I have been participating in Sinterklaas since 2010 when I went up to Rhinebeck with my father to meet Jeanne Fleming, the artist who runs the parade for an article I was writing and to participate in all the activities and get involved in the parade. That year my dad and I held the banner at the end of the parade to let people know to meet at the end of the parade.
A lot has happened since then and this is the third time since that I have been involved with the parade. I had participated in two fundraisers to start the planning process, one the “Star Party” in Rhinebeck in November and the other “Sweets & Treats Party” in Kingston. Both were a lot of fun and it was nice to get to know people within the organization. It was a plus to raise money for the event.
I had stayed in Rhinebeck after a holiday fundraiser at the Mills Mansion and got to the parade route at 10:30am in the morning to help unload the floats and props out of the truck for the parade. It is interesting to see how a parade comes to life.
The Mills Mansion at Christmas time for the party
Most of the people I worked with had been working on the parade for years and really knew their stuff. They know exactly where things get placed and the condition of the props for the floats. We were lucky that the weather held out and it was a nice day as mostly everything is Paper Mache and two years ago could not be used or else it would have fallen apart.
We unpacked the ballerina, Mother Earth and various bees, penguins, turtles, horses and this year’s mascot, the Owl. All the other animals had made appearances in the parade in other years when they were the mascots. I remember last year when we put the bees together for the parade. We put all the final touches on each of the puppets and the floats that needed extra parts added to them.
The Mother Earth Float at the Sinterklaas Parade
Our mascot this year was the Owl, which was prominent in all the artwork and in the giant puppets that were created for the parade. They were the stars at the middle of the parade. For most of the morning, we put together most of the puppets that people would be handling for the parade including stars, bees and horses. That’s when I found out that I would be the back of the dragon puppet that would fight a knight.
The Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck, NY runs down the Main Street
We got done with the basic set-up for the parade in about an hour and that gave me a chance to join in the activities. I was able to make the opening ceremony at the Beekman Arms in downtown Rhinebeck. There we met the people who ran the parade and many of the characters who would be walking around town including Mother Holly (who was feeling Jolly), the Owl Queen and her companion, a mouse, the Queen Bee (our hostess last year when the Bee was our mascot), the Pocket Lady, who showed her pockets of gifts, The Polar Bear and his trainer, who dances when you sing a song to him and several other costumed characters who would walking around town and the parade.
The Owl Floats in 2016
Jonathan Kruk, the famous storyteller, started his program telling stories of the Legend of St. Nicholas and life in Dutch New York, a story on Hanukkah and then a story on the Wise Old Owl Take. Mr. Kruk, I have heard several times over the years in both Rhinebeck and Tarrytown and he is amazing at telling a story. He really captures an audience. He just has that type of voice that commands a room. Everyone was spell-bound by him as he knows how to tell a story. The Legend of St. Nicholas and he became Sinterklaas and eventually Santa Claus is very interesting and parts of it can be seen on YouTube.
Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
The rest of the afternoon was spent at various sites all over Rhinebeck seeing college choirs and quartets from Bard, Vassar and SUNY. There were story tellers on the streets, the Wish Lady was walking around talking to people, the Grumpuses were dancing around town performing in parking lots and on lawns. There were musicians on stilts in costume playing their instruments to the crowds and all over the sidewalks charitable organizations were selling baked goods and other holiday treats. The most interesting prop they built for the event was the Coo Coo Clock in the alley in the downtown area that really worked and you could meet the Owl court.
I heard the church choir at the Third Evangelical Church and then had my lunch in their basement room. Now I have been to the other church that served lunch and I am sorry that $4.00 for Mac & Cheese and $3.00 for a hot dog is ridiculous. Those are a rip off in New York City but for upstate New York?
When I ate at the Lutheran Church you could get a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot dog with all the Christmas cookies you could eat with the meal for $1.00 each and they accepted it as a donation. Needless to say, I have eaten here since 2010. What’s nice is that all the parishioners bake their favorite cookies and that makes it even more special. The people who volunteer here could not be nicer and can really cook.
The Third Evangelical Lutheran Church at 31 Livingston Avenue in Rhinebeck, NY
After an afternoon of concerts, story-telling, musicals, shopping and touring the town, it was time to get ready for the parade. It is always exciting getting ready for a parade but this one is very hometown. It still is a local crowd even though people are beginning to come up from the city to see the parade. We met back at the Star Library up the hill and got ready to line up for the parade.
The weather dropped a bit. It was still cool but as cold as it could have been at this time of the year. I was assigned to hold a puppet and I held the back part of the dragon (Yes that is me on the back of the dragon puppet on a few YouTube videos). It is not the same as the balloons I used to carry in the Macy’s Parades back in the 90’s but it still took some work to carry the dragon puppet down the hill to the downtown area. I still got a kick at the guy who ran the front of the puppet. He got to engage with the crowd with the head of the puppet and get the face into the crowd. I just followed behind.
I could tell by the crowds that Sinterklaas is becoming more popular as the crowds that lined the main street of Rhinebeck were about ten deep. People were very excited watching the floats and puppets ride by them. People were spreading out all over the street by time we made it to the heart of the downtown. I wish they had better crowd control as they narrowed the path to the point where they could walk right up to us. I could tell by the big smiles and the excited yells that people really enjoyed the parade.
The Parade in full swing Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
As we progressed through the crowd and I ran from one side of the street to the other chasing after the front of the dragon float, we exited to the town parking lot to the 6:30pm Pageant & the Children’s Star Ceremony. Here the crowds met with all the characters in the parade. The crowd got to meet Sinterklaas, the Owl Queen, the Snow Queen. the polar bear with his trainer, the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly and the Grumpuses. It was followed by a fire juggler performance that excited the crowd and a musical performance. it was a magical night to everyone in the crowd.
I ate at Pizzeria Posto at 43 East Market Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for the most amazing thin-crusted pizza with sausage. The sauce is flavorful with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil with local sausage.
Pizzeria Posto at 43 East Market Street is a pretty restaurant
The pizza and the service are excellent. They let me stay after the restaurant had closed for the evening. That was service and they could not have been nicer.
The pizza is excellent at the restaurant
It is a fun parade to be part of and I am looking forward to participating in Sinterklaas 2017. It is held the first Saturday of December but all year-long there are events to prepare for the event.
Just walking around Rhinebeck in its picturesque look can put anyone in the holiday mood. It looks like a village in a Currier & Ives print. There are white lights in the trees, costume characters that walk around the town and after the sun falls, there is a sax player that plays Christmas songs.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Places to Visit:
Staatsburgh State Historic Site (The Mills Mansion)
75 Mills Mansion Drive
Staatsburgh, NY 12580
Open: Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm
My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
Visiting in Rhinebeck, NY:
The Sinterklaas Parade
Every first Sunday in December
Please check their schedule online by August when most events are posted
Places to Eat:
43 East Market Street
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday 12:00pm-9:00pm/Tuesday-Saturday 12:00pm-10:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Churches have their own food service during the parade time.
Johnathan Kruk reading “A Christmas Carol”:
This was the Sinterklaas Parade that I participated in 2016. Look for me holding the back of the dragon. I credit this YouTube video to the attached contributor: