Zoe White is already in the mood for music.
The 17-year-old clarinet player in the Schenectady High School Marching Band is also in the mood for a parade — The Daily Gazette Holiday Parade that always brings a big crowd to downtown Schenectady.
This year’s big show, the traditional start of the holiday season, begins Saturday at 5 p.m.
49th annual Daily Gazette Holiday Parade
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: State Street, downtown Schenectady
WHAT’S NEW: Facebook Live broadcast, via the Chamber of Schenectady County’s Facebook page.
WHO’S THE STAR: Screenwriter Ben Coccio, a Niskayuna native, will be grand marshal
“It’s just a really fun experience for all of us,” said White, a senior whose Schenectady team will be joined by high school bands from Amsterdam, Mohonasen and Schalmont for the weekend adventure. Bunches of other musical and dance groups will also march from Schenectady County Community College up State Street, showing off skills before making a left turn onto Lafayette Street, where the parade will end.
“There’s so much hype leading up to it,” White said. “We all just have a good time, the entire band.”
People should be in the mood for stars of the silver screen, as “Movies” is the theme for this year’s parade. They should also be in the mood for good weather — at least for most of the day.
Brian Montgomery, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said Saturday will be mostly sunny with a high near 60 degrees. With sunset around 4:30 p.m., Montgomery said, the warmth will fade.
“We do have a chance of showers in the forecast,” Montgomery said, adding that rain could come between 5 and 7 p.m.
Street closures & parking
Beginning at 3 p.m., Schenectady police will close many downtown streets including, but not limited to the major following streets (intersecting streets will also be affected):
• State Street (Nott Terrace to Broadway), 3 p.m.
• State Street (Broadway to the end of Western Gateway Bridge on the Scotia side), 4 p.m.
• Western Gateway Bridge (closed in both directions), 4 p.m.
• Erie Boulevard (State Street to Liberty Street), 4 p.m.
• Broadway (Liberty Street to Hamilton Street), 4 p.m.
• Lafayette Street (Liberty Street to State Street), 4 p.m.
• Clinton Street (Smith to State Street), 4 p.m.
• I-890 Washington Avenue exits will be closed (4C Westbound, Rice Road Eastbound), 4 p.m.
• Church Street (Argyle Place to Liberty Street), 4 p.m.
Free public parking for spectators will be available at:
• Broadway garage
• Broadway surface lot
• Broadway and Franklin Street
• Amtrak lot (Erie Boulevard and Liberty Street)
• Erie Boulevard and Liberty Street North
• City lot located between Liberty and Franklin Street
The day will at least be mild. “It won’t be snowing,” Montgomery said.
Robin Granger expects a great evening.
“We have more than 100 entries,” said Granger, vice president of communications and marketing for the Chamber of Schenectady County (an affiliate of the Capital Region Chamber), which organizes the parade. “There are floats, dance troupes, fire departments and numerous bands from all around the region.”
This year’s big deal is the live Facebook stream, via the Chamber’s Facebook page, courtesy of Potratz Partners Advertising.
The goal is a double play: People attending the parade who are not around the reviewing stand near Proctors will be able to hear commentators — Mona Golub of Market 32 and Price Chopper supermarkets and Cody Holyoke of CBS6 — describe entries in real time. People unable to attend the parade will be able to watch it at home.
In addition, the parade will be videotaped by Open Stage Media and aired on public access stations during December.
Granger knows people will come out for the parade in both mild and cold temperatures.
“I think it’s a family-oriented, traditional kick-off for the holiday season,” she said. “Fun for all ages.”
In addition to the four high school bands, this year’s parade will include:
• DownBeat Percussion from upstate New York, the official drum line of the Buffalo Bills.
• Schenectady’s Classic Theater Guild and its holiday-themed float.
• The Ferrara Dance Parade Team, celebrating 61 years in Schenectady.
• The crew from Merritt Dance Studio.
• Horses from Blacksmith Stables in Amsterdam.
• The Scotia Glenville Pipe Band.
• Vintage cars from the Capital District Cadillac Lasalle Club.
• Dancers from Dance Me studio and The Dance Studio, both in Schenectady and The King’s Dancers in Scotia.
• Firefighters and their big rigs from Alplaus, Beukendaal, Clifton Park, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, Schenectady, Rexford, Schonowe, Plotterkill, Scotia and Thomas Corners, among other places.
• Santa Claus and his pals, on The Daily Gazette’s annual holiday float.
Ben Coccio is also in the mix.
Coccio, a Niskayuna native who co-wrote the motion picture “The Place Beyond the Pines,” will be the parade’s grand marshal.
“This is a great honor,” Coccio said in an email note. “I just can’t help but get a kick out of folks squinting at me as I pass by, thinking to themselves, ‘Wait — who the hell is that?’ ”
The writer has other funny lines.
“To the people of Schenectady, I’m humbled and proud to be your Holiday Parade Grand Marshal and I apologize for not being Ryan Gosling.”
Gosling was one of the stars in “Place Beyond the Pines.”
Schenectady: ‘They just love to play music’
Plenty of high school musicians have accepted starring roles for the parade. Schenectady High’s White said she and about 30 Schenectady band mates will assemble in the parking lot of SCCC — the parade staging area — at 3 p.m. “We practice, we get everyone together, we jam out,” she said. “It’s a good time.”
Keith Pray, who has directed the Schenectady band since 2013, said his marchers will play a New Orleans brass band tune called “Joe Avery Blues” mixed with “Jingle Bells.”
“They look forward to it every year,” Pray said of his players and the parade. “It’s a lot of fun; it’s in their hometown. They just love to play music, any chance they get, to play concerts, . . . especially in the community.”
Satesh Rajkumar, 16, a trumpet player, also likes the parade experience.
“I just like everybody being together in one place,” said Rajkumar, a junior. “Seeing the whole band out on the street is really nice, especially when we sound good.”
Rajkumar said many players often bring gloves with them, in case chilly temperatures move in. Cold weather — which the National Weather Service at Albany believes won’t be around until much later — is the only thing he worries about.
“It’s always really cold when it gets dark,” he said. “Playing while walking is also really difficult, too.”
In the past, Schenectady players have dispersed after their march and not gathered for a post-parade party. That could change on Saturday.
“We should get that going,” White said. “That’s a good idea.”
Amsterdam: ‘It’s exciting to be under the lights’
In Amsterdam, the Marching Rams are ready for Schenectady. Stephen Knack, 16, a junior trumpeter, and Grace Holloway, 17, a senior clarinet player, are ready to sound off.
“It gives us an opportunity to get into the community and show what we can do,” said Knack.
Knack also appreciates the evening start. There won’t be any sun, so there won’t be any glare on musicians’ plastic music holders.
Knack also likes the feedback teens will get. “We present what we do, they listen and give us comments,” he said. “Most of the time they’re good comments, on how we look and sound.”
Mike Perry, who has directed the Marching Rams since 2011, said the band has played recent Veterans Day and Halloween parades. “We do a lot of community, local events, and of course we play at all the home football games,” Perry said, adding the Ram band will travel to Winchester, Virginia, next May for the city’s annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.
This time of year, musicians are glad to be in Schenectady. On Saturday, they’ll play a “Jingle Bell Jam” mashed up with the movie themes from “Superman” and “Jaws.”
“We love coming,” Perry said. “We like to see the big crowd, the more the merrier. It’s our only nighttime parade, so it’s kind of exciting to be under the lights.”
Holloway, who lives in Florida, loves the reactions from the crowd.
“There’s so much joy, especially when it snows,” she said. “It’s so pretty, and everybody’s cheering for us.”
Like Knack, Holloway likes the evening start. “I like it better than marching during the day,” she said. “It’s just cooler.”
Mohonasen: ‘It’s very uplifting to hear that’
Mohonasen High School Warrior Marching Band musicians Hailey O’Donnell and Daniel Cole love to see a crowded street on parade night.
O’Donnell, 17, even loves to see cold weather.
“I’m a winter person,” said O’Donnell, a senior who plays alto saxophone. “The holidays are the best part of the year for me because I get to be around my family and stuff.”
Once the Rotterdam teenagers are at the community college, they get the chance to check out all the floats that will be rolling up State Street with them. The decorated scenes are favorites for some people, but O’Donnell knows other people are looking for saxophone players.
“My parents go every year, so does my niece and my mother’s friend Betsy and her family go support us,” she said.
Dan Jones, Mohonasen’s band director since 2010, said the holiday parade has been a school tradition for decades — since the days of band directors Dave Bournazian and Keith Bushey. The notes are all set for Saturday.
“It’s called a parade sequence, a combination of two different holiday songs,” Jones said. “One is ‘Joy to the World,’ the other is ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ separated by two percussion cadences that kind of mimic other Christmas carols.”
Cole, 17, a senior who plays trumpet, hears the music. But he also hears the voices.
“We hear, ‘Go Mohon! You guys are the best!’ ” Cole said. “It’s very uplifting to hear that.”
There’s no added pressure on parade nights.
“We always try our best, to play the best we can,” Cole said.
Like other brass players from other schools — and unlike his winter-loving saxophone friend — Cole does not believe severe winter weather and music are a great mix.
“We were in the South Glens Falls Christmas parade and by the end of it, most of the brass players, the valves, we could not push them down. They were frozen solid.”
But a little snow is OK.
“It’s snow!” Cole said. “Who doesn’t like snow?”
Schalmont: ‘Almost like the band is under a spotlight’
A lot of eyes will be on Emily Malone.
Dressed in black and deep green, the drum major for the Schalmont Marching Band will lead 90 musicians through downtown.
“It’s very exciting,” said Malone, 17, a senior who lives in Rotterdam. “I can see everybody. It’s kind of like it’s the lead in a play, it’s like you’re important — but everybody else is important, too.”
Jake Handerhan will be in the trumpet row. He will concentrate on the music, but will be able to spot people he knows on State Street.
“Most of the time, I can see my family on the side,” said Handerhan, 17, also a senior from Rotterdam. “I try to shoot them a wink.”
Both Malone and Handerhan like the walk after dark. “It’s almost like the band is under a spotlight,” Handerhan said.
Schalmont musicians will play “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 and “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon.
Schalmont director Justin Godlewski loves seeing the younger band members’ smiles and nervous looks when it’s parade time. Some parents were in the Schalmont ranks during their time at the high school, and now listen to and watch their children play. Sometimes, former band members will check it, just to see how the Sabres sound.
“They even stop by at practice,” Godlewski said. “They definitely want to check out our success.”