The Karanjkar family of Schenectady was celebrating more than the nation’s 234th birthday on Sunday.
The Fourth of July was their first day as U.S. citizens. Praveen, his wife Anjali and son Chinmay took the Oath of Allegiance in a ceremony held at the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater.
“We feel proud to be an American,” Praveen Karanjkar said.
He added that becoming citizens means the family will have more responsibilities to be involved in the community.
Sunday’s event was more than a decade in the making for the family, which moved from India to the United States in 1999 for job prospects. Praveen works as a software contractor for the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Anjali works for the Department of Motor Vehicles in Albany and Chinmay is a student studying electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo.
“This is the land of opportunity as they say,” Praveen Karanjkar said.
He said the differences between India and the United States are numerous, including the fact that there is a much more developed infrastructure in this country. There is also a feeling of patriotism.
“The Americans, they love the country,” he said.
The family said the preparation included studying for a 100-question test about government and civics and reading and writing comprehension.
“I’m very happy, excited and proud that I’m a citizen of the United States,” Anjali said. “God bless America.”
Chinmay said he looked forward to participating in the civic life of the country.
“I can vote, voice more opinions,” he said.
The Karanjkar family was part of a class of 20 new citizens who took the oath administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Albany Field Office Director James Wyrough.
Tran Tao, who is originally from Vietnam, was appropriately attired to take the oath. Her fingernails and toenails were painted red, white and blue. “I’m very patriotic. It’s really cute,” Tao said.
She emigrated to this country in 2002 to attend school, find better opportunities and “to find an American,” she joked.
She did just that, meeting boyfriend Adam Denue at Hudson Valley Community College. She later obtained her bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“I feel honored and very special to be sworn in on the Fourth of July,” she said.
Other countries from which the citizen candidates originated included Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Haiti, Guyana, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Russia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The ceremony also included a reading of the Declaration of Independence by Joe Craig, a ranger at the park, during 13 lemonade toasts to America.
Walter Soloniewicz of Schenectady was dressed in frontiersman clothes and played with the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution Fife and Drum Corps.
“I’m a woodsman like Daniel Boone. I don’t carry a musket, I carry a rifle. I like to hit what I’m shooting at,” he said.
Soloniewicz likes July 4 because “we finally got rid of the Brits.” The naturalization ceremony also brought back memories for him, as his family emigrated from Germany and Austria to the United States in 1960 because of communism.
Other people were milling about the park learning about the history. Interpreter Ray Miller said the Battle of Saratoga was the turning point in the Revolutionary War. British Major General John Burgoyne got bogged down in the hills of Saratoga waiting for expected reinforcements that did not come. He surrendered to Horatio Gates on Oct. 17, 1777.
Duane Booth of the Sons of the American Revolution said the park was the perfect spot for a naturalization ceremony.
“What better thing can you do on the Fourth of July than bring some new citizens in on the most scenic site in the Capital District?”
floats and candy
Over in Clifton Park, the celebration included a parade starting at the Shenendehowa campus and proceeding down Route 146.
Children on various floats were armed to the teeth with sugary confections and prepared to give them to people stationed along the side of the road.
“We got lots of candy,” said 7-year-old Emily Delgrosso, who was on the North Star Church float.
Reilly Miller, 6, of Clifton Park, was scooping up a lot of that candy. “It’s getting heavy,” she said, holding her bag.
The candy was also the attraction for Mike Carley of Clifton Park and his four children.
“We actually got here about two hours early to get a good seat,” he said, which was a good idea, as hundreds watched and took pictures.
Joseph Clinton, 9, of Clifton Park, was part of the float for the Clifton Park Titans 8-year-old baseball all-stars. He enjoys Independence Day.
“You get to see your family and have a barbecue and see the fireworks and it’s America’s birthday,” he said.
Some floats had special significance, like the one by Clifton Park Nursery School, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The facility operates out of what used to be a one-room schoolhouse on Moe Road.
“There’s a lot of family involvement. There’s just a real strong sense of community,” said Tricia Tierney, past chairwoman of the board of directors.
Cindy Robertson, an employee at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library, led her colleagues in a “book cart drill team.” The eight book carts were decorated with colorful paper to portray caterpillars. The group does maneuvers with the carts and crosses in front of one another. This is the second year they have participated in the parade.
“This year will be a little bit smoother because I know what we’re doing and they know what they’re doing,” Robertson said.
The parade has really grown, according to Elizabeth Ross of Malta. She can remember when it lasted about 15 minutes. This year, it stretched for more than an hour.
Ross’ husband, Randy, recently completed a one-year tour in Iraq with the Army National Guard. He is now at West Point training other soldiers. She is happy he made it back safely from his mission. “It’s a great day for celebration,” she said.
Phil Napolitano of Clarksburg, W.Va., who was in the area visiting his son, said July 4 was about freedom for him. “We appreciate what we’ve got.”
Mary O’Connell of Clifton Park agreed. “It’s a great country. Although things aren’t perfect, it’s probably the best in the world,” she said.