During that bleak period when the only Easter candy remaining is a couple of chalky-looking, fake-grass-encrusted jelly beans and Mr. Ding-a-Ling cannot yet be relied upon to follow a regular schedule, my town fulfills the children’s urgent need for sugar and artificial flavors and colors by holding a Niska-Day parade. Full disclosure: I love the Niska-Day parade.
Pondering Niska-Days Past reminds me of our own history in the town. Niska-Day was cancelled due to snow back in 2002, the year that we moved in, and although I’d had no plans to attend, the snowstorm in May sure did scare the hell out of me, if nothing else. By the following year I was marching in the parade with the Niskayuna Moms Group and wishing that I’d been more aware of the adorable parade route neighborhood back when we’d been house hunting. The years went by and we marched with NMG and later the Niskayuna Co-op Nursery School, glad that they were usually next to each other in the parade for maximum sociability. And meanwhile, each year, I’d seethe with Neighborhood Envy until we scored our own house on the parade route. What matter than the house was smaller and uglier than our old one, when this one offered up quick walks to school and prime parade viewing?
These days we stay still and watch the parade go by. It lets us offer up our lawn (and bathroom!) to friends, but the kids are pro-watching for one reason only: the candy. Marchers throw out candy in the parade, and placement on the route is key. Near our house, supplies are huge and the candy-throwing is generous. As marchers approach Nott Street, supplies begin to dwindle until they’re usually gone altogether at the corner of Nott Street and Balltown, where the savvy watcher can make up for the lack by checking out the Niskayuna Co-op market for its generous free samples.
But back to the candy-throwing. First, it’s important to know that there’s quite a bit of strategy involved. Last year we had a bunch of M’s friends over to watch the parade with us, but I noticed that all morning she’d kept a distance from the giggling gaggle. Middle school was looming and my antenna was on high alert: was it girl drama? “Oh, no,” M assured me. “You get more candy when people see you looking sad and lonely.” She made out like a bandit. This year, J and her friends scrambled several houses away to the corner, which seemed ridiculous, until we compared their candy-bags to some of the ones of people who’d stayed on our home turf.
Second, the quality of the thrown items varies. Widely. The aforementioned generous Niskayuna Co-op market is locally famous for throwing out high-quality free trade chocolates. On the other hand, Dum-dums are sadly quite prevalent. And this year we scored a first:
That’s right: these lollipops are not just a discount-bin score because their labels scream Valentine’s Day. What you have here are actual Valentine’s Day candies that were tagged and gifted to someone before some thrifty adult scooped them up out of the back of a cabinet and threw them at my children. Seriously, what next? Russel Stover strawberry creams that someone’s stabbed with a finger to ensure they’re not missing out on caramel? Come on, people! Let’s have some standards.
Although, honestly? I can understand the impulse.
Because my entire dining room table was littered with candy that was deemed unworthy of consumption and shipped off to Cute W’s office.
And it’s not just candy. Look what else I gathered up from parade watchers on my lawn who did not want to continue their commitment beyond a bit of parade-waving:
That’s a lot of flags. And I am exactly the kind of neurotic person who feels morally obligated to either burn or bury the damn things. I mean, am I being unreasonable, or a Good American? You can’t just throw these in the trash, can you? Won’t Betsy Ross throw a lightening bolt at me or something?
For those who need another candy alternative, J and her friend decided to have a melon stand. Last year it was melon balls, but this year she decided that the balls should get stuck on a skewer.
You might not be able to make it out, but one of signs says “Support a Local Business.” They made $11. They would have made more if they hadn’t abandoned their post to scoop up candy.
I’m updating my events page later today, and here’s the KidsOutAndAbout list of local Memorial Day Parades. If you need to borrow a small American flag for waving, let me know. I’ve got you covered.