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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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Secret Gardens Tour this Sunday -- be inspired!

I’m no gardener, but I know a beautiful one when I see it. And I’ll be exploring 11 of them in and around Saratoga Springs this Sunday, July 13, for the 20th annual Secret Gardens Tour.

Hope you will, too.

The forecast is warm and sunny. Perfect!

Full disclosure: I’m a former chairwoman and currently handling publicity for the event as a longtime member of the organization that presents it – Soroptimist International of Saratoga County.

Truth is, the Secret Gardens Tour really is a fun event and the gardens are fabulous.

The creative gardens represent a mix of urban and rural settings, including Palazzo Riggi, the North Broadway home of Michele and Ron Riggi and a number of gardeners who have invested years of sweat equity and loving care into their personal oases. Sun, shade, water features, tiny spaces, sprawling property -- a great variety. To read about the gardens on this year’s tour, check out The Saratogian article and photos.

I always come away inspired and full of ideas, which I plan to implement someday. Not Sunday. Someday. Meanwhile, I simply appreciate the imagination, knowledge and hard work of others.

It amazes me that people can create and maintain these wonderful gardens, and then so graciously and proudly open them up for hundreds of people to enjoy. I can’t thank the owners enough. They are doing it not just to showcase their gardens, but to support good causes.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the tour, if still available. Tickets may be purchased in advance at all four Cudney’s Cleaners retail locations (visit for addresses and hours); or at the Saratoga Springs Visitor Center, 297 Broadway, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday and beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. The gardens will be open to visitors from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The event is a major fund-raiser for Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls locally and around the world. The Saratoga club has provided more than $20,000 a year in awards and grants for local programs, such as Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County’s Project Hope and Power, scholarships for local women heads of households obtaining a college degree, and initiatives to provide health care, clean water and education in the third world. You can learn more at There's information about joining, too.

Putting on this tour is a huge project for Soroptimists. While most of the heavy lifting is literally done by the garden owners, Soroptimist members and friends invest lots of time ahead of and on the day of the tour to provide an enjoyable experience for garden lovers and make this fund-raiser a success.  

By the way, if you buy a garden book at Northshire on Saturday or Sunday and mention the tour (whether or not you’re going on it), they will donate 20 percent of the sales to the tour. Likewise, enjoy a meal at Forno Bistro or Boca Bistro on Sunday and they’ll donate 30 percent of your tab if you mention the tour.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Seeing Paul McCartney in concert: I want to hold you hand!

Paul McCartney’s still got it.

McCartney from far side of sold-out Times Union Center.
Cell phone panorama during McCartney concert at Times Union Center.
Glad my husband and I made the once-in-a-lifetime splurge to see the legend in person at the Times-Union Center in Albany Saturday, July 5. 

Some 13,500 people packed the arena where McCartney played an assortment of mostly Beatles, a couple of Wings and several newer songs for three solid hours, with breaks only to banter with the audience, tell a story about the old days, and, near the end, bring up a Rochester couple whose signs read: “He’ll only propose to me if he meets you” and “I have the ring and I’m 64 years old.” The guy sang a bit of guess what and then McCartney instructed him to get down on one knee and propose. He did, and she accepted. 

Selfie at McCartney concert
Two huge vertical screens on either side of the stage focused mostly on McCartney, who seemed small by comparison – at least from the other side of the arena. But this was a big show, and he carried it – with his voice and overall presence.

People can comment and argue over his choice of songs, and the almost constant light-show, plus what I thought were kind of gimmicky pyrotechnics during “Live and Let Die” -- although it looks pretty cool in the accompanying video taken by Lisa Lewis, editor of The Record and The Saratogian. 

I’m glad he was feeling well enough to start up his U.S. round of tours with this opening in Albany, and lucky to have seen the show in person.