up the difference.
SPAC is doing its part. It offers member perks, innovative marketing, fund-raising events, pre-performance talks with ballet dancers and others, and free lawn seats for kids. They’ve also bolstered the shortened NYCB residency by bringing in two new companies this year: the National Ballet of Canada will perform July 16-18 and Aspen Sante Fe Ballet will perform July 24-25.
Now it’s up to you.
What happens with ballet at SPAC after next year will depend on you —Phish fans included.