Parade, fireworks & It’s a Wonderful Life at Celebration of Light in Poughkeepsie
Happy Holidays! While your “reason for the season” may vary, it’s undeniable that pretty much every religion and ethnic group north of the Tropic of Cancer has evolved some celebratory way of pushing back the encroaching darkness of the Winter Solstice. Recognizing that the theme these holidays all have in common is “light,” Rosendale-based world cultural ambassadors Bill and Livia Vanaver got together 23 years ago with the Bardavon’s Chris Silva to concoct a nondenominational annual festival in which the City of Poughkeepsie could unite people of every conceivable background for an early-December evening of revelry. The Celebration of Lights took off in a big way, with downtown businesses and local schools getting involved.
If you’re a local, you know the drill by now: At 6:30 p.m., a parade will begin at the corner of Main and Garden Streets and head down Main to the waterfront, stopping for three tree-lightings along the way. It might be a most eclectic parade, with participants ranging from municipal officials, first-responder color guards, scout troops and school marching bands to motorcycle clubs, Percheron horses, bagpipers, Senegalese drummers and Arm-of-the-Sea Theater’s giant puppets. A fire engine bearing Santa wraps up the line of march.
A free fireworks display follows at 7:15 p.m., with the most coveted (though likely the chilliest) viewing location being the Walkway over the Hudson. Afterwards, many revelers stick around to enjoy First Friday specials and discounts in downtown shops and restaurants. Others head back uphill to the Bardavon for a family-friendly movie on the big screen, beginning at 8 p.m. and preceded by an organ recital on the Mighty Wurlitzer. This year’s cinematic offering: Frank Capra’s 1946 Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. All seats for the screening cost $6.
– Frances Marion Platt
Snowflake Festival in Kingston on Friday
On Friday evening, December 2, the Kingston Uptown Business Association will host its annual Snowflake Festival at various locations throughout the Stockade District. The fun begins at 6 p.m. with the arrival of Santa at the intersection of Wall and North Front Streets for a tree-lighting ceremony. City historian Edwin Ford and his brother Bill will arrive in a vintage 1937 Ford to receive the 2016 Light of Uptown Award, in recognition of their many years of service in the cause of historic preservation in Kingston.
From 6 to 8 p.m., the Festival’s main stage at the corner of Wall and John Streets will host free performances by Music Together, the Center for Creative Education’s Percussion Orchestra of Kingston (POOK) and Energy Dance Company, the Coleman High School Chorus, the Kingston High School Brass Band, the Ukraine Dancers and a magician, plus a bike raffle. Buskers will entertain strollers in other streets of the Stockade District, including a snowflake display with dancing lights and music from the Ice-Man and fire-juggling from the Heat-Mizer.
It’s all family-friendly, it’s all fun and it’s all free. For more info, visit www.kingstonuptown.org/initiatives/snowflake-festival.
Holiday on Huguenot Street in New Paltz
It’s time once again for “A Holiday on Huguenot Street,” the annual pre-Christmas extravaganza jointly presented by Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) and the Reformed Church of New Paltz. There will be live music, special holiday-themed tours, a tree-lighting ceremony, a paper lantern parade, a visit from Santa, wagon rides and lots more family-friendly fun. It all happens on Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3.
Beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, you’ll be able to pose for family and pet holiday portraits by Duetimage Photography, available in the Wullschleger Education Building at 92 Huguenot Street. All proceeds will go to the Humane Society of Walden. On the hour at 5, 6, 8 and 9 p.m. Friday evening, Holiday Tours of Huguenot Street’s historic homes will step off from the DuBois Fort Visitor Center at 81 Huguenot Street. Tours will also be available on Saturday beginning at 10 and 11 a.m., 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.
From 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, the DuBois Fort will feature a pop-up shop selling Lagusta’s Luscious gourmet vegan chocolates, and the Wullschleger Education Building will host the Reformed Church’s annual Craft Fair. The Misty Mountain Girl Scout Troop’s cookie walk gets underway at the DuBois Fort at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., Soup on the Stoop will be served for free on the steps of the Reformed Church at 92 Huguenot Street, and at 6:45 a Paper Lantern Light Parade will proceed from the Reformed Church to the 7 p.m. Community Tree-Lighting on the Deyo House lawn at 74 Huguenot Street; Village of New Paltz mayor Tim Rogers and Ulster County executive Mike Hein will preside. Following the tree-lighting ceremony, Santa and Mrs. Claus will hold court on the Deyo House porch. At 8 p.m., return to the Reformed Church for free holiday jazz and pop concert from the Big Blue Big Band.
At 10 a.m. on Saturday, the Girl Scout cookie walk will be back, and pettable miniature donkeys will visit the Wullschleger Education Building. The Reformed Church’s Social Hall at 92 Huguenot Street will open its Christmas Café at 11 a.m. Live sheep will be on view at the Bevier-Elting House beginning at 12:30 p.m. From 1 to 4 p.m., horsedrawn wagon rides will depart from the DuBois Fort Visitor Center; tickets cost $5 per person aged 4 and up. The festivities conclude with The Land of Sewertopia, a free puppet show written, directed and performed by students in SUNY-New Paltz’s School of Fine Arts and Department of Theatre Arts, at the Reformed Church beginning at 2 p.m.
For more information or to preregister for Huguenot Street Holiday Tours, visit
Holiday Open House in Woodstock
Why wait until Christmas Eve (when Santa arrives in a mysterious way on the Village Green) to pay a visit to Woodstock and check out all the little boutiques decked out in their winter finery? This Saturday afternoon and evening, December 3, Woodstock businesses put on their most festive displays and offer special deals, sales and refreshments for the town’s 35th annual Holiday Open House. The theme for this year’s window displays is the Northern Lights. On the Village Green, there’ll be a bonfire with folks making s’mores and ongoing entertainment from live bands and musicians. Victorian carolers will stroll through downtown, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are bound to turn up at some point.
The merriment goes on from 3 to 9 p.m. For details, visit https://bit.ly/2gDCXvm.
Sinterklaas in Rhinebeck
He’s coming to a village near you – if you live anywhere near the vicinity of Rhinebeck, that is. Sinterklaas will arrive from Kingston (a/k/a “Spain”) via a white horse on a tugboat, reaching Rhinebeck amidst all his sparkling glory on Saturday, December 3. Expect lots of dazzle and pomp, lots of color and light and lots of children! The streets will be alive with a daylong celebration, featuring children’s workshops, dance, theatre and music all around town.
The character of Sinterklaas, based on a fourth-century bishop who rescued orphans of all races and religions, is said to have intervened on behalf of children who were deprived or mistreated. The stories about him are a bit magical, but always deliver a message of kindness and generosity, even though he was accompanied by a Grumpus who would threaten miscreants. Somehow, the myth spread from Asia Minor and up through Europe to take root in the Netherlands, where the bedecked old guy became the patron saint of children, unwed mothers, sailors and the entire City of Amsterdam!
In the Hudson Valley, Sinterklaas’ journey is reenacted between the towns of Kingston and Rhinebeck, each of which throws a big party to get the Sinterklaas message across: Children are our hope and our light. In parades on both sides of the river, young people are recognized as the holders of the creative power to impact their communities. With “rods and branches” symbolizing their royal scepters, they become kings and queens for the day and take on the responsibilities of serving their families, their communities and the world with good wishes for one and all.
This all takes place amidst villagewide festivities this Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. The streets and shops come alive with characters like the Dancing Bear and the Pocket Lady who distributes treats and prizes, Mother Holly, various Grumpuses, the Owl Queen of the night with her Mouse, Roger the Jester and many more. Animal creatures, both costumed and real, are celebrated as important to the Earth, this year’s special animal being the Owl. Live owls will occupy the Methodist Church, where young and old can learn about these amazing birds. Performances and fun activities take place all around town: the Town Hall, the Beekman Arms, Upstate Films, Oblong Books, the Church of the Messiah, the Reformed Church sanctuary, the Third Evangelical Lutheran Church and at numerous eateries, too.
The ceremonial Havdalah, marking the end of the Jewish Sabbath, opens the Children’s Starlight Parade and Pageant at 6 p.m. It’s the big moment when Sinterklaas finally arrives on the scene! Lots of creative artistry goes into the costuming and the giant animated puppets manipulated by hundreds of volunteers and the ritual stars carried by parents, along with music and dancing through the streets of Rhinebeck. After the Parade, the beginning of the Christian Sabbath starts with the Living Nativity at the Reformed Church.
Drawing on old Dutch traditions and inventing new ones each year for the past eight-plus seasons, Sinterklaas is an attempt to move away from commercialism and to return to the wondrous myth that began the legend of the jolly old man – the “Good King, the Noble Soul, the one who brings light out of darkness, befriends children and animals and inspires our souls.” Festivities aim at bringing together elements of tolerance and diversity through a whole slew of performances by more than 250 musicians, actors, magicians and other costumed characters. And you know that there will be special edibles, up and down the streets of the village! What’s a Dutch celebration without chocolate?
Check the Sinterklaas website for a complete schedule of the festival, along with scads more information on the history and traditions.
– Ann Hutton
Sinterklaas Festival Day, Saturday, December 3, kickoff 10 a.m., Children’s Starlight Parade 6 p.m., Village of Rhinebeck; www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com.
Winter Walk in Hudson
The annual Winter Walk organized by the Hudson Opera House returns this Saturday, December 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. Hudson’s mile-long Warren Street is closed to traffic for the free citywide festival, transformed for the night into a winter wonderland with so many moving parts that it’s nearly impossible to list them all without running out of room to write about the backstory.
There are live reindeer, costumed characters, street performers and musicians (including a saxophone-playing Santa Claus), miniature beribboned horses, a petting zoo, carolers, fire-throwing jugglers, a community parade, stunning window displays in brightly lit shops, a horsedrawn carriage, Santa’s Village, Mr. and Mrs. Claus and magical riverfront fireworks launched from Promenade Hill drawing the celebration to a close (although many shops and certainly the restaurants will remain open long into the evening afterward).
So much activity is packed into the three hours of Winter Walk, in fact, that people often ask the organizers to “make it longer, stretch it out!” says Gary Schiro, executive director for the Hudson Opera House. “But we remain convinced that a part of its superpower is its concentration.”
For those who want to start the party early, many restaurants in Hudson will offer a special $20 meal in the late afternoon, pre-Winter Walk, in honor of the Walk’s 20th anniversary this year. And the Diamond Opera Theater, in collaboration with the Hudson Opera House, will perform a new version of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel at Christ Church Episcopal (431 Union Street) at 4 p.m. Admission is free. (An additional performance will be held the night prior, on Friday, December 2 at 6 p.m. at the same location, with a suggested donation admission of $10 for adults, free for students under age 18.)
The community parade that kicks off the official event at 5 p.m. will feature Unsilent Night this year: a contemporary version of caroling through the streets that has played out since 1992 in different cities around the world. Composer Phil Kline’s four-part Unsilent Night plays from boomboxes or personal devices carried by paraders who have downloaded the sounds, creating a unique ambient soundscape that surrounds the participants.
Everyone is playing the entire composition at the same time, explains Schiro, but like an orchestral environment where sound comes to the listener from various musicians playing the instruments, the recorded parts of Unsilent Night will come from different devices, so one parader might have the “jingly electronics” on his or her device, while another has the horns. “It’s really fascinating, and we’re excited to become a part of this tradition. And the composer, Phil Kline, is coming to Hudson to be with us to conduct the parade performance himself all the way up Warren Street. When Phil first wrote the piece 20 years ago, he literally handed out cassette tapes to people and everyone hit the ‘play’ button on their boombox at exactly the same time, but now it’s possible to do all this with technology. We’re looking forward to seeing what people show up with.”
Those wishing to participate can visit https://unsilentnight.com to download the music. Participants will meet at Basilica Hudson at 110 South Front Street at 4 p.m. to coordinate before proceeding to the corner of Front and Warren Streets for the 5 p.m. step-off. The parade will conclude at Seventh Street Park 45 minutes later in front of the headquarters of WGXC 90.7 FM, who will livestream Unsilent Night at https://wavefarm.org/wgxc.
The Seventh Street Park that serves as Town Square for Hudson is where Santa’s Village will be located. The little elf cottages, many of which have seen better days, have borne the brunt of some disparaging remarks in the past, Schiro says, but that won’t be the case much longer. “For the last few years, we’ve been working with designers and artists in the community to spruce up these rundown little buildings. Last year we unveiled the first three that were restored. Now we’re working with the vocational school just outside of Hudson – Questar III BOCES – and students there have been building new huts for us, so Santa’s Village will actually grow this year.” One of the new huts will debut this year, with the other two slated for next year. The Etsy organization, which has offices in Hudson, also collaborated on building a hut with Perfect Ten After School, an organization that supports and encourages young women in the area.
And it’s not just elf huts getting restored in Hudson. The Opera House has gone through 12 construction projects, Schiro says, and is getting ready to open the second-floor performance hall this coming spring. “We’re really delighted that after an absence of seven months, the original historic windows with wavy glass have started returning to the second floor. They were all taken out and sent off to be restored off-site. Just last week they started going in, one by one, so rather than this boarded-up enormous façade, the building is starting to take on its same old character that we’ve loved for many years.”
Another visible sign of progress at the Hudson Opera House that can be viewed from the street is the elevator going in. “A lot of the work going on is inside the building, but if people take a peek down City Hall Place right next to the building – which used to house the City Hall in Hudson – they’ll see an incredible elevator tower with windows going into that, as well. Otis Elevator is on-site and assembling the machinery inside, as we speak.”
The Hudson Opera House at 327 Warren Street was constructed in 1855. It later housed a bank, the post office and a library. After a stage and dressing rooms were added in the 1870s, it became known as the Hudson Opera House. The brick Greek Revival building was purchased by a nonprofit in 1992. It serves as an exhibition and performing arts center and is the fourth oldest surviving theater in the country and the oldest in the state.
The Hudson Opera House has organized the Winter Walk since its start from modest beginnings where, Schiro says, “If you didn’t know that something was going on that night, you wouldn’t know that something was going on.” The Opera House director hadn’t yet begun working for the organization that first year, but attended just to check it out. Twenty years later, he says, “It’s amazing to see all these people on the street. We think upwards of 20,000 attended last year, and Hudson only has a population of a little over 6,000. Anecdotally, we hear the stories all the time: People plan trips around this event, and we know there are many Hudsonians who host parties that night and family reunions. And there are many businesses who tell us each year that they moved here because of Winter Walk and they opened that night, so it’s a night of a lot of anniversaries, as well. It’s turned into this catalytic event.”
Winter Walk has only been postponed once due to weather, Schiro says, “when there was a blizzard with literally feet of snow. Two years ago, even with unrelenting, very wet snow and slush all night, several thousand people still came out for this. That really solidified for me how much people love this event.”
– Sharyn Flanagan
Hudson Opera House annual Winter Walk, Saturday, December 3, 5-8 p.m., free, Warren Street, Hudson; (518) 822-1438, https://hudsonoperahouse.org.
Holiday in the Village in Saugerties
When the Village of Saugerties closes traffic on Main Street from Market to Partition, holiday fun for the entire family begins! This Sunday, December 4, marks the big day for a downtown festive holiday market with lots of live music, free horse-and-carriage rides (always a popular activity), crafts for the children in many of the open shops, toy raffles throughout the day, live character mannequins wandering around town and other entertaining surprises. Parents can escort their kids to the Kiersted House on Main Street to visit Santa and have fun at the petting zoo on the grounds there. Add to all this: ice sculpture, face-painting, live and deejay music filling the air and lots of old fashioned good cheer!
Many village businesses offer passersby holiday cookies, hot chocolate and projects to keep kids busy. Storefront windows are decorated, some with live mannequins that mesmerize people on the street. Shoppers can take advantage of special sales and discounts and support the local merchants. When the village Christmas tree and menorah are lit at dusk, it’s a signal to start the Parade of Lights! Saugerties does its Christmas parade proud by featuring a dozen or so decked-out and colorfully lit firetrucks that roll through town and end at Seamon Park, where “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is read aloud to the crowd.
The Saugerties Area Chamber of Commerce does a wonderful job each year in making the Holiday in the Village a hit with parents and their children. It’s truly an event of superlatives when you consider the dozens of generous sponsors and volunteers (hats off to Sawyer Motors for leading the way every year!) who are dedicated to putting on the spirited event, the hundreds of donated toys and bicycles and electronics and sports equipment for the toy raffle (last year Bob Siracusano of Sawyer Motors reported that the giveaway topped $17,000 worth of toys!), thousands of dollars raised to support community assistance programs throughout the year and the countless happy hearts and smiling faces, gladdened by community spirit. This is what Saugerties is all about.
– Ann Hutton
Saugerties Holiday in the Village, Sunday, December 4, noon to 6 p.m., Main Street & throughout the village; (845) 246-1337, www.village.saugerties.ny.us.