A Shandaken Christmas

Phoenicia is gearing up for its annual round of family holiday events, which this year will include caroling in the streets, a free Uncle Rock performance, a festive train ride (also free for kids and parents), multiple chances to party with Santa, selections from Handel’s Messiah, and a concert of historic Christmas music on antique instruments.

The Empire State Railway Museum, in conjunction with the Catskill Mountain Railroad, will offer its traditional holiday party at the Phoenicia station at 70 Lower High Street on Saturday, December 11, beginning at noon. Model trains will be on display, with free cookies and cider available, and probably music. Santa will there, greeting the kiddies and handing out vouchers for free train rides.

Since the hurricane, the museum parking lot has been largely restored. “It’s parkable,” says museum representative Dakin Morehouse. “You won’t blow a tire.” The flooded furnace has just been replaced, but the tracks between Phoenicia and Mount Tremper will take more work, now that the undercutting of the railroad ties has been corrected by New York State Department of Transportation crews. “They said the railroad tracks protected the road from washing out,” reports Morehouse. Unlike the riverbank, the tracks will be restored by hardworking railroad volunteers, and money will have to be raised for the purchase of ties and hardware.


Meanwhile, the train still runs from the Mount Tremper station, just west of the Emerson complex on Route 28, to Cold Brook and back, a 45-minute ride. Trips will depart at 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. Don’t forget to visit Santa first for your free ticket.

Also at the Phoenicia railway museum, on Saturday, December 17, at 7:30 pm, Flying Cat Music will present “Christmas Long Ago and Far Away”, a concert by John and Sandra Bromka, a.k.a. the Bells and Motley Consort. The pair are musicians, historians, and educators who play rare historic and folk musical instruments, including the hurdy gurdy, French and Northumbrian bagpipes, Celtic harp, Swedish nykleharpa (a medieval keyed fiddle), Irish pennywhistle, and more. They will perform festive holiday tunes in the traditions of France, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the British Isles. Tickets are $12 for walk-ins or $10 with RSVP through flyingcatmusic@gmail.com or 845-688-9453.

Phoenicia Library’s holiday party will take place on Saturday, December 17, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It will feature seasonal stories with Miss Ginger (the mother of library assistant Liz Potter), food (cookies, cider, and snacks), and crafts such as gingerbread house construction, tree ornaments, and cookie decorating. Arrangements are being made for a special surprise guest, most likely a certain jolly gentleman. The ongoing book sale will include gift-wrapping of your purchases. The library is located across from the Phoenicia post office on Ava Maria Drive.

Then bring the kids over to the Phoenicia firehouse on Route 214 from 1 p.m.-3 p.m., also on Saturday, December 17. Santa will be there with presents for the children and refreshments for everyone. (Snow date will be Sunday, December 18.)

Meanwhile, down the road in Mount Tremper, the Zen Mountain Monastery is offering its 23rd annual community holiday dinner. Yet another Saturday, December 17 event, the first sitting will be held from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., with a second sitting from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Live music is planned. For information, call 688-2228.


Last minute events

Friday, December 23, will bring an afternoon and evening of celebratory events, beginning with Santa’s visit to Ulster Savings Bank, 58 Main Street, at 3 p.m. Kids’ musician Uncle Rock and friends will present a free Christmas show at 4 p.m. at the STS Playhouse on Church Street.

At 5 p.m., caroling will begin across the street from the theater, around the bonfire at Mama’s Boy Market, with free hot cider and cookies. Santa is scheduled put in another appearance there. By 6 p.m., the carolers will proceed down Main Street. Finally, at 7:30 p.m., a condensed version of Handel’s Messiah (one hour long, instead of three) will be performed at the Wesleyan Church, 24 Main Street, by the Phoenicia Community Choir and soloists Amy Wallace, Brittany Sokolowski, Maria Todaro, Kerry Henderson, Louis Otey, and Christopher Sokolowski. There is no charge for admission.

Also on the 23rd, stores in Phoenicia will be open late for last-minute shopping. Those in a charitable mood are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to Mama’s Boy for donation to Helping Hands Food Pantry. The series of events on that day is sponsored by Ulster Savings Bank, SHARP, and Emerson Hotel and Spa.++