The unusually mild December weather brought out families galore for the Town of Lloyd’s fifth annual Light Up the Hamlet event on Friday, December 11. The streets of downtown Highland were blocked off to drivers, creating a safe enclave for the festivities.
The town square was pitch dark as the evening began, anticipation high as to when the jolly old elf would arrive. A fire pit in the center of town blazed, but in the mild night air it was hardly necessary (although highly atmospheric).
The Highland Rotary Club distributed free hot cocoa, and the Boy Scouts sold nachos at nominal cost. Several men of the VFW 6534 were on hand, too, hosting a bean bag toss game with prizes for the kids as they awaited Santa’s arrival.
Soon enough, with a police escort’s flashing lights and siren and the fire truck he was riding in blaring its horn, Santa Claus came to town and kicked off the evening’s events, lighting the Christmas tree in front of the church with just a wave of his hand (which, by the way, made the twinkling lights on the trees in the hamlet come to life as well; nice work). Santa then made his way to his makeshift quarters for the evening at Santa’s Workshop, newly located in the former bank across the street from the tree.
The workshop was a beehive of activity inside with plenty of elves to assist and evidence of many hours of time spent decorating the space. There was a “naughty and nice” corner where kids could score themselves as to how they’d behaved over the year. Pouted? Add two points. Used a bad word? Add three. Hit your sibling? That’s worth four bad marks. More than 15 and well, you know what that means. (Bags of coal were on display to make the message stick.)
Blankets were spread out on the floor in another area of the workshop, where the screen above showed classic holiday movies. A vintage-looking red popcorn cart perked away with cheerful elves making free popcorn for visitors, scenting the whole room with a tempting aroma. Santa’s flight path and up-to-date weather conditions were posted on a wall for those who worry about such things, and Santa himself sat in the corner, hearing the wishes of every child who waited in line to sit on his lap. The line extended a good way down the street outside, with the last of the wait once inside marked by large sacks of reindeer feed.
The Methodist Church nearby hosted an indoor craft fair and cookie walk, with vendors selling handcrafted goods, beauty products, jewelry and the like alongside the cookie sale, where a half pound of delectable looking homemade brownies and festively decorated cookies could be purchased for just $5 (a full pound cost $9). The altar area of the church was given over to the Highland High School Concert Choir, who wore festive holiday attire and the occasional Santa hat while serenading visitors. As one perceptive vendor noted, the entire scene was reminiscent of one of those Lifetime or Hallmark channel holiday movies where a small town comes together in crisis but everything turns out all right in the end.
Over at the From Stage to Screen building, Boy Scout troop 70 sponsored a photo booth and holiday crafts could be made there.
Later in the evening, the Evergreen Chorus sang songs of the season in the town square.
The hamlet was looking decidedly bustling during the holiday affair, with new businesses like the upscale Underground Coffee & Ales right in the heart of things offering a spot for adults to imbibe a craft beer or glass of wine alongside their kids drinking hot chocolate. A few doors down, at 62 Vineyard Avenue where Santa’s Workshop was housed at previous “Light Up” events, an open house was in full force for karate shihan Mike Skinner’s new location. The brightly lit space hosted students demonstrating their discipline under the guidance of Skinner and Santa-hatted sempai, Dan Paradies.
The community of Highland didn’t forget about the less fortunate children in the area, either, donating generously to the annual Toys for Tots drive held by the Town of Lloyd Police Department and Highland Fire Department.
On the Sunday following Light Up the Hamlet, Santa made a visit to the annual police department Open House on Milton Avenue to pick up the toys for distribution to children throughout Ulster County. Kids who visited got a chance to not only visit Santa again but take a tour of the station.