NISKAYUNA — Summer may be more than a month away, but Niskayuna put together a sneak preview on Saturday.
Sausage and pepper sandwiches, cheddar bacon fries and lemonade were on plates and in cups. People wore shorts and sunglasses and kids boarded their favorite carnival rides. They were all parts of the 38th edition of Niska-Day, a day full of sun and smiles held on the grounds of Craig Elementary School and the nearby Zenner Road soccer fields.
The blue skies and 70-degree temperatures convinced some people to celebrate Niskayuna at the town’s largest outdoor event of the year, and anticipate lazy, hazy, crazy days that will come in June, July and August.
“It’s just a nice time to come out, see what the community has to offer and see everybody come out,” said Andrew DeLorenzo, 21, of Glenville.
Kaitlyn Strangis, 22, of Clifton Park, shared her companion’s sentiment. “It reiterates the strength of family and what it means to the community,” she said.
Images: Scenes from 2019’s Niska-Day, May 18, 2019
Families made strong showings during the May day. A father and son passed time by passing a football back and forth. Mothers watched small children feed baby goats blades of grass and food pellets. Brothers and sisters played cards together in the dining tent. An adult and small children flew a red octopus kite that contained several, multi-colored “tentacles” that doubled as steamers.
Teenagers broke away from Mom and Dad and hung out in small clusters. They lined up for chicken tenders and quesadillas, and boarded the “Zero Gravity” ride — screaming for their lives once the circular ride began to tilt and whirl at high speeds.
“It reminds me of the fair,” said Kathleen Birmingham, 14, an eighth-grader at Iroquois Middle School, who toured the grounds with her friends Jane Biaglow and Jackie Reffelt, also 14-year-old Iroquois students.
“I like the rides,” Biaglow said. “It’s fun hanging out on them with my friends.”
“I like to hang out with my friends and it reminds me of the summer,” Reffelt said. “It’s also a good time to see people from other schools.”
Bill Leader, who co-chaired the N-CAP (Niskayuna Community Action Program) event with his wife Denise and Michael Corcoran, said the only problem was some wet grounds in the tents; Niska-Day volunteers had to spread 12 bales of straw on muddy grass to provide better footing.
“The more people walked on it, the more the water came to the top,” he said.
Niskayuna police, assisted by Schenectady County Auxiliary Police, reported no trouble. One lost child was returned to his parents during the early afternoon.
People found things to do. Teen girls formed a circle and took turns launching a volleyball into the air. Crowds gathered near a white and blue Med Flight helicopter. People learned how to wrap a turban. Musicians, magicians, jugglers and glitter tattoo artists all found people to entertain.
“It’s nice they have some free activities,” said Sharon Pailley of Watervliet, who was in the company of relatives. “We made a macaroni necklace and the pony rides were free. And the fresh fruit, the apples, bananas and water bottles, from the grocery stores, were really nice.”
Community groups and businesses set up tables in the largest tent. Niskayuna Friends of Music, which supports student musicians in town schools, had plenty of conversations.
“We’re meeting people who have been part of our music program from 30, 40 years ago,” said Friends president Jodi Rossman. “We keep in touch with alumni on Niska-Day.”
Representatives from the Niskayuna Tree Council passed out information about trees and insects that threaten them. They also passed out free trees — white pine, red maple and spruce.
“They want to know what species were giving away,” said council member Andrea Worthington. “A lot of kids are taking them.”
Sonya Ward and Kirsten Borger of Niskayuna Friends of German, which boosts German language and culture in town schools, engaged visitors and offered German candy.
“It gives us exposure,” Ward said. “It introduces us to the public.”
Borger said parents were inquiring. “They’ll ask questions about the German program at the high school,” she said.
Niska-Day participants just seemed happy to be outside.
“It’s nice to get out and see everybody in the community,” said town resident Kevin McGill.
Laurie McGill agreed with her husband. “I feel people put a lot of work into this and it’s nice to come out and see the clubs and services that are in the town.”
Images: Scenes from 2019’s Niska-Day, May 18, 2019
The party started in the morning, with a parade that left St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church on Union Street at 10 a.m. People lined the parade route, which included Van Antwerp Road, Grand Boulevard, Regent Street and Nott Street, and set up picnic tables and lawn chairs in their front yards.
“It’s old school hometown,” said Dari Munger, who found a spot on Nott Street. “It’s all about hometown America.”
“We get to see all the neighbors,” said Nancy Kolwaite, sitting at Regent and Nott streets with family members.
“It’s just a great community event,” added Sally Bratten, Kolwaite’s daughter. “I think it’s the best of Niskayuna.”
Mardy Moore, the town’s supervisor from 1980 to 1987, also watched the parade. She helped put together the first Niska-Day.
“I’m so happy to see it still continues,” Moore said. “It’s what we envisioned when we worked on the first one, something to bring the community together.”
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]