Nothing says summer like a skeleton dressed as a pirate.
Al Parker has a boney first mate on the job at Pirates Hide-Out, the ice cream stand and miniature golf course he owns on Guideboard Road in Halfmoon.
“Kids are just intrigued by pirates,” said Parker, who opened his business on July 10, 1997 — six years before Captain Jack Sparrow introduced pirate cool in the 2003 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
Kids — and parents — are also intrigued by banana splits, hot fudge sundaes and ice cream flavors such as vanilla, chocolate cheesecake and butter pecan. Blueberry custard — with an optional vanilla ice cream upgrade — was a popular flavor at the Hide-Out earlier this week. Low-fat frozen yogurt is also an option.
Parker said people love the option to golf and then celebrate 18-hole scores with ice cream, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, french fries and fish fries, among other menu items.
“It’s a family thing,” Parker said. “Eight to 80 can do it. We get a lot of grandparents with the grandkids, they can play a little golf and then get some ice cream.”
Parker employs 24, providing pieces of eight to high school and college students during June, July and August. Summer hours are noon to 10 p.m.; hours will be reduced once the workforce begins September obligations. Pirates Hide-Out will close for the year around Columbus Day.
People can sit inside or outside. There’s even a putting green and party pavilion in the backyard, with space for five picnic tables.
The course itself is filled with miniature trees, trimmed shrubs, stone beds and flowers such as marigolds, zinnias and black-eyed Susans. A wooden bridge, blue lagoon, black cannon and pirate’s ship mast — complete with crow’s nest — are nods to life under the Jolly Roger.
Karen Budrakey of Niskayuna drives past the Hide-Out every day school is in session — she works at nearby Waterford-Halfmoon Central School.
“We know it’s a good course,” Budrakey said Tuesday night as she puttered around with her 11-year-old daughter Nadia and Nadia’s friend Olivia Reeves, also 11. “It’s sort of a challenge.”
“Challenging, but fun,” added Nadia.
Families like the options for clubs and cones.
“It has creative holes, and it’s not a small course,” said Quinn Riley, 10, of Halfmoon, who was on the green with his mother Kathy. “It’s pretty good-sized.”
The skeleton works in the golf office, where teens like Abigail Emerson Harder, 15, take $6 course fees for adults and most kids. It’s an all-day admission, so golfers can come back and play later in the day without paying another six bucks. Putters are easy to choose; sometimes picking out a colored golf ball takes some thought, though.
“A lot of girls choose pink,” Harder said of the selection, which also includes green, orange, light blue, cobalt blue and purple. “For guys, anything except pink or purple.”
Ken Clements of Clifton Park sat outside as dusk fell, enjoying ice cream with his sister, Janice Minshell of Valatie, and brother Tom Clements of Saratoga Springs.
“It’s nice to get out in the air,” he said, “and it’s something that we did as kids.”
“I’m from Valatie,” joked Minshell. “I’ll go anywhere for ice cream.”