Clip-clop, clip-clop went the steady hooves of the two large black horses pulling the wagon carrying passengers on a festive ride down Historic Huguenot Street last Saturday, December 1 at the annual “A Holiday on Huguenot Street” event that officially launches the season at the history-laden site. The experience of being in the handsome, dark blue surrey with the fringe on top, bedecked in holiday garlands, must have inspired its riders to embrace the holiday spirit, for as they rode by, one could hear them singing “Silent Night” in rhythmic harmony with those horse hooves. Visitors on Huguenot Street took rides at 15-minute intervals all afternoon for a modest $5 fee.
The Saturday portion of the two-day event seemed sparsely attended this year, in contrast to years past, perhaps due to much colder weather than usual this early in the season. Santa was found hanging out by the cookie walk — natch — heartily greeting visitors in a thick New York accent, shouting, “How ya’ doin’?” (sounding not unlike the character “Joey” from the TV show “Friends”). Visitors who ignored his greeting were warned rather ominously as they walked away that “Santa doesn’t take too well to being ignored,” a piece of advice that those visitors still have time to rectify to avoid receiving a chunk of coal in their stocking.
The third annual Cookie Walk at the event was put on through the cooperative efforts of Local at Heart, a regional initiative that helps support food pantries in the area, and the Misty Mountain Girl Scout troop. A cookie walk is a long table set up with platters of cookies; the visitor walks the length of the table, choosing which varieties to take home. Under festive red tents emblazoned with the Local at Heart logo, a dozen or so Girl Scouts and a few adult volunteers scrambled to keep up with the demand from those intent on wiping out the supply of delectable-looking cookies baked by the girls and board members of the organizations.
In addition, there were generous cookie contributions this year from the Bruderhof Woodcrest Community of Rifton, a charitably-minded Christian community that contributes to a great many local events, and Sodexo dining services from SUNY New Paltz, who donated dozens of gluten-free and vegan cookies along with two gingerbread houses that were raffled off. Cookies were sold by the pound to take home or as a combo of two cookies with a cup of steaming hot chocolate to enjoy on the spot. There were lemon snowdrops, classic Italian cookies, oatmeal cranberry, chocolate-dipped orange cookies, something called Santa’s Whiskers, frosted sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms and more, including a variety of cookie filled with alcohol, sold to adults only, of course. The sale was even set up to take credit cards. Proceeds were donated to local food pantries, and the Girl Scouts earned community service and cooking badges for their efforts.
Additional family-friendly activities to partake of at A Holiday on Huguenot Street included a small petting zoo set up by the 4-H Club, with a few goats and lambs and some beautifully crested chickens. And seasonal tours were offered by Historic Huguenot Street, taking small groups of visitors on a holiday-themed tour of the historic homes, exploring seasonal traditions practiced by the different cultures who lived in New Paltz over the centuries. The 45-minute tours began at the replica Munsee wigwam outside the DuBois Fort Visitor Center, where tour-goers learned about Lenape New Year’s traditions before moving on to the Abraham Hasbrouck House, where interpreters portraying Hasbrouck children could be observed carrying out French Huguenot and Dutch traditions of holidays as they were practiced in the 18th century. Tours ended at the Deyo House, where a wealthy Victorian socialite with connections to the historic street entertained visitors with her lavish plans for a late 19th century Christmas.
As always at the event, the Wullschleger Education Building hosted a holiday craft fair, and new this year, a “build-a-bear workshop” for children. A light luncheon and coffee were available to purchase at nominal cost in the Reformed Church’s social hall until 2 p.m., after which the truly excellent Big Blue Big Band performed a rollicking free concert in the church sanctuary.
On Friday, a paper-lantern-light parade proceeded from the church to the Deyo House lawn for New Paltz’s community tree-lighting, while Historic Huguenot Street’s own a cappella choir, the Huguenot Heralds, performed festive holiday carols. ++