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Niska-Day well attended despite rain

Niska-Day well attended despite rain

37th edition was a success
Niska-Day well attended despite rain
The Niska-Day Parade approaches Regent and Nott streets in Niskayuna on Saturday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

NISKAYUNA -- While the theme of the 37th annual Niska-Day Saturday was "Magic in the Air," the air itself was bitterly cold and filled with rain. 

But that didn't stop Niskayuna resident Corinne Jackson from coming to the event and bringing her 6-year-old son Liam.

"It's Niska-Day! We came out for a good time, possibly ride some rides and have some carnival food," she said as the cold rain dripped down her hooded-sweatshirt. "We come for our son to see his friends from school and to just enjoy the day and see the community out and about." 

And the community did come out, a robust crowd attended the event, some under umbrellas, others braving the rain in shorts. 

Fitting the magic theme, magician "Merdwin the Mediocre" performed under the main entertainment tent. Merdwin, who performed a trick that involved suspending a young child mid-air with the help of his younger sister, said he was impressed with crowd. 

"It was brilliantly well-attended. Lots of audience participation, some lovely children, and actually some very responsive and kind teens. Everyone did what they needed to do," he said. 

The event featured two other magicians, Doug Eash, from Vermont, who contrasted Merdwin's medieval wizard garb with a Las Vegas-style tuxedo magician outfit, and magician Mr. Mike, who performed tricks for people walking through the crowd.

Liam Jackson, however, enjoyed the magic of science most of all. 

"I liked watching the remote control cars!" he said. 

The Niskayuna High School Robotics Club was in charge of the remote controlled robot cars that Liam liked. Freshman Rohan Menon and sophomore Lillian Hinostroza said the club, which recently participated in the "First Tech Challenge" by building a robot that picks things up, wanted to do some technology outreach for the youth of Niskayuna, so they set up a table at Niska-Day to show of some robot cars they built. The cars played hockey and could be controlled using a downloaded app on a cell phone. 

"We built the structure of the robots, Rohan helped with the programming and I did the actual structure and the chassis-bit. We're trying to get kids interested in robotics," she said. 

Niska-Day began Saturday with a Family Fun Run at Van Antwerp Middle School and then the popular Niska-Day parade at 10 a.m. Some of the other features of the event included a rock-climbing wall, pony rides and petting zoo and photo magnets by The Magnet Man.

Jay Rourke, who co-chaired the entertainment committee for Niska-Day with his wife Rachel, said he was impressed by the level of commitment people have in coming to the event, despite wet and chilly conditions. 

"Considering that the weather has not been that great, people have been smiling. They came out, that's one of the great things about Niskayuna, people really are die-hard community members. People really did make a point to come out," he said. 

Rourke said he's been involved with Niska-Day's entertainment committee for seven years. 

"The awesome thing about this committee, which has 25 or 30 people on it, is we meet four times, and we pulled this off in only those four meetings," he said. "One of our bigger challenges now is how do we find the younger crowd to take the reins and keep this event going."

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