Visitors crowd Albany for events - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Visitors crowd Albany for events

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –   Albany may be headed into a record-breaking weekend with tens of thousands of visitors expected for Mardi Gras. It's the 8th annual Mardi Gras weekend, called 'Rock, Roll and Run.'

50,000 people are expected to head downtown for a marathon, pro bike races, and a music festival and street party. Some of the activities will take place around the Flint River front.

It's expected to be the second biggest event in city history, with an economic impact of more than $3 million.

The Best Western is getting all their rooms ready, because they are already sold out for the big Rock Roll and Run weekend.  "It's not just hotels, it's the restaurants, the events that they have going on," said Best Western Director of Sales Natasha Golden. "The Riverquarium. Different places. Brings the people. Brings the money in as well."

This weekend in Albany, the Snickers Marathon Energy Bar Marathon has already signed up 1500 runners. There will also be the Regions Bike Race, with nearly 400 pro and amateur cyclists competing.

Add in the Mardi Gras throughout downtown, and Albany will be teeming with fun.   "The marathon and the bike race are still growing. We still have people coming from across the United States and other countries. It's a huge event, bringing people that wouldn't normally come here for any other reason,"  said Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Lisa Riddle.

With thousands of people downtown, businesses are gearing up for the crowds. Cafe 230's owners will use the events to expose their new downtown restaurant.  "We are capitalizing off the 50 or 60 thousand people anticipated coming, to the great city of Albany. And I want to be part of showing why they need to keep coming back."  said Cafe 230 owner B. J. Fletcher.

Elements Coffee Company made sure their coffee shop was open in time for the Mardi Gras, and are stocking up to be ready for what should be hundreds of customers.   "We definitely don't want to run out of anything. We want to keep all our customers happy. Being new, this could help spread the word," Shift Manager Brian Devereaux said.

Most Albany Hotels and Motels are already booked, but they are working with each other to help the visitors remember Albany for its hospitality. 

"If we get exposure out there, and people see what we have got, they definitely will come back," said Hilton Garden Inn General Manager Eric Hodges.

 The Albany turtle is smiling, as are all the restaurants, motel, and business owners, and the people setting up the Mardi Gras events, because the weather is forecast to be warm and sunny.

After all the cold and rain people will be ready to get out and have some fun, and the big weekend of events in Downtown Albany should be just what the Doctor ordered for people with cabin fever.

The annual event that has the largest impact on Albany's economy remains Albany State University's Homecoming weekend.

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