Greg B. Smith and Brad Kelly The Knickerbocker News
Section: MAIN,  Page: 1A

Date: Tuesday, July 22, 1986

Dressed in a 17th century costume, Gov. Mario Cuomo today highlighted Albany's 300th birthday party by signing a duplicate of the city's original charter.

"And now, let's re-create a moment of history," Cuomo told a noon- time crowd gathered around the Capitol steps. Capitol police estimated the crowd at 4,500. As Cuomo signed the re-creation of the original Dongan Charter, 30 cannon blasts - one for each of Albany's decades - resounded off downtown buildings as volunteers released dozens of blue, orange and white balloons.

The governor, dressed to portray Gov. Thomas Dongan, handed the document to Whalen, who was dressed to portray Albany Mayor Pieter Schuyler.

"Today is our day," said Whalen, who was wearing a navy blue cape and wide-brimmed hat with crimson plume.

Earlier today, 19 rainbow-colored hot-air balloons lifted off from Lincoln Park, floating southeast toward Rensselaer County in the rising sun.

"It's perfect, flawless balloon weather," said Nancy Roberson of Clifton Park, co-chairwoman of the birthday balloon festival, which kicked off today's tricentennial celebration.

A party from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Empire State Plaza, featuring musical performances, fireworks and a birthday cake big enough to serve 10,000 people, was scheduled to cap the day.

Early risers were enthralled with the colorful lighter-than-air balloons, which averaged 65 feet in height.

Fantasy II, a red-yellow-maroon- and-blue-striped creation, trailed a shadow across Lincoln Park as it lifted off at 6:30 a.m. with aeronaut James Griswold of Manlius, Onondaga County, at the helm.

Griswold's wife, Betsy, stood nearby, waiting to chase him across the countryside, or wherever else the wind might take him.

"My biggest worry is the roads," she said, stepping into her van. "I don't know the roads around here. Do you?"

Two hours after sunrise and before sunset are the best times for ballooning, she said before leaving.

The early hours did not prevent dozens of fans from gathering at Lincoln Park to gaze at the liftoff.

Sarah Jane Klopfer of Colonie got up at 5:30 a.m. to watch the event.

"Imagine one of those landing in your back yard," she said, pointing to a blue and gold balloon. "Isn't that something? I love this one."

At 7 a.m., church bells across the city rang out to announce the arrival of Charter Day, which marks the 300th anniversary of Albany's establishment as a city.

At 9 a.m., Whalen made Charter Day official as he read a proclamation on the steps of City Hall to bystanders, representatives of six other Albanys around the world and a brass band.

"We're thankful that you're here, that you've come from near and far to help us celebrate a history and a heritage," said Whalen, who sported an "Albany 300" pin on his blue pinstripe suit.

Next, Whalen and the entourage strolled a block over Eagle Street to State Street, where Margaret F. Lynch tugged a rope to unveil a restored antique clock her family donated as a birthday present to the city.

The clock was unveiled at 9:22 a.m., which Tricentennial Commission Chairman Lewis Swyer said was the correct time.

The group then jumped into four buses for a tour of the city. Led by a pale green 1954 Packard, the group stopped at Quackenbush Square, went to Washington Park - where Whalen placed a wreath on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument - and headed for a reception at Schuyler Mansion.

At 1 p.m., Whalen planned to host a private invitational luncheon in Academy Park.

On Monday, Louis Alonzo was preparing for the fireworks display he said would be the largest in Albany's history at the Empire State Plaza, while Margaret Dudar decorated what probably was the city's largest birthday cake.

Like so many other people who have worked to make the city's 300th birthday celebration a success, Alonzo and Dudar have never met. Tonight they will make history together.

While preparing for tonight's fireworks display, Alonzo, owner of Alonzo's Fireworks Display in Mechanicville, said, "They're going to be in shock when they see this."

"Nobody realizes just how big this is," he said Monday, while setting up rows of pipes that will be used to launch 2,500 fireworks from the Plaza at 9 p.m.

The display, synchronized to music on radio station WFLY-FM (92.3 on the dial), will end the daylong 300th birthday party that began this morning with the liftoff of the hot- air balloons from Lincoln Park.

Alonzo said tonight's display would be "10 times bigger" than the July 4 fireworks at the Plaza earlier this month.

Dudar on Monday was spreading the icing on 53 individual cakes that were to be assembled today to make a 12-foot-high, tiered birthday cake big enough to feed 10,000 tricentennial partygoers.

Dudar said she had delayed her retirement a month to participate in the cake decoration.

"I thought this would be a good finish to it all after 32 years of service," Dudar said Monday, referring to her employment with the Freihofer Baking Co. Freihofer is providing the cake for the celebration.

Dudar said it would take eight hours for five or six persons to decorate the 2,000-pound cake with pastel flowers; white, orange and blue borders; ships; wooden shoes, and silk tulips.

"We're not going to rush it," Dudar said. "We're going to take our time and do a good job."

Whalen is scheduled to cut the cake at 7 p.m.

Other events planned later today include:

*5-7:40 p.m. - Performances at the Empire State Plaza by bands, including Skip Parsons and the Riverboat Jazz Band, Doc Scanlon and his Rhythm Boys, the Wilborn First Church of God, the Christ Choral Group and the Mohawk Valley Ensemble Chorus on stages at the State Street and State Museum ends of the Plaza.

*6 p.m. - A liftoff of hot-air balloons from Lincoln Park.

*7:45 p.m. - A historical procession, consisting of people dressed in period costumes from 1686 to the present.

*8 p.m. - Another re-enactment of the signing of the Dongan Charter by Whalen, who will be dressed as Mayor Pieter Schuyler.

*9 p.m. - A fireworks display.

There also will be a cannon salute and the release of 1,000 balloons, representing doves of peace.