CLIFTON PARK -- Thursday was anything but a quiet day off for the dozens of people marching in, and watching, the annual July Fourth parade in the town of Clifton Park on a hot summer day.
While the parade technically began at noon on the dot, the holiday festivities began earlier in the day.
At 11:30 a.m., the first-ever Clifton Park Freedom Mile run began on the main Shenendehowa Central School District campus, with runners and walkers representing the unofficial first leg of the parade. New this year, the proceeds from the run will go to the Shenendehowa Track Club as well as the St. Peter's ALS Regional Center.
But the festivities didn't end with the parade. As the town does each year, as the parade comes to a halt at Clifton Common, other activities are held at the park throughout the day, culminating in a fireworks display at night.
Immediately after the parade, an opening ceremony hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Clifton Park Elks and the American Legion was held to honor veterans past and present for their service to the country, and to kick off the day's events.
This year's activities included amusement park rides, a craft show, fire prevention demonstrations using the towns' own Fire Prevention Bus, community displays, free pony rides and petting zoos, and musical acts on the Clifton Common stage, including Sirsy, a rock and soul duo, and Chicago alums Danny Seraphine and Bill Champlin with their band CTA.
Every year, the parade serves as a large opportunity not only for local organizations and groups to receive recognition and some time in the spotlight, but also for families and friends to gather for a laid back and free event.
"We have a great turnout this year," Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said on Thursday, moments before departing with the extensive parade.
Included in the march this year were bagpipers and drummers, town and local officials, representatives from the Saratoga County Sheriff's Department in cars, on foot and on bikes, the American Legion Mohawk Post 1450 and the Ladies Auxiliary post, the Jonesville Volunteer Fire Department, the Clifton Park Fire Department, multiple local choral and performance groups and various antique automobile clubs.
The parade sponsors this year included County Waste, Prestige Services and Market 32 by Price Chopper.
Many parade participants tossed out candy or other small toys to children as they marched down the route, which started at the Shenendehowa campus and ended at the park.
Town residents were ready for the parade well before noon.
By 11 a.m., both sides of Route 146 leading into Shen's campus were packed with couples, families and groups of friends who were all setting up their sites, complete with lawn chairs and blankets and picnic coolers.
Hannah Murray, 10, of Clifton Park was sitting with her younger sister, Jessie, 8, and her mother, Amy. Amy Murray brings her children to the parade each year early to get a good seat.
"It's just a fun thing to get out and do, especially when the weather is nice," she said.
"Mommy, I want to march sometime," Hannah interjected, ringing a cowbell she had brought with her from home and leaning over the curb to watch the oncoming marchers as they approached.