The annual tradition of spending a Saturday in mid-May on games, rides, a parade and fair food starts young in Niskayuna.
From babies napping in backpacks to toddlers nibbling cotton candy to puppies tugging leashes, no one is too young for Niska-Day.
Since the community day, sponsored by the Niskayuna Community Action Program, is in its 34th year, this means some community members have never spent a year without a Niska-Day, and others have passed the tradition down across multiple generations.
Bhanusree Chelli, an 11-year-old Iroquois Middle School student, said her understanding of the day’s purpose has evolved as she’s grown.
“When I was little, I only wanted to come to Niska-Day because there was a lot of free stuff,” Bhanusree said.
She eventually grew to love marching in the parade with her friends at Craig Elementary School. When she graduated to middle school, she gave up the parade to help raise money for her Junior Girl Scout troop by working at their arts and crafts booth. She’s since found something even more exciting than giveaways: the opportunity to run into old friends.
“It’s like a meetup day,” she said. “Niska-Day is for everybody in Niskayuna.”
Holly Litz, a Niska-Day Committee member and games coordinator for the annual gathering, watched her own daughters’ appreciation for the day grow as they matured. When they were little — twins Gabbie and Jessica are 30 now and Lauren is 18 — they had to stay close by their mom while she worked one of the game booths. But as they grew up, Litz was able to give them more freedom.
“The parents come and meet up with old friends and say, ‘Check back in a half-hour,’ ” she said.
And the parents aren’t just there for their kids; they’re there for themselves.
“It’s just the sense of community, how people of all generations come out,” Litz said. “The senior group, they’ll come in wheelchairs just to be a part of it.”
It appears true that no one wants to miss out, even people who don’t live in Niskayuna. Bob and Kathy Yanni of Watervliet brought their grandson Noah Gailor to climb rock walls and eat festival treats.
“It’s nice for all the families,” Kathy said.
Sue and Bob Vielkind of Glenville also brought their grandsons, 3-year-old twins Derek and Luke Fraioli. The visit brought back memories for Sue, who graduated from Niskayuna High School in 1971 and brought her kids, now in their 30s, to the community day while they were growing up.
“This is the first time we’ve been here in years,” she said. “It’s a lot more fun with the grandkids.”
Niska-Day used to take place at the high school and has since migrated to Craig Elementary, but Vielkind said the spirit is the same. Plenty of memories come back to her in the faces of people she took classes alongside as a student years ago.
“They’ve changed a lot, but I do recognize them,” she said.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Life and Arts, News