Residents of the town of Niskayuna will celebrate local pride all day Saturday with steel drums and flowered leis at the 33rd annual Niska-Day event. The festival is sponsored by members of the Niskayuna Community Action Program, or N-CAP, and planned by a team of 25 volunteers.
Bill Leader, co-chairman of the Niska-Day Committee with his wife, Denise, said everything was planned except one thing that nobody can control. “The major impediment to a successful day is always the weather,” Leader said.
The committee pitched its tents for vendors days in advance because of rain forecast for today, the intended setup day. Luckily, the forecast for the event itself is warm and mostly sunny.
The warmer the better for this year’s theme, which is “Niska-Day 33 Goes Tropical.” Two steel drum bands, a hula hooping act, and a “ukulele jam fest” will get festivalgoers into the spirit of a more southern latitude. Favorite events from past years will continue, such as karaoke, a family fun run, fireworks, and, of course, the Niska-Day Parade.
Don Bisgrove, general manager of the Niskayuna Co-Op and longtime supporter of the community celebration, will act as grand marshal of the parade, leading the way in the vehicle Bisgrove requested: a sleek Mustang convertible. “I graduated [from] college in ’66 and kind of always wanted one,” said Bisgrove. “I never did have one, but now I get to ride in one.” Bisgrove will be chauffeured by the car’s owner, a co-op board member.
In addition to acting as grand marshal, Bisgrove has planned the same reception for parade watchers that he oversees each year. “Every year we try to outdo ourselves a little bit,” said Bisgrove, who will retire after 38 years as general manager of the co-op later this month. Each year, Bisgrove’s team sets up tables with free snacks and beverages, accompanied by a local band, the Nisky Dixie Cats.
Further along the route, parade observers will find students from Glendale Elementary School wearing flowered leis and proudly escorting a themed float that many of them, along with their parents, helped paint and build. Jenn Crabtree, co-president of the PTO, said the float will include decorations celebrating Glencliff Elementary’s new mascot, the school district’s 60th anniversary and, of course, this year’s tropical theme.
“We’ll have leis for all the kids to wear,” said Crabtree. “I’ve ordered over a hundred.” Although she said the school principal’s goal was to recruit 100 students to march in the parade, any number will bring joy to the celebration.
“They have great school spirit,” Crabtree said.
Town Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw has ridden in the parade several times on the Water and Sewer Department’s float. She said that for her, the experience extends beyond a single day of fun.
“Each year for me, as I have the opportunity to ride in the parade on the town’s truck, I realize how fortunate we are to live in a community that values so much the place they live and the people they live there with,” McGraw said. “You see the pride in the faces of people on the parade route, you get to work with the organizing committee who gives so much time and effort to make it all happen for the people of this town, and you realize you’re very, very fortunate.”
The daylong Niskayuna party will close with a fireworks display at 9:15, which Leader expects will draw 5,000 spectators.
There is no admission to attend Niska-Day, and nearly everything is free of charge except food and children’s rides. However, the Niska-Day Committee hopes attendees will bring donations of nonperishable food to be collected in memory of a dedicated Niska-Day volunteer.