Alexis Mitchell, left; Nancy Avore, center; and Leon Gorneau, right, chat Saturday night at the Creative Connections Arts Center during a fundraiser for the Riverlink Summer Concert Series.
Masked friends enjoy an evening out Saturday for a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser. From left to right: Yvonne Ryan, Fabiola Dayian, Julia Caro, and Sonia Casella.
By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Purple, green, and gold decorations hung from the ceiling at the Creative Connections Art Center Saturday night.
The tables were covered with beaded necklaces of all kinds, surrounding vases of balloons, masks, and feathers.
By the door a bartender served authentic Louisiana beer.
And all of those in attendance couldn’t wait for the Cajun Buffet to come out and the Cajun Zydeco band to start playing.
It was a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser for the Riverlink Summer Concert Series, and the 100 or more people there were decked in bright masks and beads.
“They did a beautiful job, they really did,” said Karen Twardzik, one of the many supporters at the fundraiser.
Twardzik said she goes to the concerts almost every week throughout the summer with her friends and loves it.
“They need the help and the support.”
During the summer months, the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation brings a series of artists from the Capital Region and beyond to Riverlink Park for evenings of music.
And every concert is free.
Saturday’s event was a way to not only raise funding to support the free series, but to also get the word out that the concerts exist.
Paul Gavry, chair of the Waterfront Foundation, said Saturday evening that he was thrilled with the turnout and thrilled with how the decorations ended up.
Aside from the balloons and masks and the dozens of other New Orleans and Mardi Gras-themed decorations, a full wall mural brought the dance floor to life.
The hand-painted mural showed dancing silhouettes behind a New Orleans style fence with the Rue Bourbon, or Bourbon Street, sign in clear view.
Gavry’s daughter, Emily, spent the better part of Thursday night painting it just for the occasion.
And the work paid off.
Attendants at the fundraiser raved about the decorations and how they felt like they were celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Evan Conway, part of the Holly and Evan duet who have performed in the concert series for the past three years, said he was looking forward to hearing Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys perform during the evening.
When asked how he would describe Zydeco music, Conway said, “It’s a mixture of ... the most jumpy blues, jazz, and polka music and put them all together and add a washboard into it, it just becomes this whole special experience.”
Conway called the turnout for the night “amazing.”
Nancy Avore, who came all the way from Portland, Maine, for the event, said she’s not only a lover of Zydeco music, but of the dance, as well.
“It’s a partner dance and it is a hoot,” she said. “It’s male-oriented and the female has to follow.”
Avore said she was happy to come and support the concert series as she has one in her area and knows how important they can be for the community.
“I think it just feeds the soul of the city.”
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, a Zydeco music enthusiast herself, beamed as she talked about the event, happy not only for the concert series, but for the Arts Center as well.
“I think it’s so exciting,” she said. “I’m very, very pleased. This whole event — and the (art) exhibit — have breathed life into the building. So we’ve begun.”
“I expect the coming months are going to be fantastic.”
After Cafe NOLA from Schenectady served out an aromatic buffet of Cajun dishes, Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys came out onto the floor, and the crowd roared and showed off their dance moves to the others in attendance.
Gavry said the response for the fundraiser was overwhelming and he was pleased to see faces he’d never seen before.
“Personally, I think if we get this kind of enthusiasm, a Mardi Gras-themed event is probably what we should do annually,” he said. “Once you get one under your belt ... it’s still a lot of work, but a little bit easier to do the next time out of the box.”