Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Comment
   Reckonings
   Opinion
   Letters
   Poetry
 News & Features
   Newsfront
   F.Y.I.
   Features
   Profile
 Dining
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
   Leftovers
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   Picture This
   Clips
   The Movie Schedule
 Music
   Listen Here
   Live
   Recordings
   Noteworthy
   Clubs & Concerts
 Arts
   Theater
   Dance
   Art
   Classical
   Books
   Art Murmur
 Calendar
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
 Classifieds
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
 Personals
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 AccuWeather
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad

Another Souvenir

Forget ashtrays and snowglobes: Saratoga keepsakes are as upscale as the season

By Shawn Stone

Souvenirs are supposed to be junk. At least that was what I grew up to believe. Back in the day, families would go on vacation to some glamour spot like Niagara Falls or Lake Placid, and come home with armfuls of crap: bumper stickers, salt and pepper shakers, cheap figurines, and ashtrays. An ashtray, usually painted with a picture of some natural wonder or impressive structure, was a big item. Sure, you couldn’t see the artistic rendering of Whiteface Mountain through the squashed butts most of the time, but it proved that you had been somewhere.

Wandering up Broadway in Saratoga Springs last Saturday in search of souvenirs, I was struck, one, by how few places even sold souvenirs, and two, by how nice the available products were. Sure, it was easy to find key chains and shot glasses, but most of the treasured, traditional junk seems to have gone out of style.

Take a noted souvenir store, Impressions of Saratoga, for example. Located on the south end of Broadway, this place is lousy with beautiful stuff. Shirts with embroidered logos, and all manner of similar nice apparel. Lovely reproductions of posters and prints from Saratoga summers past, wall tapestries, an entire line of racing-oriented toys, elaborate doll houses, and carved wood horsehead bookends. No rinky-dink “Souvenir of Saratoga Springs” ashtrays here.

Part of it, I suspect, is the upscale nature of the Saratoga summer experience. Plus, the city itself has a real downtown, with actual retail stores offering quality goods. Storefronts set up to sell cheap, seasonal stuff aren’t much of a business opportunity.

It was an absolutely beautiful day to go to the track, and I walked over from downtown in the early afternoon. There must be plenty of souvenirs there, I supposed. The parking lots were full along Union Avenue, and people were steadily streaming in the front gate. A leisurely atmosphere prevailed, as every patch of green space was taken by folks in lawn chairs, many with racing forms in hand, and most with coolers positioned within arms’ reach. Under the grandstand, the betting windows were very busy (the Whitney Handicap was coming up), and the beer and food concessions were humming. The souvenir stand, however, was comparatively quiet.

The souvenir stand at the average New York State Thruway rest stop is busier on a weekend afternoon.

This was not for lack of items. They had a dozen different classy looking T-shirts, each with an artful variation on a Saratoga theme, five sporty types of jackets, and a handful of sweatshirts. (Looking at the tasteful wares on display, I couldn’t help imagining something more darkly humorous: “My Dad blew his paycheck at the track, and all I got was this lousy shirt.”) There were cup holders with the Saratoga logo, money clips, cuff links, kitchen magnets, little racehorse toys for the kiddies, and, looking well out of place, a coffee-table-sized biography of C.V. Whitney sealed in plastic. They also offered smokes. The smokes seemed to be the biggest seller.

Let’s face it: The only souvenir most folks want to take home from the track is a wallet fat with winnings. Anything else is an afterthought, a sop to a spouse or kid who couldn’t make the trip. A consolation prize for being left at the gate, as it were.

That is, of course, unless the souvenir is free. The very next day was giveaway T-shirt Sunday, and the track set a paid-attendance record. As the New York Racing Association so carefully stated, there were 69, 523 people through the turnstiles. (This beat the previous record, set not-so-coincidentally on last year’s free T-shirt day.) There weren’t quite that many heads actually there, as some enterprising folks went through the gate repeatedly, happy to fork out a few bucks each trip through for a black shirt with a red, white and blue Saratoga logo.

Enterprising? You bet. These freebies truly engender an entrepreneurial spirit. Early the next morning, there were 49 auctions of the T-shirts already up on eBay, most with a starting price of $6.99. (Since most of the listings stated “all sizes” available, one had the impression that quantity and selection was not a problem.) A previous free giveaway this season, the Jerry Bailey Bobblehead Doll, was also a hot eBay item, with 100 up for auction that morning. Most of those were being bid up in the $12 to $16 range.

The golden age of souvenirs has passed; we’re deep into the age of collectables, when items are judged for their potential value. It really makes me nostalgic for those innocent days when souvenirs were tacky ashtrays and ugly bumper stickers.


This Week in Saratoga

Thursday, Aug. 8

Carol Daggs & Friends. Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, 587-3241. 7 PM. Carol Daggs and others will play music.

Steel Magnolias. Schuylerville Community Theater, Saratoga Springs City Center, 522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 581-9401. 8 PM. Robert Harling’s sometimes funny tear-jerker about a close-knit group of Southern women dealing with good times and bad will be performed. $15.

Friday, Aug. 9

Bailey’s Café, Phila and Putnam streets, Saratoga Springs. 7-9 PM. Celebrities bartend to benefit the Disabled Jockey Fund. All tips plus a donation from Bailey’s are donated to the charity. 583-6060.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 7 PM. Paul Arnold, The Philadelphia Orchestra violinist, will speak on “Beethoven and His Soloists.” 584-9330.

Steel Magnolias. Schuylerville Community Theater. 8 PM. Robert Harling’s sometimes funny tear-jerker about a close-knit group of Southern women dealing with good times and bad will be performed. $15. 581-9401.

Saturday, Aug. 10

Borders Books & Music, 395 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 10:30-11:30 AM: Author Bill Heller will sign copies of his new book, Graveyard of Champions. 583-1200.

Old Saratoga Books, 94 Broad St., Schuylerville. 10 AM-5 PM. There will be a book sale with all proceeds benefiting the Schuylerville Community Relief Fund and Food Pantry. 695-5607.

Saratoga Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue. 9 AM-1 PM.

Steel Magnolias. Schuylerville Community Theater. 2 and 8 PM. Robert Harling’s sometimes funny tear-jerker about a close-knit group of Southern women dealing with good times and bad will be performed. $15. 581-9401.

Sunday, Aug. 11

Old Saratoga Books, Schuylerville. 10 AM-5 PM. There will be a book sale with all proceeds benefiting the Schuylerville Community Relief Fund and Food Pantry. For more information call 695-5607.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Saratoga Springs. 7:30 PM. Santana, Rusted Root. 476-1000.

Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. 3 PM. Saratoga Poetry Zone, featuring readings by guest poets Roger Mitchell and Ken Denberg. 584-1198.

Tuesday, Aug. 13

La Fiesta. National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs. 5-8 PM. A festival of traditional arts associated with the racetrack and its workers. There will be food as well as leatherwork, horse grooming, wood carving and more. Free. 584-0400 ext. 109.

Wednesday, Aug. 14

The (Insert Something Funny) Players. Saratoga Arts Council, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8:30 PM. Short-form improvisational comedy. $9.95, $7.95 seniors and students. 862-3475.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 7 PM. Paul Arnold will speak on “The Acoustics of Tchaikovsky.” 584-9330.

Saratoga Springs Farmers Market. High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue. 3-6 PM.

Saratoga Race Course

134th Season

Open daily through Sept. 3, except Tuesdays.

Location Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 584-6200

Admission $5 grandstand, $8 clubhouse, children under 12 free.

Parking $7 per car at the main gate and across Union Avenue at the Oklahoma Training Track.

Racing At least nine races a day; pari-mutuel wagering on every race.

First Race Post Time 1 PM (except Travers Day, Aug. 24, when it’s 12:30 PM)

Major Stakes Races Alabama Stakes (Aug. 17); Travers Stakes (Aug. 24); Spinaway Stakes (Aug. 30); Hopeful Stakes (Sept. 1).

Promotional Item Giveaways baseball cap (Aug. 11); 12-pack cooler (Aug. 18); T-shirt (Sept. 1).



Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
   
12090Gen2
Banner #22
Banner 10000948
Banner 10000006
Banner 10000007
Gifts for all occasions
wine recommendations 120 x 90
 
 
 
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 4 Central Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.