On the day fireworks came late to Scotia, Rebecca Fountain came early.
The Scotia resident was in Freedom Park at 5 a.m. on Friday to grab a riverside position for the annual skyrocket and sparkle show that is traditionally one of the first Fourth of July events in the Capital Region.
High waters in the Mohawk River forced management at Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In restaurant to cancel the June 28 show. A rain date was immediately scheduled for July 12 — so the Freedom Park gathering became one of the last Fourth of July blasts.
Fountain was in the park at 5 a.m. on June 28, too. “It was sad coming back to pick up our stuff,” she said. “I’m glad they rescheduled it.”
So is Mark Lansing Jr., general manager at Jumpin’ Jack’s. He had been concerned some people might skip Friday’s show, which was co-sponsored by Trustco Bank.
“Usually when you get the last show of the year, it’s a little lackluster. People have already seen their fireworks show; they’ve been on vacation or whatever; they might not want to bother with the crowd,” Lansing said, rushing trays of food from coolers in back of the restaurant’s main grills at 6:45 p.m. “So far, it’s been an amazing turnout. I’m actually shocked at how many people are here this early. It’s got a lot to do with the weather. Today’s a beautiful day. We’ve had a ton of rain and we’ve had 90-plus degrees and humidity, so to catch an 80-degree day with low humidity, no chance of rain …”
Losing the Friday before the Fourth of July was a disappointment.
“It’s a lot of prep,” Lansing said. “We lost some product just because we couldn’t keep all of it. You go from expecting to have a really busy day to having a lackluster day. It stung a little bit, but this makes up for it.”
Thousands of people lined Schonowee Avenue, filled Freedom Park and covered parts of Collins Park with blankets and chairs. People showed up in summer uniforms — shorts, T-shirts, tank top shirts, sandals and sneakers — and tossed flying discs, miniature footballs and stuffed animals into the air. By 8 p.m., dozens of people were standing on the Western Gateway bridge. Others found spots on the steep, rocky hill at the end of Jumpin’ Jack’s picnic pavilion. Still others found spots in line and found long waits for Jackburgers, sausage and peppers, fried dough and chocolate, vanilla and pistachio ice cream.
Micki Agresta of Rotterdam was part of a 40-strong contingent of family and friends who mingled under a brown canopy tent. “It’s not about the fireworks,” she said. “It’s about the family, the fun, the tradition.”
People came to Scotia for other reasons. Veronica Storms of Rotterdam and Danielle Pahl of Scotia will both turn 24 on Monday, so the fireworks became an early birthday party.
Storms had no problem with a Fourth of July celebration on July 12. “It gave us the chance to see other shows,” she said of the June cancellation.
Storms and her friends camped out on a patch of grass across from Jumpin’ Jack’s. The birthday girl anticipated long lines for summer foods, and had another plan. “We sent our boyfriends to get us Chinese,” she said.
For Chris Hughes of Ballston Spa, the Scotia show has always been a sign of the season.
“You know it’s summer, Jumpin’ Jack’s is open, everybody comes down,” he said, kicking a ball around Collins Park with his son Nathan, 8.
Nostalgia was a motive for Lisa Mink of Colonie. “For me, it’s a little reminiscing of when the kids were younger,” she said, sitting in a lawn chair on the edge of Collins Park. “It’s exciting, a Friday night out.”
Christina and Jim Besemer of New Lebanon brought their three collies — Sunny, Lilah and Belle — to the show. Sunny and Lilah would not have any problems with the explosions after dark. “Belle will get a little upset, but as long as she’s with us, she’ll be all right,” Christina said.
“I grew up here. It’s one of the best fireworks shows,” Christina added. “It’s worth the drive.”
While some people settled in chairs and blankets and enjoyed the cool evening, others wandered the parks. Small groups of teenagers — three girls here, four boys there, mixed groups in other places — stayed on their feet and on the move. Voorheesville residents Jared Paigo, 17, and his girlfriend, Emily Salerno, also 17, were at the end of a long line for food. Paigo has been to the Scotia gathering several times.
“It’s a fun place to go with your family,” he said. “The food is good and I enjoy the fireworks.”
Younger people were thrilled to be out at dusk, waiting for sonic sensations.
“It glows in the sky and you get to look at it,” said Olivia Brandow, 5, of Glenville, playing with friends Morgan, Samantha, Allie and Michael.
The glows — neon reds, greens golds and blues and shimmering silver strobes — began at 9:20 p.m. and lit the sky for 20 minutes.
The party will continue today. People interested joining the Collins Park fireworks clean-up detail are asked to assemble at the Scotia Park Maintenance Building on Kiwanis Avenue (off Schonowee Avenue) next to Beukendaal Temple at 8 a.m. Disposable gloves and trash bags will be provided.