It was just that kind of day.
Under deep blue skies, cotton-candy clouds and a gentle breeze, Independence Day revelers soaked up the sun, ate taffy and fried dough, watched parades and took a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
It was also a time to think about the sacrifices of military veterans – such as the aging ex-soldiers of American Legion Post 735, as they marched down the center of Harlem Road in the Cheektowaga parade.
“I’m trying to teach my children to be respectful of the flag,” said Tim Foley of West Seneca, after he stood up and placed his hand over his heart as the veterans passed by, joined by wife Dawn, son Sean, 9, and daughter Emily, 7.
“Gorgeous weather, not too hot, not too cold. Happy birthday, America,” said Foley, as the veterans walked behind the Pepsi-Cola Marching Band, which was playing patriotic songs.
Ralph Jarmusz of Buffalo sat nearby, wearing an American flag shirt and an Uncle Sam hat.
Among the political candidates present – some used flatbed trucks to do their politicking – was Kathleen C. Hochul, the former congresswoman who was tapped by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to be his running mate.
“I’m doing a lot of parades. I was in Batavia, Lancaster and all over, and I have to get to other parts of the state,” Hochul said as she left early. “Last summer was my first year in 20 not walking in a parade. One summer off, and now I’m back in the saddle again.”
Cheektowaga Police Officer Paul Nazzarett was among many walking by who passed out candy.
“It’s an awesome day today. We’re having a ball,” he said as he tossed Tootsie Rolls to children.
Stephanie Snyder, who was with her husband, Jeff, and children Jordan, 4, and Delaney, 1, held a big bag of candy accumulated from the curbside tosses, seeming for a moment as if the holiday had morphed into Halloween.
“They’re all for me,” she laughed, before adding, “They give you a lot of candy, my goodness!”
Ballerinas, firefighters, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and the Flower City Princess, waving from a red convertible, were among those participating in the parade.
At the Village of Lancaster’s holiday fair, Gabe, 8, chewed on a strip of green taffy with his mom, Lee Schiffler, and his aunt Megan. Lee Schiffler said her parents used to take her, and she was carrying on the tradition.
Bryan and Kelly Betschen, with Colby, 5, and Finley, 19 months, enjoyed the carnival atmosphere.
“We’re happy that it’s a really nice day, and we can enjoy it,” Kelly Betschen said.
Tea party member Tony Matuszak offered a political view from his booth – a warning against government registration of guns and plans for a one-world government, a secret agenda of the Federal Reserve and claims about global warming.
At the Hollow Fest Fair in Clarence Town Park, the Heiser family held four plastic bags, each containing a goldfish won by throwing ping-pong balls into a small jar.
Three already had names – Juan, Jaws and Bubba – but daughter Ava was undecided on the fourth.
“We’ve had lots of fun, rides, food, and perfect weather. You couldn’t ask for a better day,” Amy Heiser said.
Songs by Cream, the Who and Black Sabbath were among the tunes being played by Famous Fred and the Creatures Unknown, a spirited cover band. Sitting in earshot while enjoying some refreshments were Michael and Elizabeth Busby with their children Mykah, 8, and Aleese, 2.
“It’s good to get out here, and eat what we want and enjoy ourselves as a family. Being a veteran, it has a special meaning,” said Michael Busby, who was deployed in Iraq, Germany and South Korea and is now deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Mykah left no doubt what she liked best. “I like going on the rides. The Paratrooper. It goes up and then it goes down,” she said, waving her right hand, which also held a chocolate ice-cream cone.
Waffles. Corn dogs. Shortcakes and cheesecakes. Cheese fries. Corn on the cob.
It was that kind of day in Clarence.
“I grew up here and I live in L.A. now, so it’s great to come back. It’s a really sweet town to be back in for the summer,” said Larry Browning, with his wife, Kelley, sons Desmond, 3, and William, 1, and sister Clare.
Desmond clutched a small stuffed alligator, won after successfully fishing in the Frogg Bogg.
For Will Jago of Akron, it was all about the fried dough.
“Got to. It’s a must-have when you go to something like this. $5 bucks. Right?” he said, as if not getting it would have been unimaginable.
Anthony, 8, liked the rock-climbing wall. But his brother, Christopher, 7, thought the ride “that goes up and down” wasn’t much fun. “I feel like I’m going to barf,” he said, as their mother, Nicole Giambrone, looked utterly amused.
At Canalside, the Friends of the Buffalo Story put on a puppet show inside a tent by the ruins, telling the history of the Erie Canal in front of a few dozen people.
On stage, the George Scott Big Band played for the thousands who had already taken their seats for a fireworks show several hours away.
“I like to see the city getting more of a community feel to it, and this is great, especially during the summer, when everyone’s out and about,” said Kathleen Webb, a Buffalo native who now lives in New York City. She and her mother sat on Adirondack chairs, gazing out on the water.
Nearby, kids played ping-pong and other free games, courtesy of the Treehouse Toy Store. A man dressed up as a pirate posed for photographs with a wooden pirate ship on wheels. Children dug holes in the beach sand as moms and dads watched, and families and teenagers waited for refreshments at Clinton’s Dish.
“I haven’t been here in years, and I’m amazed by all this down here. And we live in Hamburg, so it’s not like we’re from out of town,” said Gayle Ward, strolling with her husband, Bob.
Inside the Commercial Slip, Mark and Denise Finch of Grand Island snacked aboard their 20-foot motorboat outfitted with white and turquoise upholstery, enjoying the activity around them.
Over in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, Desiree Weeg, a Navy veteran, strolled alongside the monuments, reflecting on the meaning of the holiday, her own service and the sacrifice of others.
“I want to thank all of our veterans,” Weeg said. “Their service means so much, and not enough people recognize it on an everyday basis.”