Hobie Dunleavy and his family have evolved beyond standing on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the Gazette Holiday Parade in downtown Schenectady.
Saturday night, for about the 25th time, the Glenville resident brought a ladder to the parade, which his 4-year-old grandson used to peer over the adults in front of him.
“It’s all about elevation. You got to get up high,” said Dunleavy. “After a while, the kids get a little heavy on your shoulders.”
He only uses this trick for Schenectady’s parade, which dates back to the late 1960s. It was a little above freezing shortly after 5 p.m. when the parade started at Schenectady County Community College. It proceeded east on State Street, going past the reviewing stand near Proctors and ending at the foot of Veterans Park.
Dunleavy said the parade is a tradition in his family that goes back to when his daughter, Lisa Swanson, was a little girl on the ladder.
“That’s three generations,” he said. Sometimes his family would bring multiple ladders.
There were plenty of sights this year worthy of a ladder, including the crowd favorite, the Stanford Heights Fire Department. They have become a much-anticipated bit of energy, with firefighters dancing on top of a fire engine as popular music blares.
This year’s crew of firefighters included a shirtless dancer keeping a constant beat and occasional blasts from fire extinguishers from other firefighters.
Catchy tunes were also used by a Clifton Park dance group of young girls, who broke out the fad dance routine for the hit Korean pop song “Gangnam Style” when they got near Erie Boulevard. Another dance crew that caught the crowd’s attention was from Rotterdam and included about a dozen dancers in full penguin suits.
Magic and myth
Another fire crew made good use of this year’s Magic and Myth theme, turning their fire truck’s ladder into a smoke-billowing dragon. Different firefighters would take turns brandishing an axe or sword at the large dragon head as it made its way down State Street.
The parade’s theme was also embodied by a Harry Potter-inspired float, which featured headmaster Albus Dumbledore, with his long beard and pointy hat, and other wand-wielding students of Hogwarts.
There were even some creative modes of transportation. Members of the Troy roller derby team skated, and three women from the U.S. Water Ski Show Team acted out their routines, holding onto ropes tied to a speedboat being towed on a flatbed truck as they stood on the shoulders of men walking. Meanwhile, a Grinch rode in a cart pulled by a donkey.
There were also some of the more traditional parade sights, like local politicians, police, veterans, a pack of motorcycles and marching bands. Some marchers handed out candy, but this year, others handed out ice scrapers and glow sticks.
At one point near the start of the parade, an elderly lady got into the action when the Schalmont High School Marching Band came down the street. She began dancing with the Schalmont Sabres mascot, a blue sabertooth tiger.
Michael Bucciferro, 23, of Albany, was excited about the Amsterdam High School Marching Rams, which was one of the anchors of the parade. When he was in high school, Bucciferro marched in the parade every year.
“I have been coming since I was a little kid. ... I don’t remember never coming,” he said. “I like the floats. That’s what I always remember.”
His interest in the parade has been building for more than a month, when he and a friend from college decided they would go.
The parade was organized by the Chamber of Schenectady County.