Now that we’ve got all that turkey and stuffing under our belts, ’tis the season for Hudson Valley venues to pull out all the stops in getting folks into the mood for the various light-filled holidays that circulate around the Winter Solstice. The historic manses that line the river are decked out in period finery, Santa sightings are becoming commonplace and towns are hosting parades and tree-lighting ceremonies. So it should come as no surprise that our nearest neighbor to the north bolsters its claim to the title of the Festival Town with an annual blowout the first weekend in December called Frozendale Daze. It’ll be back this Saturday afternoon, Dec. 7, with lots of fun activities for all ages — most of them free of charge.
This cheery cold-weather event, staged all along lower Main Street (Route 213), was originally a project of the Rosendale Chamber of Commerce. But about five years ago, local massage therapist Jesse Scherer stepped into the role of ringmaster for the entire extravaganza, which she sees as essentially “community-generated…. Everybody pitches in.”
During the early years of Frozendale Daze, Scherer was in charge of the Winter Gift Sale component of the festival, which showcases handmade gift items by local craftspeople. “It started in some houses, then moved to unused storefronts on Main Street,” she explains. As the sale expanded to involve anywhere from seven to 20 vendors per year, multiple empty stores were pressed into service. And mysteriously, these formerly unrentable commercial spaces developed a pattern of being turned into successful businesses following their reintroduction to the public via the Winter Gift Sale. “We bring a little bit of magic to Main Street,” says Scherer with a twinkle in her eye.
This year the Winter Gift Sale will be hosted in two already-thriving storefronts: Ann Citron’s Canaltown Alley space, behind the Rosendale Theatre, and Fre Atlast’s TRANSnDANCEnDRUM Center at 415 Main Street. Citron also makes the theatre itself part of the festival, with two screenings of A Muppet Christmas Carol at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Both offer free admission, thanks to sponsorship from Ulster Savings Bank.
Though most of the activities will happen between noon and 6 p.m., Frozendale Daze actually kicks off at the Rosendale Library at 10 a.m. with a half-hour holiday storytelling session with Miss Annie. The library will also be running its annual Holiday Booktique all afternoon. The Soiled Dove will feature a Dollar Vintage Junque Sale, and vendors of various sorts will be set up at many other Main Street businesses.
Just beyond the east end of Main Street, Rosendale Wine and Spirits will be hosting a wine-tasting, and near the western end, the 1850 House will offer wine and cheese. Vision of Tibet at 378 Main will serve Tibetan tea, and the Alternative Baker will be offering hot cider and cookies. Another beverage giveaway that has become quite a Frozendale tradition happens at Town Hall: mugs with the town’s logo, filled with hot chocolate, absolutely free.
As you wander along Main Street sipping your hot drink, you may find yourself serenaded by the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band as it marches by. Hop aboard a hayride or get your picture taken with Santa and his Elves, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Among the many other kid-friendly activities will be a live puppet show titled Main Street Happening, presented by the Redwing Blackbird Theatre at 413 Main at 2 p.m. At the Rosendale Café you can try your hand at cookie-decorating, with live music from 1 to 5 p.m. TelEyre, Shabbat Rusciolelli, Andrea Maddox and Shamsi Ruhe will be playing: “all local, soulful, favorite female performers,” according to Scherer.
Downtown Rosendale’s art galleries are getting in on the fun as well. Roos Arts will offer a family-friendly papercraft and ornament-making workshop called “Light Me Up,” accompanied by hot cider. And the Lovebird Studio will host a show and sale of works by Scott Ackerman (who designed the 2013 Woodstock Film Festival poster), Amy Ackerman, Paul Heath, Andy Milford and Matt Pleva — all priced at $100 and under.
What with all this strolling up and down the street and ducking in and out of the cold, by late afternoon you should have worked up an appetite for some nice hot comfort food. Follow your nose to the Big Cheese’s soon-to-become-a-new-restaurant space at 4 Hardenburgh Lane, between the Rosendale Theatre and Town Hall: That’s where the savory entries will be heating up for Frozendale Daze’s annual Mac-and-Cheese Bakeoff, which gets underway at 5 p.m. The judges for the competition, fittingly, are Rosendale’s actual town justices, Robert Vosper and William Pape. The winning chef will take home a $50 gift certificate, while the rest of those in attendance will get to devour all the contending casseroles.
A serving of somebody’s special recipe for homemade macaroni-and-cheese sounds like a fine way to cap off a festive day in Rosendale, and a good demonstration of what Scherer means when she says that Frozendale Daze “creates a warm feeling among the community, and brings us back to the basic aspects of coming together as a community…Each store becomes like a new living room. You leave the day feeling like you actually interacted and got to know people, like you were at a party. People feel enriched.”
Sounds like an afternoon that could turn even the most miserly Scrooge into a benevolent neighbor, with friendly Rosendalers standing in for the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Check it out for yourself this Saturday!