From start to finish, Niskayuna’s 29th annual Niska-Day on Saturday didn’t disappoint.
Organizers said they had their best turnout in years, from the annual fun run and parade in the morning to the all-day festival of games, rides, food and crafts at Craig Elementary School on Balltown Road and the fireworks show at night.
This year’s theme — “Niska-Day Goes Country” — was a big hit. The streets following the parade route between Saint Helen’s Church and Saint James Square were lined with people on both sides, and many said that it was the best Niska-Day parade in years.
Publicity Coordinator Maureen Russo said, “The theme led to a lot of creativity with floats, more so than in recent years.”
The enthusiasm and festive atmosphere continued later at Craig Elementary, as thousands soaked in the mid-summer-like weather and took part in the fun and frivolity, with plenty of relaxation mixed in.
For “Niska-Day Goes Country,” organizers brought in a mechanical bull ride for the first time, and it drew a lot of attention. Lines to take a crack at the bull were long throughout the day, even though a legal waiver had to be presented before riding it. The machine was operated by remote control and riders could mark their score by a digital timer on the device.
Before leaving the bull ride area, one elementary school boy could be heard bragging, “I was on it for 41 seconds!”
Although older kids had a tough time matching that score, they all said they had fun on the ride.
Niskayuna High School student Shikira Angelo, 16, made a good go of it on her first attempt. “I didn’t know they had it here. When I saw it, I wanted to try it,” she said.
Her younger brother, “Shaquille O’Neal” Angelo, 13, watched his sister and wasn’t so sure about mounting the bull himself. “Maybe later” was his only response when asked if he would give it a shot.
When “later” came, Shikria was back in line, but her brother was not.
Josh Miller, 13, an eighth-grader at Iroquois Middle School, wasn’t very proud of his performance. He went on the mechanical bull once and refused to go again.
“I had enough humiliation already,” he said.
Miller claimed he didn’t see what his time was.
Even though he didn’t give the ride a second chance, Miller was a big cheerleader for his friends and classmates who did, including best friend Trevor Gibson, 14.
“It was fun; what an experience,” Gibson said, adding that he would probably get back in line and take another ride later on.
Niska-Day Games Chairwoman Holly Litz said the game booths and festival in general were definitely more crowded than last year, thanks mostly to better weather.
“It’s an awesome, perfect day. Not too hot, just a little breeze. Mother Nature cooperated with us today,” she said. “Last year, it was very windy. Some vendors had to shut down early because of the wind.”
Niska-Day is an annual event for the Schenectady Insuring Agency. President John Fenaroli says their presence pays dividends down the road: “We don’t do any business here. We just say hi to folks and let them know we’re part of the community.”