Not everyone loves a parade, Tim Newell will tell you, but if young children think it's a great idea, that's good enough reason to have one.
"Kids really love it, so it's too bad if you're 65 and you don't like them," said Newell, a 1971 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate and one of the long-time organizers of the Burnt Hills Flag Day Parade. "If a 5-year-old thinks it's a great time, that's great news and let's keep on doing it."
Thursday at 7 p.m. along Route 50 in the town of Ballston, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Community Flag Day Parade will be held for the 17th consecutive year. While many other communities opt not to celebrate Flag Day (the official day is June 14), in Burnt Hills the occasion continues to resonate with the residents. Members of the Burnt Hills Fire Department, celebrating its 100th year, will serve as grand marshals.
The parade's first year was 2002, nine months after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and it was BH-BL girls' volleyball coach Gary Bynon who proposed the idea.
"Gary came up with the idea right after 9/11 when patriotism was very high," said Newell. "He thought it'd be a good idea to do something to celebrate America and make us feel a bit better after what happened to us."
The parade is organized by the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Business and Professional Association with plenty of help from the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Teachers Association. Major sponsors include the teachers group, as well as the BH Fire Department, Morris Auto Group and Ballston Spa National Bank.
The business association shares its "footprint" with the BH-BL Central School District, which includes the towns of Ballston, Charlton, Clifton Park and Glenville. A small American flag and a decal with a logo including images representing those four towns will be handed out free of charge during the parade.
"We don't really have a central location in our community, so this parade is one of the few events that ties our entire community together," said Ballston town historian Rick Reynolds, a retired teacher in the district. "I don't think we ever imagined it would get this popular when we started. There are a huge number of kids that are involved in the parade, Boys Scouts, Girls Scouts, athletic teams, dance groups, and we have thousands of people watching. It's become so popular we're a little concerned about it being too big."
The BH-BL Flag Day Parade event actually begins at 6:55 p.m. Thursday with the Route 50 Mile Run. Wilton native Sean Donegan won last year's event in 4 minutes and 26 seconds.
"There are some serious runners who take part in it, and last year all of our top 10 were under five minutes," said Newell, a partner with Shank and Falvey Insurance in Burnt Hills. "But there are also people who just do it for fun. I did it last year with one of my grandkids in a stroller."
The Burnt Hills Oratorio Society, accompanied by the Melody Makers, will kick off the parade by singing the national anthem at the Burnt Hills Methodist Church at 816 Saratoga Road. The parade route begins near the intersection of Route 50 (Saratoga Road) and Kingsley Road and concludes at Route 50 and Kingsbury Road. Following the parade, a fireworks demonstration will be held at the O'Rourke Middle School at 173 Lakehill Road.
Flag Day parades will also be held in Saratoga Springs, Clifton Park and Rotterdam, all by Elks groups. The Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge #161 will hold its 51st annual parade on Saturday, June 9, beginning at noon at North Broadway in the city, and the Rotterdam Elks Lodge #2157 will have its parade on Monday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m., beginning at Mohonasen High School and proceeding down Curry Road to the Elks lodge.
The Clifton Park Elks Lodge #2466 will hold its annual Flag Day celebration on June 14.
Missing from this year's list of Flag Day parades for the first time in 50 years is the Troy event, which had been one of the largest in the country during its heyday. Created in 1968 in response to the anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, the parade was canceled in March this year due to a variety of reasons, including smaller crowds and rising costs.