Sinterklaas returns to Rhinebeck December 4

On Saturday, December 4, Sinterklaas will ride into Rhinebeck on his white horse, and the festivities go on all day long. (Photo by Mark Fuerst)

Miss Mousey and Froggy will renew their vows this year as Sinterklaas Hudson Valley returns to Rhinebeck on December 4 after a one-year COVID-related hiatus. This year’s festivities will be exclusively in Rhinebeck. The organizers on the Kingston side decided not to host an event in 2021, according to Jeanne Fleming, the festival’s organizer.

In the tradition, Sinterklaas set sail from Spain to the Netherlands. In years past, the Kingston event, held one week earlier, would serve as Spain, while Rhinebeck would be the Netherlands. “It’s all about bringing the community together again,” Fleming said.

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She added that she couldn’t think of a better occasion than a wedding to celebrate love and coming together: a storyline necessitated by the pandemic, as Froggy was all set to be the honored animal (a longtime Sinterklaas tradition) in 2020, but that never came to be. So, Fleming got to work and married him with 2021’s honored animal, the mouse. The Sinterklaas characters Froggy and Miss Mousey loosely play off the old tune “Froggy Went a-Courtin’,” which once formed the basis of a classic Muppets skit featuring Kermit the Frog combating a larger mouse for the heart of a Muppet Miss Mousey.

Froggy and Miss Mousey will renew their vows during the opening ceremony at noon at the Beekman Arms, with a special appearance by mayor Gary Basset and his wife. Mouse Woman and Uncle Toad played byAstor descendent and Rokeby owner Richard Aldrich will teach everyone to tie the knot. The ceremony will be conducted by Ulster County legislator Peter Criswell, who represents District 7 in the City of Kingston. “The mayor will re-up his vows,” Fleming said. “He led the community through COVID-19.”

Outside the Beekman Arms at noon, families can make a visit to the Pocket Lady, who has special surprises in her many pockets, Polar Bear-Jason, Polar Bear Musician, storyteller Jonathan Kruk, Holders of the Flame and opera singer Julia Haines. Then later, at 1:30 p.m. look for the Pocket Lady, Roger the Jester and Mother Holly as they stroll the town. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus will be offering a number of performances at Upstate Films, including Paris the Hip Hop Juggler at noon, 1:30 and 3 p.m., Allez-Oops at 12:30, 1:45 and 3:15 p.m.

Over at the Rhinebeck Methodist Church at 83 Market Street, celebrate Froggy and Miss Mousey at the Chapel of Love at 2, 3, 4 and 5 p.m. The special singalong musical event, choreographed by Leighann Kowalsky and featuring music by Reggie Harris and Betty and the Baby Boomers, will feature creatures large and small including the past honored animals including Fox and Bear. In between the Chapel of Love events, festivalgoers can enjoy sets by the B2s at 2:30 p.m., Betty and the Baby Boomers at 3 p.m. and the Bard College Georgian Choir at 4 p.m.

The Vanaver Caravan and the Saugerties-based Arm-of-the-Sea Theater, known for its larger-than-life puppet performances, come together to present the Into the Light holiday spectacular, telling a special holiday story through puppets and dance, at the Church of the Messiah at 6436 Montgomery Street at 2, 3 and 4 p.m.

Fans of brass instruments will find a full lineup in the sanctuary of the Reformed Church at the corner of South Street and Route 9. The show kicks off with sets by Brasskill at 2 p.m., the Giglio Band at 2:30 p.m., Demolition Brass Band at 3 p.m., Hungry March Band at 3:30 p.m. and the Ole’ Factory Brass band at 4 p.m.

The longstanding Sinterklaas tradition of making crowns and branches continues this year, but in a new location: at the Rhinebeck Middle School at 6 Mulberry Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. After families make their crowns and branches, children are invited to visit the Wish Lady to make wishes for their families, communities and world, while adults are encouraged to place their wishes in the Peace Dove. Fleming said the crowns and branches serve as a way to reclaim these materials, which were originally given to children who behaved badly, to something far less judgmental. “In the old story, children are judged,” she said. “Here, we don’t look at good kids and bad kids; children are honored.”

Fleming said she was fortunate to be able to use the school to allow festivalgoers to social-distance as they make their crowns and branches. Masks will be required and seating will be limited at all indoor events, she cautioned.

She also recommends entering the Love Nest, a special mushroom house where families will find a “lot of love in the air.” Fleming said that kids will be asked whom they love. “Hopefully, it’s their mother and father,” she said. The kids will be given a ribbon to tie around wrists to symbolize binding the community back together in a time where so many things divide, she said. Fleming feels that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to consider what really matters.

Like years past, families can purchase Sinterklaas stars for use in the time-honored tradition of the Children’s Parade, which steps off at 6 p.m. on West Market Street and proceeds through the village to the municipal lot for the Star Pageant. Two dollars of the proceeds of each star will benefit the food pantry in Rhinebeck.

According to Fleming, the parade will feature large frog and mouse puppets, along with puppets from years past. All in all, 22 different animals will appear in the procession. “The diversity of the creatures of the land and sea is celebrated as they all come together.”

Fleming admitted that it has been no easy task bringing back Sinterklaas, as she has faced 50-percent-capacity caps at indoor portions, due to the ongoing pandemic, while also facing a changing of the guard of the clergy at the churches in the village that host many of the events each year. “There are all new people at the churches,” she said. “No one’s trained them, and the churches work with older people, so there are concerns there.”

Fleming, who also puts on the famed Halloween Parade that drew millions to Manhattan’s iconic Greenwich Village in October, said the complexity of that event pales in comparison to Sinterklaas. She said she saw the largest crowd ever at the Halloween parade, and she expects much the same for Sinterklaas, as people look for ways to be in the community after more than a year of isolation.

Fleming said that Sinterklaas’ promise of togetherness and focus on love is not targeted exclusively at children: “It’s for everybody, even if the children are honored as being the light of the world at this time of year.”

For a full schedule and more information about Sinterklaas Hudson Valley, visit https://sinterklaashudsonvalley.com