If you’re going to Niska-Day on Saturday, you just might want to bring your dancing shoes.
The theme of the annual community celebration is “Dancing Fun at Niska-Day 31,” and in keeping with it, attendees will have the chance to kick up their heels or simply kick back and enjoy salsa, merengue, ballet, tap and Irish step dancing demos.
The event will begin at 8 a.m. with a fun run that starts at Van Antwerp Middle School. At 10 a.m. a parade will depart from St. Helen’s Church and end in the Niskayuna High School parking lot. The fun will continue at noon with rides, games, craft vendors, entertainment and food at Craig Elementary School, followed by fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
If you go
When: Saturday, rain or shine
Where: Craig Elementary School
Times: Fun run begins at Van Antwerp School at 8 a.m. Parade starts at St. Helen’s Church at 10 a.m. Fireworks start at 9:15 p.m.
The event, which annually draws thousands, is the largest of its kind in the Capital Region, said publicity chairwoman Maureen McGuinness.
“It’s a great day for people to get out and see members of the community that you don’t normally get to see,” she said.
Much of the community will be showcased in the parade, which will include about 40 groups and is shaping up to be the largest one yet, said parade chairwoman Maria Freund. Firetrucks, floats, antique cars, athletic teams and community groups will all be featured.
The festivities at Craig Elementary School will include 45 crafters, a half-dozen rides and about 80 booths manned by businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Niskayuna Town Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said every community organization, from the senior citizens group to sports booster clubs, is encouraged to show off what they do and have to offer.
“It really is the best of everything we’re doing in our community,” she said.
Although there is a charge for food and rides, there is no admission fee for the event.
“Pretty much everything activitywise — the pony rides, the climbing wall — everything is free and that’s how we try to keep it,” said Denise Leader, who chairs the event with her husband, Bill. “The community supports us very well with donations; the town and the school district also give us their major support. We really would have a hard time doing it without them.”
A variety of bands will provide music, and there will be instructors on hand to teach Latin-style dancing.
All sorts of food will be on sale, including quesadillas, steak sandwiches, sausage and pepper sandwiches, pizza, fried dough, hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecued specialties.
The public is not only encouraged to bring their appetite but also canned goods to donate to the annual Niska-Day food drive, which benefits the Sacred Heart/St. Columba Food Pantry.
“We fill up a huge truck with canned goods,” McGuinness said. “It grows each year.”
This year marks the 31st Niska-Day celebration, and a new generation is now taking part in the fun.
“We moved here in 1981 and our kids were young, and now they’re coming with their children,” Leader said. “I think people have a lot of memories growing up going to Niska-Day, and now they want their kids to experience it. It’s really a positive thing.”
The annual event has become so much a part of people’s lives that some plan their schedules around it.
“We’ve had people call us two years in advance saying, ‘I’m trying to plan a wedding two years from now and I don’t want it to coincide with Niska-Day,’” said Leader.
Parking can be a challenge, since the lot at Craig Elementary School is closed to the public, and that’s where the majority of the festivities take place. A shuttle from the high school to Craig Elementary School and back will be available, and nearby businesses, including Capital Care Medical Group and the Jewish Community Center, both on Balltown Road, will open their lots to Niska-Day attendees. Other parking sites are listed on the event’s website at www.niskaday.org.