Welcome back to Rhinebeck, NY for Sinterklaas!
This annual Dutch Christmas festival has become part of my Christmas tradition since I visited Rhinebeck for the event in 2010. Rhinebeck, New York is the true Currier & Ives town at Christmas time and one of the most quintessential Hudson Valley town that retains it charm being so close to the City. I love coming up here not just for the event but as you have noticed by my most current blogs, I have spent a lot of time here in the Summer and Fall letting readers know of all the wonderful events and happenings in the area.
I have to say I was not used to Christmas creeping up on me like this. It had only been five weeks since we had the Halloween Parade in the City and puppet rehearsals had only been five and a half weeks earlier when I visited Rokeby. That and it had been 71 degrees on Halloween night and Sinterklass night it was more like 25 degrees. I could really feel the drop in temperature that evening.
Having just returned from Florida over the Thanksgiving break, I had been in class giving a quiz to my students that morning and reviewing over their group project and various chapters in the book for the upcoming exam. So I did not head Upstate until almost noon. I got up to Rhinebeck at 2:00pm and that is when it set in that the snow storm that had hit New Jersey was very different from the one Upstate. The storm had been worse Upstate than it had been in New Jersey and there was still a foot of snow in Rhinebeck. I didn’t get to the main street until 2:30pm.
The side streets were closed off on one side because the snow was still piled high. So it was an eight block walk on snowy paths to the Main Street of Rhinebeck which had fully cleaned up for the parade. What was nice this year was the first three blocks of the downtown area were closed off so you could enjoy the bands and acts walking around.
Rhinebeck when the sun goes down at Christmas
It was a cold afternoon and I noticed that the crowds were not as large as they usually were for the event. Still Rhinebeck at Sinterklaas is festive and engaging environment. There were crowds weaving in and out of the restaurants and stores and the windows were decked out for the holidays with interesting holiday displays and lit stars from the parade. All around town there bands playing, people on stilts singing and grumpuses (Sinterklaas’s helpers) dancing around and chanting. You could see that people were freezing but still having a really good time.
The Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
I was able to get to see some of the musical performances at the churches before the start of the parade and warm up. Even the audiences did not seem as busy as they had in the past but still people were enjoying the performances and stopped shivering.
Don’t miss this performance of Uptown Lowdown in downtown Rhinebeck that afternoon. The ladies were wonderful!
Sitting in the church pews and listening to groups was enjoyable. There was only about two hours before meeting at the Starr Library for the parade so I chose my shows by groups I had not heard in the past.
I started at 3rd Evangelical Lutheran Church listening to the Bard College Georgian Choir, who sang traditional Georgian Christmas music, which was interesting. I did not understand the words but the music was enjoyable. The students did a nice job.
This is some of their work at another concert
After that, I took a short walk to the other side of the downtown and heard the Vassar Devils at the Reformed Church Sanctuary. They were lively, peppy bunch that sang traditional Christmas carols with a jazzy spin.
This is the Vassar Devils at the 2015 Sinterklaas event
After the concerts, it was a quick walk to the Starr Library to get ready for the Sinterklaas Parade. There is always a lot of excitement to the beginning of the parade and getting ready to march down the hill. For some reason, I don’t remember it getting so cold so early in the season.
The temperature dropped as the sun went down. Everyone was excited as we lined up for the parade and got ready for the walk through the downtown. All I could think about is how fast the year had gone and how I had this conversation with myself when I walked the parade last year. Were the years getting quicker between the parades?
There is an exhilaration when the parade progresses down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck and the whole town is lit with white Christmas lights and illuminated stars that represent the parade. It may have seemed quiet in town that afternoon but the crowds were out for the parade. There must have been about a thousand people lining the street on both sides. It was a big crowd filming the parade.
There is always such excitement to this parade. Similar to the Barnacle Parade that I attended in October (Day One Hundred and Fifty One The Barnacle Parade see below), this is a home grown parade that just keeps getting bigger. When I first starting coming to the Sinterklaas Parade back in 2010, it was more local people. Now you have people coming from many states to join in the festivities. Even the cold kept people from the day’s activities, they came for the parade.
Marching toward the end of the parade with Mother Nature, this is the second year of carrying the ‘star forest; puppet (I am not pulling my back out for something heavier as in the past), we get to see the other puppets, floats and bands head down the hill. You can see the multiple lights from the other puppets and the raging sounds of the bands and the Chinese Dragons as they head down the hill to town.
You can see me in the corner holding the Star Forest puppet by Mother Nature with my Cornell Pom-Pom hat on marching to keep warm. It is an exciting night!
There is always a delay as you get to the Route 9 crossing near the Beekman Arms Hotel for the performance of the “Wild Women of Rhinebeck”, who perform their annual dance and for the ‘Dragon Dance’ that the Chinese dancers perform. It is really fun to see up close if you get the chance.
When we entered the downtown, all the kids were excited to see the Mother Nature float winding by. The parents were just as excited as they high-fived Mother Nature as they passed by groups of people. The drum line was going in full beat just behind us followed by a large group of parade goers marching in the parade with their lit stars. It was exhilarating and fun to watch from the marcher’s point in the parade. On such a cold night (by this point it was 25 degrees), I could not believe that many people were lining the parade route.
As we rounded the corner into the Rhinebeck Municipal lot to end the parade and drop the puppets off, we were greeted by a huge roar of people and the announcements from the stage for the final part of the parade. I just dropped my puppet off and enjoyed the stage show as the drum line passed by.
The stage performance was with all the main characters of the parade, Sinterklaas, Mother Holly, the Snow King and Queen, the Mermaid Queen, the Midnight Moon Princess and various members of the Sinterklaas Parade Committee who run the parade. it is a ceremony that honors the children, ‘The Kings and Queens of Sinterklaas’, for the evening.
There were musical performances, dancing, prayer and then the fire jugglers entertaining us. The audience had thinned out by this point and about a hundred and fifty people were standing in the parking lot watching the ceremony. It was getting even colder by the time the fire jugglers started. After the last announcement for the parade events next year, the crowd started to disperse. It did not take long to watch crowd leave as it got so cold.
I walked around downtown Rhinebeck for about twenty minutes letting the crowds thin out and the traffic leave but by that point the town really quieted down and most of the cars were gone as I did not see that much traffic.
It was fun to walk the town one more time and admire the beautiful Christmas windows of all the stores and the sparking white lights that lined the trees on both sides of the main street of Rhinebeck. It is really is picturesque.
I had full day of work the next day that including decorated houses to visit, historical society events to attend, an Afternoon Tea at the Newark Museum (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) and then an evening selling Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association (see blogs on Christmas on MywalkinManhattan.com) so staying overnight in Rhinebeck was not possible this year. It was going to be a long ride home.
It was worth it and a lot of fun!
Happy Sinterklass and Merry Christmas!
Check out the videos online on the Sinterklaas Parade on YouTube. It is an exciting night!
My Halloween Blog on the Halloween Parade in October:
My blog on the Barnacle Parade in October: