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Monday, April 15, 2024

A Look Back at the Last 20 Years of ‘Capital Region Living’

To celebrate two decades of local journalism bliss, we invite you to take a trip down memory lane to relive some of CRL’s most memorable moments.

Welcome to our celebration of 20 years serving the Capital Region! If you missed it, flip back to our masthead, where we all dug through our scrapbooks (remember those?) to find photos of ourselves from two decades ago. While one of us was right here, on the CRL staff, the rest of us were scattered about, from our intern who was just a baby to the rest of us who were raising children or living it up in New York City. How wild that we all made our way here, down very different paths, to converge as one tight-knit staff happily producing six issues of Capital Region Living a year, just for you.

CRL logos through the years

When CRL was born, in the summer of 2003, Facebook was a year away from launching, celebrity titles such as Us Weekly and People were in their heyday, and magazines of all kinds were treasured. The CRL founders had a vision of a super-local magazine written just for Capital Regionites: The first issue offered “the inside scoop” on area fairs and festivals, some tips on picnic safety, and even some advice for improving your golf game from local PGA pro Peter Gerard. The biggest news? Well, it involved the news! Specifically, checking in on the brand-spanking-new Capital News 9. Founding editor Mary Beth DeCecco (soon-to-be Galarneau) wrote that the now-thriving Spectrum News 1 was greeted with skepticism: “Questions arose and eyebrows were raised. Not only did people wonder if there was enough news in the Capital Region to warrant an around-the-clock station,” but also if people would leave their favorite anchors to tune in at all. Her conclusion? She was impressed by the station’s use of “cutting-edge,” digital video that was (gasp!) stored in a computer system (nationally, TV stations left analog behind in 2009).

In 2004, CRL grew—literally—into an oversized, 10” X 13” magazine and began to tap into the hot stories of the day. Match.com had exploded but still had a bit of a stigma, so CRL touted local dating services (that ranged in price from $249 to $1,195) that were “more than point and click.” Later, we celebrated the 75th birthday of Howe Caverns, dove into the importance of the region’s “Tech Valley” moniker (thanks to GE and IBM, among others), covered the opening of the now-crucial hub of Saratoga’s Congress Park Centre right on Broadway, and even gave advice on “finding the right wireless for YOU.” Yes, the article was referencing cell phones, which were still pretty new. “Cell phones are the new cigarettes,” we wrote. “They are highly addictive, are thought to cause cancer and some people want them banned from public places.” Even the now-ubiquitous, pre-movie “turn off your cell phones” reminder got a mention: “Cell phones have become so prominent that there are special announcements right before events reminding spectators to disarm their cell phones out of consideration of those around them. Of course many don’t actually turn their phone off—they just set it to ‘vibrate mode.’”

Former cover star Sawyer Fredricks with the magazine’s former publisher Vikki Moran and art director Steve Teabout.

The year 2005 brought an interview with a baby-faced new Food Network star: the then-37-year old Rachael Ray, proud Warren County native; and by 2006 we were discussing the “dangers of webpages” before toasting the first anniversary of the now-staple Augie’s in Ballston Spa in 2007. The next year saw the magazine’s return to its smaller size and the start of a pop culture phenomenon: The first Hunger Games book was released. (Our reviewer deemed it “excellent.”) CRL’s first “Baby Boomers” special hit stands in June 2009 and featured articles on battling “Boomeritis,” Barbie’s 50th birthday, and a “101” guide to social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn) that asked, “So what exactly is a social networking site?” before exclaiming, “They’re completely free!”

With the aughts behind us, 2010 ushered in a greater acceptance of tech, albeit perhaps with a dose of naiveté. Before “text neck” and concerns about children on smartphones, CRL touted an app for kids after bringing up a “surprising lack of applications for children.” CRL’s “People to watch of 2011 included Chuck Custer and Kelly Lynch, who succeeded “radio legend” Don Weeks after his retirement, and friend-of-the-magazine Rhe Potenza, whose Truly Rhe store cleans up during our Bestie awards to this day. The issue also touted the new Wheatfields as “worth the trip” to family-friendly Clifton Park (“even parents like to get out every once in awhile”), calling the now–happy hour hotspot “a new day” for “the single population and those without families.” The next year, we covered the candy bar wedding reception trend that allowed guests to fill little baggies with a variety of sweets, and the renovations of the Old Daley’s wedding venue on Crooked Lake in Averill Park. CRL had a banner year in 2012, spotlighting Tom Nardacci’s Albany communications firm (flip this magazine over to the saratoga living side to see what he’s up to now); the release of the thrilling novel Gone Girl (from our reviewer: “the reader is seduced into their dysfunction. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy?”); and an interview with the now-infamous TV journalist Megyn Kelly, who hails from Delmar.

NewsChannel 13’s Subrina Dhammi was featured on the cover of CRL in 2020 (with her husband, Ryan Jendrasiak) and 2015 (with coworkers Phil Bayly and Paul Caiano).

In 2013, our Bestie award coverage featured future two-time cover star Subrina Dhammi of Channel 13. The next year began with a warning against using the new “hi-tech” wedding sites to send thank you notes and suggested telling guests to “turn off their cell phone ringers and refrain from use during the ceremony;” later issues welcomed Honest Weight Food Co-op, now a regular and beloved advertiser, to Albany and the mega-popular Lord & Taylor department store to Crossgates Mall. The next year compared the PBS hit show Downton Abbey to Saratoga’s Yaddo, before the 2016 election brought us the most polarizing president in history, an inkling of which was foreshadowed in CRL’s financial column that began with, “Whether you love or hate the results, the presidential election is history and it is now time to look ahead…” As a palate cleanser? A sit-down cover interview with the sweet, soft-spoken teenager from Fultonville who skyrocketed to national fame on NBC’s The Voice: Sawyer Fredricks. The end of that year also brought the Capital Region its own aquarium with the opening of Schenectady’s gorgeous Via Aquarium, which CRL featured in June 2017. By 2018, food delivery apps such as UberEats and Doordash, as well as the “athleisure wear” movement, had hit the scene; CRL covered both. On the local celeb front, 2018 also delivered features on Jordan Hoose, who nabbed a spot on the Wizards professional entertainment basketball team; and WNYT’s legend Phil Bayly upon his retirement.

Followers of CRL know why 2019 was such an important year for the current version of the magazine: that’s the year it joined forces with saratoga living. As the two editorial teams merged, notable stories included the final Cover Companions (but stay tuned—we have more pet features coming down the pike!), an introduction to the new Dino Roar Valley amusement park, a farm-to-table extravaganza of restaurants using local ingredients, and a mouth-watering guide to the Capital Region’s most festive cocktails. When 2020 brought in the Covid pandemic, CRL published the most poignant issues in its history: the “Hope” issue and the #capitalregionstrong cover story that honored local first responders with a collage of their photos as the cover. Soon, the magazines’ parent company, Empire Media Network, made the difficult decision to combine the magazines into one “flip” format due to rising paper and printing costs (and a temporary halt of all new advertising): CRL on one side, SL on the other. This move converted the traditionally monthly CRL into a bi-monthly format. We saluted the region’s 2020 graduates who were robbed of the pageantry of a traditional graduation, and that year’s holiday issue featured CRL’s first foray into the “Gives Back” program honoring (and raising money for) Capital Region do-gooders, who that year posed—somewhat awkwardly due to Covid restrictions—on the cover, six feet apart. A reader favorite from 2021 was our deep dive into craft beer; an internal favorite was “A Slice of Hollywood,” about all of the movies and TV shows filming around the Capital Region. In 2022, notable cover stories included a first-ever dating issue and a spotlight on Schenectady, and this year kicked off with an exciting feature on Lake Placid’s World University Games. 

What’s next? We have a few exciting things up our sleeves, and we hope you keep reading to find out! Thank you so much, Capital Region, for the honor of dedicating our lives to local journalism. We couldn’t think of a more special, thrilling place to celebrate.           

Good Times

CRL’s beloved back page columnist John Gray has been with the magazine longer than all but one of the full-time staffers. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

Abby Tegnelia
Abby Tegnelia
Abby Tegnelia is the chief executive officer of Capital Region Living and Saratoga Living. She previously worked at New York magazine, Glamour and Us Weekly, and has contributed to Marie Claire, Women's Wear Daily and Maxim.

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