NISKAYUNA – Planning is well underway for this year’s Niska Day with ‘Cruisin’ Nisky Style’ as the theme. Inspired by the car culture of the 1950s, vintage vehicles will be featured in the parade. This year’s event is scheduled for May 20, and it’s an all day affair.
In line with the theme, the headlining performer is rockabilly band The Lustre Kings.
Rachel and Jay Rourke have been on the planning committee for years. In the past they oversaw the entertainment and booked the performers for the day. Last year, they took over as co-chairs and are excited to tackle another year of the event.
“When Bill and Denise Leader decided to step down, they were so inspirational,” Jay said. “They were the rock of the committee. They did such an awesome job of documenting every single role.”
“And setting us up for success,” Rachel added.
However, as they stepped into their new roles they were presented with some challenges.
“Last year was tough because it was a transition year,” Jay said. “We had several committee members who after 10, 15 years said it was time to hang it up.”
The Rourkes kept on and wore multiple hats, reprising their roles as entertainment leads in addition to co-chairing the event as a whole. This year, they’re excited to have taken a step back from entertainment duty and enjoy their hard work at the parade.
“I still haven’t seen the parade,” Jay said. “When you’re doing entertainment you’re running around the whole day.”
“We will jump through hoops to get people to be able to participate,” Jay said.
Last year, Rachel Rourke spearheaded the start of a new multicultural tent. She got the idea after a local Sikh temple had a table and ended up being popular among attendees. The representatives from the temple provided demonstrations on how to wrap the turbans many men in their faith wear. The demonstration was a hit, especially among teenagers.
“[It was about] honoring our neighbors and every little thing people did to help each other during COVID,” Rachel said. “Looking at our neighborhood, there’s a lot of ethnic backgrounds and we wanted to celebrate that in a way that was personal and hands on”
They plan to bring back the culture tent and are actively seeking participants interested in sharing their background.
The event is mostly funded by sponsors, but the town and vendors also lend a hand in financing the event’s merriment.
With inflation and economic struggles affecting the whole nation, a lot of facets of the day are increasing in price at a time when there isn’t much cash to spare. Still, the co-chairs are committed to making sure the event goes on.
“We’re struggling to get some sponsors and the business tent and community tent participants.” Jay said. “The community tent, we give them tables. The business tents, there’s a small fee. We’re having a hard time filling it, not because of the fee but because places don’t have people to man the table.”
The event also serves as a fundraiser for NCAP, which focuses on encouraging youth to make informed choices about drugs and alcohol.
“It’s a win-win, we have a big party and provide services for the community throughout the year.” Rachel said.
Last year, the parade route was altered to accommodate construction. This year it will return to the old route, allowing residents to carry on with viewing party traditions,
“There’s a whole party atmosphere around Grand Boulevard,” Jay said.
As the committee wraps up planning the beloved event, their excitement to bring the town together grows.
“We’re expecting a stellar crowd this year, and making sure we provide everything they expect. With some surprises along the way, “Rachel said.