The sun was beaming. The restaurants and parking lots were packed. Saratoga Springs was the epicenter of the Capital Region this weekend, as events and parades took over the streets.
The city was especially busy Saturday, as the day began with the fourth day of the annual Saratoga Arts Fest, with events planned throughout to showcase local art and artists, followed by the annual Flag Day parade.
Thousands lined Broadway for the parade, waving flags and cheering as veterans passed, including groups such as the Adirondack chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association and the United States Submarine Veterans.
The parade both honored history and celebrated community. For every veteran, there were others dressed in Revolutionary War regalia or wearing kilts and playing the bagpipes. The marching band from Galway Central School played the theme music from the film “Rocky.” There were even actors portraying Ulysses S. Grant and his wife.
It was Ryan Marie’s third time at the parade. She was with her three children, Juliette, 6, Madison, 4, and James, 9 months. She said she attends because her kids enjoy it.
Rich Hill was there for a sixth time, this time with his 2-year-old grandson, Theo Robalino, who grasped a tiny American flag.
“It’s a way to honor the military,” Hill explained.
For others, like Lily Rabinoff-Goldman and her friend, Poonam Kumar, it was their first time at the parade. Kumar had come to Saratoga Springs for a friend’s wedding and met up with Rabinoff-Goldman, a Boston resident, to go to Saratoga and enjoy the nice day. Rabinoff-Goldman was also with her 1-year-old son, Eli. They enjoyed the parade and may come back next year.
Similarly, Cheryl Sojda and her husband, Dana, had come from Utica just to enjoy the day, but after finding out about the parade, they decided to stay for it with their two children, Tyler, 6, and Carter, 3.
After the parade was over and the crowds splintered off into the nearby restaurants or to enjoy the local arts events, Tyler was still wrapped up in his memories of the parade, trying to snap his fingers and pacing back and forth.
Cheryl Sojda said she enjoyed the parade and described it as very fun. For Tyler, however, the answer was more complex.
“It was fun, and I also got to go into a gift shop,” he said. “That was fun, too.”
Once the parade was done, the Arts Fest continued. Local artists like Judy Martuscello were painting as folks passed on the street or stopped to take a quick look at what they were painting. Martuscello painted when she was in college but stopped when she had children to raise. She got back into it three years ago, once her children were grown and ready to move out.
Other events took place at Skidmore College, including a performance by the Burnt Hills Oratorio Society. Christine McDonald, a volunteer at Arts Fest, also sings with the Skidmore Chorus and Saratoga Choral and also serves on the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Action Council. For her, singing is more than just art.
“It’s challenging your mind,” she said. “It’s good for your soul.”
After the parade, Justin Fulk and Gaurav Goyal were seated on a bench in the shade. Members of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa who were still in uniform, they sat back on the bench and watched the cars go by.
It was their first time marching in the parade. Both have been training for the past two years to work on nuclear-powered submarines, Goyal as an electrician and Fulk as a machinist. It will be their job to operate and maintain the onboard nuclear reactors.
To be part of the nuclear unit on submarines requires a high mental capacity and a love of science. For them, the military is more than guns and explosions; it is the intricacies that give meaning to what they do.
“All these action movies turn into comedies,” Goyal said.
Goyal joined because he wanted a change in his life and because he knew being apart of the unit was a great steppingstone for future jobs. So far, he’s also seen himself grow as a human being.
“I like these changes the military has given me,” he said.
As for Fulk, since being a part of the unit, his understanding and appreciation of nuclear power has grown. For him, nuclear power is the future and would one day replace fossil fuel.
“We’ve barely scratched the surface of the technology,” Fulk said, leaning into every word.
They both expect to finish training at the end of the year and begin working onboard a submarine.