Open: When the fairgrounds are open Spring, Summer and Fall for events
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Century Museum Village inside the Dutchess County Fairgrounds
When the Dutchess County Fairgrounds are open for the season for big events in the Spring, Summer and Fall, the fairgrounds open their historical museums that are located on the property. These include the School House Museum and the Train Station Museum and the when the volunteers are there the Dutchess County Volunteer Firemen’s Museum. The main museum is the Century Museum Village, a look at rural life in Dutchess County at the turn of the last century.
The Schoolhouse Museum in the Century Museum Village
The Train Station Museum at the Century Museum Village
The entrance to Mesier Park where the Homestead is located
The plaque outside the home
I visited the Mesier Homestead recently and toured the home with a local docent. Home to four generations of the Mesier family, the house has been added onto since it was built in the mid-1700’s. The rooms are decorated with furnishings from the Victorian era and shows life as it may have been in the late 1880’s at the height of the Victorian era.
The Mesier Homestead in the summer months
The tour of the rooms shows how the home was added onto to meet the increased demands of a growing family and one of increasing affluence. The…
The Hyde Park Historical Society is going through a type of rebirth as it has reopened with a fresh approach towards not just the history of Hyde Park, NY but the area in general and life here over the last two hundred years. The society is taking a new direction and revamping their efforts on the displays and on the history and activities of the museum. The museum is housed in what was once the Hyde Park, NY Fire Department building.
The museum is broken down into sections by displays. When you enter the museum there is an display of bicycles and recreation items that would have been used over the years…
I love visiting the Hudson River Valley so any event or tour that I can go on is an excuse to come up here. I had visited all the sites that I wanted to see on a trip two weeks earlier but wanted to see them in more detail plus I wanted to take some pictures. The weather finally broke, and it was a much more pleasant 83 degrees as opposed to the 96 degrees the trip before. That makes the trip much nicer.
I asked my aunt along so that we could share in the experience, and I could use her phone to take pictures of the all the sites. It is a much nicer trip when you have someone along who enjoys these things. The one nice thing about traveling to the Fishkill, New York area is that it is only an hour away and a straight run up the New York Thruway to Route 84 and then to Route 9. Just a couple of quick back streets and you will be there.
On my first trip up, I got there so early that no one was at the first site, The Brinckerhoff Homestead Historical site, the home of the East Fishkill Historical Society at 68 North Kensington Drive in Hopewell Junction, NY. I double back and stopped for a quick snack at G & R Deli Cafe, a small deli at 2003 Route 52 in a strip mall near the old IBM campus. I needed a snack. This was my go to place both in the summer and when I came back for Christmas. The owners are really nice and the food is excellent.
Since I already had dinner plans, I ordered a Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a roll ($5.95) which was a bit more expensive than in the City but it was delicious. The sausage had a nice taste of sage and gave it a lot of flavor. I just relaxed outside in the parking lot and ate breakfast. Another time that I visited, I had the same version with bacon and both times the sandwiches were excellent.
The breakfast sandwiches at G & R Deli are excellent
After my snack, I got back to the Brinckerhoff Homestead at 12:00pm when it was supposed to open but around 12:30pm there was still no one there and I kept knocking on the door. That’s when one of the county members let me know that they did not open until 1:00pm. Since I had a list of places to visit that day and the time had been posted all over the internet, I asked if we could please start early. He agreed and I got a personal tour of the house. When I came back two weeks later, I better timed it for the 1:00pm opening to take pictures.
The Brinckerhoff family is prominent in the Fishkill area and family members still visit the homestead so the house’s history is ongoing. The house is broken down into three sections as you can see by the picture. The original part of the home was built by John G. Brinckerhoff in 1755 and it consisted of the “Everything Room” on the lower floor with the hearth for cooking, a beehive oven and the large room upstairs for family living.
As John Brinckerhoff’s family grew, they moved out of the house and his brother, George G. Brinckerhoff moved into the home with his family. After the Revolutionary War was over and George G.’s assignment was over in the army, he returned to the house and in 1785 added the middle main addition of the house with four additional rooms. The larger rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence in that they could heat the home.
When George died in 1812, his brother John and his family moved back into the house. In 1814, the family sold the house to the Purdy family. They lived in the house for the next 60 years and added the final addition onto the house to the left with a summer kitchen and an outdoor oven. It remained in the family until 1875 when it was sold to the Palen family who used it again as a farm. It was then again sold to the Moore family in 1926 and lastly sold to East Fishkill Historical Society in 1974 by developer Gustav Fink who was a developer in the area (East Fishkill Historical Society).
The rooms are decorated in period furnishings and when we started the tour, you begin in the oldest section of the home with the original kitchen area.
The “Everything Room” in the Brinckerhoff Homestead
This is where the family would cook, eat, do their work on farm affairs and socialize. There was also a small general store on the property as well. The upstairs was closed to the public.
You next moved into the main rooms of the 1785 addition which brought it the into then modern era with high ceilings and larger rooms so that the family had more living space and could entertain.
The Main Dining Room of the home which was set for Hot Chocolate service which again showed the family’s affluence as chocolate was very expensive then
We also toured the Living Room which was set for socializing and work women did for the home with needlepoint, weaving, and clothes making. There was still room for people to gather and entertain.
The Living Room of the 1785 addition to the home
Along the main corridor of the home in the addition was all sorts of artifacts from the Revolutionary War period and items from the time.
Our last part of the tour was the latest addition by the Purdy family when we toured the ‘Summer Kitchen”, which showed how the home had progressed over the years. Little by little each family brought it into the next ‘modern era’.
Both times I got to tour the grounds and the beautiful gardens that the volunteers maintained. Rock gardens and flower beds line the three acres of land around the house. Along with the flower beds, several historical buildings have been moved to the property including the one room schoolhouse from District 9 in East Fishkill that was built in 1826, the 1870 Icehouse which once supplied another home with its ice for the home to keep food fresh before the advent of refrigeration.
The Schoolhouse and the Icehouse and gardens
Another building that is still in use and is open when the house is open for touring is the John Hyatt Blacksmith shop from 1880. It still has some of the original tools and the blacksmith on duty still works the fire and performs tasks in the building.
The last building on the property is the Van Wyck Carriage Barn from 1845. It had been built by Judge Theodorus Van Wyck for his home that was built in East Fishkill that was torn down by the development of the IBM Campus in 1984. IBM paid to have the carriage house dismantled and moved to this property.
The East Fishkill Historical Society with the Brinckerhoff home in the center, the schoolhouse to the right and the blacksmith shop and the carriage house to the left
We took our time to tour the house and the grounds and on my initial visit I got to tour the schoolhouse, the ice house and the blacksmith shop to see the inner workings of these buildings and how they operated.
The docents had told me that they had recently held a ‘Strawberry Festival’ recently promoting the local fruit crops and serving complimentary strawberry shortcake that everyone enjoyed and was gone quickly. There are also Revolutionary War reenactments done on the property and for the holiday season the home will be decorated for the period Christmas holidays with an open house, so there will be things to do and see in the future.
When I returned in December, the curator invited me back to see the house decorated for Christmas. So while I was up seeing the decorated mansions of the Hudson River Valley the first, second and third weekends of December (read my blog on visiting the Hudson River Valley-Day Two Hundred and Fifty-Five-Christmas Again?):
The whole Brinkerhoff Homestead site was decorated for a Revolutionary era Christmas and the tables were set for an Afternoon Tea Fundraiser. The displays showed both a Revolutionary War and Victorian theme. With the fire places blazing, it made the whole house smell of oak and pine.
The Brinckerhoff Homestead decorated for Christmas
The Brinckerhoff Homestead Christmas tree
The Christmas display case at the Brinckerhoff House of Victorian toys
Santa does visit the first weekend of December
Our next stop on the tour of homes was the Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9, the old Albany Post Road. The house had stood on the main transportation line during the Revolutionary War period and it had served as General George Washington’s northern supply depot during the war because of this location.
Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9 (the Old Albany Post Road)
In 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck bought 959 acres of land from the original Rombout Patent and built the smaller section of the home to the right in 1732. As the family gained affluence in farming and trade, the larger section of the home to the left was built in 1757 with larger rooms and higher ceilings again to show a family’s wealth.
Because of the location of the house in Fishkill on the main road of transportation and the strategic location near the mountains to the south, General George Washington requisitioned the home as the northern supply depot for the Continental Army in October of 1776. Here supplies were run through, army regiments passed and people were buried who died during the war. The house was also used as the headquarters and court marshals and punishments took place on the property (Van Wyck Homestead Museum pamphlet). After the war was over, the house and farm was returned to the family.
The historical marker of the original home
The way the house was furnished was slightly different from the Brinckerhoff Homestead that looked more like you were walking into someone’s actual home. The old Living Room of the Van Wyck Homestead is being used as a meeting room and a place to display items from the Revolutionary War.
The Living Room and Meeting Room at the Van Wyck Homestead
The Revolutionary War Collection at the Van Wyck Homestead
Towards the back of the home is a Library/Research area and we were able to see all the old books and records that are part of the home’s collection. This is where most people do their genealogy work and family research.
The Research Library at the Van Wyck Homestead
What both my aunt and I thought was interesting was when we entered the older part of the house and the old Dining Room area. Many of the artifacts were old Van Wyck family heirlooms that had been donated over the years.
The Dining Room of the Van Wyck Homestead
Some of the recent additions were the crib which had been in the family for five generations and had just been donated to the home as well as the painting over the fireplace had just been collected by the home. Like the Brinckerhoff Homestead, there are many members of the Van Wyck family who come back to visit and still live in the area.
The Colonial kitchen and hearth are in the oldest section of the home from 1732. This is where the “Everything Room” was located. Back when this was the only section of the home, this is where all the cooking, dining, family business and social activities were located. All sorts of kitchen equipment lined the walls and shelves to show life in colonial times. It was funny that much of it has not changed over the years, just modernized.
The original family kitchen in the 1732 section of the Van Wyck Homestead
Outside the home, the organization planted the outside gardens and there is a recreation of the old beehive oven aside the home. It gave you a glimpse of how food came about for these large families before supermarkets.
The Van Wyck Gardens showed how the house was self-sufficient at one time
After touring the grounds, we walked back to see the displays one more time. On my initial trip, the tour guide let me see the upstairs rooms. In the newer part of the home, they had been turned into storage and offices for the docents. In the older part of the home, the old loft area was used for storage, and it was pretty dusty. The house was closed for Christmas but will reopen in the Spring.
After touring these two homes, we were off to Wappinger’s Falls further up Route 9 to visit the Mesier Homestead in Mesier Park just off the beginning of Downtown Wappinger’s Falls. There was a concert going on in the park and my aunt said she needed a break from visiting these old homes. Too many arrowheads and Revolutionary War furniture so she stayed and listened to the concert while I toured the home.
The Mesier Homestead is the home of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society, who maintains the home. The Mesier home is much like the other homes in that it had been added onto as the family grew and became more affluent. The original part of the home is currently going through a renovation and the President of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society explained that they just discovered the old hearth and oven and are currently restoring the historic windows.
The original part of the home is currently under renovation
Starting the tour at the front entrance of the home that leads to the formal Living Room that is decorated with Victorian decor. Again the large rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence by showing how they could afford to heat their home.
The Living Room at the Mesier Homestead
The copies of the Mesier family portraits in the Mesier Living Room
The Living Room leads to the back Library where many additions of older books are held and where visitors can do research on their family history in the Wappinger Falls. Many are trying to trace their family’s history.
The Mesier Homestead Library and Research Room
The back area of the house is closed for renovations, but you can climb the stairs to the old bedrooms on the second floor. Here is where both the family and the family slaves then servants lived on the same floor.
The Adult’s Bedroom set during Victorian times
A woman’s boudoir during Victorian times
The rooms also showed a child’s place in the family where during Victorian times were treated like ‘little adults’ being trained for their future lives. Toys not just sparked the imagination but also prepared children for domestic life
Children’s playthings during Victorian times spurred imagination
On top of the recreations of the family life in both Colonial and Victorian times that the family lived through, there was an extensive collection of Native American items showing the original settlers of the region when the Lenape Indians lived, fished and hunted in this area before the arrival of the Dutch in the late 1600’s.
The Native American collection on the second floor of the Mesier Homestead
The last part of the tour ended in the formal Dining Room where the entertainment was done and the family took their meals. When I asked why these homes seemed so much smaller than homes like the Vanderbilts and Mills families, it was explained that these families were older more established and did not have to show off their wealth. Since these were God fearing individuals, it was not acceptable to be ‘showy’. People knew they were affluent so they could show off but not flaunt it.
The formal Dining Room at the Mesier Homestead set for dinner
During the Christmas holiday season, the house is beautifully decorated for a Victorian Christmas with garlands and bows and period decorations. Most of these old homes are elegantly decorated as the families once had done during the holidays.
The Living Room at the Mesier Homestead at Christmas
During Colonial times, Christmas meant church services in the morning or afternoon and then a formal dinner in the afternoon. You might have pine, garland and berries decorate the house whereas during Victorian times, it was a much more elaborate affair. There would be a Christmas tree, garland and pine all over the home and gift giving. Christmas cards would have also decorated the home as well.
The Mesier Homestead foyer decked at Christmas time
The Dining Room table was decorated for Christmas lunch
After the tour, I took a quick walk into downtown Wappinger Falls which has a great downtown with terrific restaurants and a great view of the river and falls.
Downtown Wappinger Falls has such a unique look to it.
During Christmas time, the downtown had a quaint look to it with garland and wreaths decorating people’s homes.
Downtown Wappingers Falls during Christmas
The Christmas tree in the Wappingers Falls square downtown
The Bandstand decorated at night
Our last part of the tour was visiting the First Reformed Church of Fishkill at 717 Route 9 at the beginning of Downtown Fishkill, NY. This elegant old church with its historic cemetery was built in 1732 on land that had been set aside for the church.
The Fishkill First Reformed Dutch Church at 717 Route 9 with the DuBois House next door
The church was closed for the afternoon as services are at 10:00am on Sundays so I toured around the church and the cemetery. What was interesting about the cemetery is all the family plots and who was intermarried into whose families.
The cemetery behind the church is full of family plots including the Brinckerhoff and Van Wyck families
After touring the church and the cemetery grounds, I took my time and walked Downtown Fishkill which is lined with small but interesting restaurants and stores. The street had been lively the two times that I visited with people enjoying the outdoor dining and the perfect 80-degree weather.
The Van Wyck family vault is located in the church’s cemetery
During Christmas time, the church was tastefully decorated for Christmas and for holiday services.
The church was decked with wreaths and garland
The church doorway looked like something out of a Christmas Card
Downtown Fishkill, NY decorated for Christmas
CIty Hall decorated for Christmas
I searched that entire downtown from one end to another and I could not find the Fishkill Town Christmas tree.
While walking around Downtown Fishkill, I came across the Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street and needed a quick snack on a hot afternoon. The store was really busy with people eating outside on the benches and tables. I stopped in and had a scoop of Strawberry Cheesecake and a scoop of Birthday Cake ice cream. Did it hit the spot! The Strawberry Cheesecake was especially good with chunks of fresh strawberries in it.
The Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street in Downtown Fishkill
After the ice cream, it was time for dinner (I always believe in saving room for dessert). Both times I tried Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9 in Fishkill. You really have to search for the restaurant as it is located in the strip mall in the Shoprite Mall.
Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9
The food here is really good. When I came up on my own, I just wanted something small, and I ordered the Cheese Calzone ($8.95). The thing was huge! The Calzone was so large that it could have fed two people easily. It was loaded with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and they make a terrific marinara sauce that accompanied it. By the time I finished devouring the thing, I was stuffed. This after all that ice cream.
We returned to Antonella’s when my aunt and I returned to Fishkill for the touring since I was so impressed with the food and service. My aunt had the Sausage, Pepper & Onion Roll ($8.50) and I had the Stromboli Roll ($8.50) which had ham, salami, pepperoni, Ricotta and Mozzarella cheeses wrapped in a perfectly baked pizza dough. Both were served with their flavorful marinara sauce. After a long day of touring, it was just what we needed. We also took plenty of time to relax and digest on this trip.
The Cheese Calzone’s at Antonella’s are excellent
It was really a nice day and there is so much to see and do in this part of the Hudson River Valley. I had not really explored Fishkill, NY so it was fascinating to see all these old homes and historic sites and know their place in history. Take the time to tour these homes and hear the family stories. Remember to head back during the Christmas holiday season and explore these homes and the downtowns when they are decorated for the season. There is a special magic in the Hudson River Valley during the holiday season. Check their websites for more activities during the year.
(Please read the accompanying reviews on VisitingaMuseum.com to see a full description on these homes).
Places to Visit:
Brinckerhoff House Historic Site/East Fishkill Historical Society
After visiting three historical homes in the Fishkill area covering the towns of Hopewell Junction and Wappingers Falls, my last stop of the day was the First Dutch Reformed Church of Fishkill, NY. The church was closed at this point with services being on Sunday’s only starting at 10:00am. I was able to tour around the church admiring its architecture, looking over the DuBois House which is also owned by the church and exploring the cemetery.
The cemetery was the most interesting being the final resting place of many of the ‘first families’ of the area, including family plots of the Van Wyck and Brinckerhoff families, who also intermarried with each other. There were sections dedicated just to the families…
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Opening Ceremonies at The Beekman Arms
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas.
The Downtown Rhinebeck Christmas Tree near the Community parking lot.
I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck’s merchants go all out for the holidays
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
The delicious candies and baked goods at Samuel’s Sweet Shop
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY at Christmas
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockade District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brilliantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
Shindig at 1 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY (Closed June 2022)
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Quarters and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas services at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
I took some time off from walking in the City to walking around Upstate. I read that the Dutchess County Fair was the last week of August and I had not visited it since my first summer when I was attending the Culinary Institute of America in 1996. I wanted to see if it changed much in twenty years, and it hasn’t.
Entering the Dutchess County Fairgrounds
From parking in the lot at the Dutchess County to the buildings that housed the animals and displays it looked to me that nothing changed in over twenty years with the exception of people taking pictures with their phones. Even then, I did not see that many phones out. The Fair was in its 173rd year and people were just having a good time with their families. It was a similar day when I went for the 174th year. The place was crowded with local families catching up with one another.
From walking to the admission booths (it was $18.00 to get into the fairgrounds in 2022) to walking the paths not much had changed. When visiting the fairgrounds means almost a step back into time when things seemed so much slower. Being just outside Rhinebeck with its galleries and high-end restaurants it seems a world away.
My day started late as I had so many errands to run and work in the morning that I got off to a late start. I got to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds at 3:00pm and spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the Fair. It is so interesting to see how much has changed in the world but how little it really changes. In 2019, I had the whole day to spend at the fair and it really is a lot of fun.
The entrance to the Hyde Park Historical Society
In 2022, I stopped first at the Hyde Park Farmers Market and the now open Hyde Park Historical Society before arriving at the fair. I parked in the parking lot and then walked over to the museum first to see what is was all about. It is a great little museum.
I got a chance to walk around the museum which is loaded with interesting artifacts and local antiques from people’s homes from the area. The exhibition was nicely mounted and takes only about an hour to tour.
The Hyde Park Historical Society at 4389 Albany Post Road
The Farmers Market in Hyde Park was closing down at the end of October so I got to see some of the items that the artists were creating for both Halloween and Christmas.
It was the end of the season so there was lots of apples, root vegetables, pumpkins and corn. There were lots of baked goods and jellies and preserves available for sale as well.
The Fino Farm at the Hyde Park Farmers Market
The Farmers Market in late October has so much to offer between the bakeries, cheese places, meat purveyors and fruit and vegetable farmers. There was a really nice selection of things to buy. What I also liked was that the artists came out and showed off their wares. There was of interesting things going into Halloween.
Interesting wood carvings at the Farmers Market
The selection of Arts & Crafts at the Farmers Market
The delicious baked goods at the Hyde Park Farmers Market
Delicious looking cookies at the Farmers Market
A cow is a cow at the end of the day. How to take care of it and milk it has changed over the time and the philosophy of animals and their care have advanced but the cow is still in the pen, fed hay and goes Moo! That goes the same with chickens, rabbits and goats. There is also the immense pride these children in the 4-H take in these animals that far extends taking a picture of them on an app and having them talk like a human.
Walking the Fair is interesting in that it is broken down into many different areas to explore but when you first walk in what is there but all the food carts and booths. I have never seen so much deep-fried food in my life, and I have been through the Feast of San Genaro dozens of times.
There were food trucks selling fried dough, funnel cakes, Twinkies, brownies and zeppole’s. There carts selling deep fried hot dogs, stuffed pizza and giant tacos. It is hardly for the Vegan customer, but you know what, it is fun every once in a while, to eat like this. I don’t do it every day.
The Midway of food vendors at the Dutchess County fair
Both in 2019 and 2022, I got there in the early afternoon and was starved. I stopped at a food truck in the Midway named ‘Janeks’ and ordered their ‘Chef’s Hamburger Special’.
The Janek’s Truck is always where I eat at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds
The special was two freshly made beef patties that were caramelized and cooked to perfection, topped with smoked bacon, pulled pork and freshly made cheddar on a home baked bun with a side of homemade pickles and cheese and potato pierogi that had been sautéed in butter and onions.
My FAVORITE item: The “Chef’s Burger”
It was on the pricey side but was the best $12.00 ($19.00 in 2022) I had ever spent. The flavors were so complex and so delicious on that burger that I thought the guy who made it was more of an artist than a cook. It blew away any pizza or fried dough I would have eaten. The combination of the Cheddar Cheese, Pulled Pork and Ham on top of the burger gave it so much extra flavor and added to its smokiness. I only eat this twice a year, at the Fair and then at the Sheep & Wool Festival when I return in October and look forward to it.
After eating this burger at Janeks Food Truck it is so perfect you will see God!
My first stop in the Fair was the Amusement section where all the kiddie rides, Ferris wheels, games of chance and thrill rides were located. In the early part of the day, the area was mildly busy but by the time I left and the lights came on the true ‘Wonderland’ came to life. The lights, the noise and all the screaming coming from the thrill rides brought the area to life. During the day though, it was little kids on the carousels, mini-rides and small track rides. To be a kid again at this Fair.
Dutchess County Fair Midway
Leaving the Amusement area, I ventured next to the historical area of the fair, the Century Museum Antique Village, where the Cider Mill, Sugar Home, the One Room Schoolhouse, the firemen’s tent and the Historic Train Station were located. These recreations of old Dutch farming villages showed a way of life from the turn of the last century and beyond. It is amazing to see how we have progressed in education since then, but I think the times were different when I see the teacher in front of the board describing the lesson plan.
Both in 2019 and 2022, I had a very interesting tour of the Dutchess County Fire Museum (See review on VisitingaMuseum.com) that had been set up on a temporary basis at the fair awaiting a permanent home on the fairgrounds.
The Dutchess County Temporary Fire Museum at the fairgrounds
The retired firefighters that I talked to said that they have been trying to raise money for a museum, but it has been tough. The fairgrounds have now offered them a space the only problem being that it would be open only when the fairgrounds are open. When I talked with the guys in 2022, they explained that the fairgrounds are working with them to build a new home there.
When I walked all these buildings that were created before electricity, computers and even modern light, I think there were less distractions, and you had no choice but to work. Those were the days of back-breaking work loads and things were done totally by hand. There was a care and quality to those items. It is interesting to see how these things were made and how the design has not changed but they have been electrified.
The school room at the School House Museum I have seen in many historic museums and have not much changed from their modern version except the furniture has gotten nicer and there is more light. The philosophy of learning the ‘ABC’s’ is still there and the black boards are still part of the routine. I still think it is the best way to learn.
The Schoolhouse Museum on the Dutchess County Fairgrounds
The School Room has not changed much over the years.
The pathway lead me to the Animal Barns and this is where the Fair had not changed. The families stood guard at their at the different pens washing and taking care of the pets. I never saw such pampering to pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits and goats. They were so well-groomed and well taken care of and their pens were so clean and if they weren’t the kids were right there to take care of it. There were ribbons for all the hard work these children put into it. The care and the pride these children have on animal husbandry is encouraging.
I saw the cow grooming show when I was visiting the Cow Barn and I have never seen such clean cows before. They were washed, brushed and combed by their owners and it reminded me of similar judging at the Dog Shows that I see on TV. When they walked their cows along the path in the ring, there was such pride in the owners faces especially to the winners. I have to say that the ribbons were very impressive.
The Llama Barn was interesting in that I usually find Llama to be friendlier but these animals really kept to themselves and stood in the corners of their pens. They seemed to want to socialize with one another and avoid the humans.
The Goat Barn was the exact opposite. I could not have met a friendlier animal with good social graces. They looked like they were so happy to see me. They all came running up to me as I stood by their pens. They are really are an observant animal. They just stare you down when you are looking at them and then they walk away.
The surprising part of the Pig Barn was that it wasn’t a pig pen. It was one of the cleanest parts of the Fair. Each of the stalls were really clean with only the smell of the pigs which probably surprised people coming up from the City. The only thing was some of these over-sized pigs didn’t fit into the pens and there was not much moving room for them. They really do oink a lot. Their owners sat outside the pens socializing and catching up with one another while their pigs slept. They closed the barn off for about an hour.
My favorite part of the animal barns was the Commerford’s Petting Zoo that they had between the amusement areas and the barns. I never got into petting zoos even when I was a kid but got some feed from what looked like bubble gum machines and then the goats and sheep were putty in my hands. They were so friendly and let me pet their warm fur. I have never seen so many happy faces chasing after me. The sheep had such a nice feel to them with their soft furry backs and the goats which I thought might be aggressive could not have been friendlier.
The Commerford’s petting zoo
When you pet them they seem so grateful that you are scratching their backs. I ended up spending more time here than I planned feeding the animals and petting them. They seemed so happy that they got extra attention.
The Sheep were really friendly
The Century Museum Village was used as the Horticultural Building, which reminded me of my many trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, large self-contained displays of flowers, lawn decorations and furniture each with their own them. There was a lot of creativity to their displays with water sources, planted flowers and shrubs all over the place all colorfully designed. They also used some statuary to accent the plantings. It was a nice size building made even bigger with these creative gardens.
After visiting all the barns and historic recreations, it was off for a late lunch. In 2018, I headed back to the food trucks to decide between the cheese steaks, meatball sandwiches and fried desserts. I decided on a pulled pork sandwich with pickles and a Coke for lunch that was more than enough. The sweetness of the barbecue sauce with the roasted meat on a soft roll made a wonderful meal. The nice part was sitting under a tree on a picnic table to enjoy my lunch. On a nice day, there is nothing like it.
People enjoying the outdoor vendors in 2022
In 2019, I avoided all the fried desserts and got a traditional pretzel with mustard from a vendor from Pennsylvania. The was an expensive pretzel at $8.00 but it was well worth it. The thing was huge, freshly rolled and made and was still hot. With a little mustard there is nothing like it. The softness and butteries of the outside made every bite enjoyable.
In 2022, I through caution to the wind and ordered a Funnel Cake with loads of powdered sugar on top from Sugar Shakers Fair, a vendor out of Sarasota, Fl who were frying out the largest funnel cakes of the fair and what looked like the freshest ($8.00). It had been made ahead of time but still warm and still delicious. I loved pulling apart all the pieces and dipping it into the extra powdered sugar.
After lunch, walked through the rest of the barns looking at rabbits, chickens and taking another peek at the Goat Barn. They are really are a beautiful animal. After leaving the barns area, I walked down to watch the Equestrians perform. There is such a grace to jumping and the ladies did a great job. Some of them are so poised on their horses.
As the afternoon wore on, my last stop was the Gift tents where they were selling handmade arts and crafts. You should see the work of these knitters, quilters and wood carvers. Some of the baby blankets and clothes were so beautifully made and colorful that I wished I had someone to give it to as a gift.
My favorite Santa wood carvers at the fair
The wood carvers were getting ready for the holidays with Santa’s and snowmen. It never ceases to amaze me that we are in a perpetual state of Christmas no matter what time of year it is. The surrealist look of many of these Santa’s were done by the cut of wood that the artist had to work with when carving the piece. These men and women are very creative in their work and they will be back in October for the Craft’s Show.
I love picking out the Santa’s for my mom
Before I left for the evening, a saw a long line forming by the 4 H Exhibit Building and I found out they were selling giant homemade milkshakes with the milk and cream from the Dairy Barns. The sold these large Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry shakes for only $5.00! (In 2022, the 22 oz was $7.00 and the 16oz was $5.00. I still ordered the large). That was one line I did not mind being in.
In 2018, I ordered this Vanilla shake where you really could taste the fresh ice cream which was loaded with several scoops. There is nothing like a fresh milkshake with real ice cream. It was the perfect way to cap off the evening. In 2019 and in 2022, I ordered the Strawberry milk shake and one is more than enough. All those scoops of fresh ice cream and sweet milk. It is heaven! You could even scoop up the fresh strawberries on the bottom of the cup.
This little guy was enjoying the same type of milkshake that I had
Walking the Fair at twilight you really see it come to life with all the lights, screaming kids by the rides and hungry patrons at the food trucks. It is so funny to see these small kids gobble down cheese steaks and fried dough. They had some appetites! When you work on a farm and take care of the animals as I saw the fairgoers did they must burn off all the calories.
When I left at 7:30pm (I hate driving in the dark), the whole fair was coming to life with all the lights on and the shows winding down so that the 8:00pm concert could take place. The lines outside when I left were just as long as when I arrived at 2:00pm. I guess people were in for the show and for dinner.
The fair is a wonderland of lights and amazement at night
It was a great day and I learned a few things about Animal Husbandry and landscaping. I just wondered why on the way home it took me twenty-two years to come back.
The Dutchess County Fair is the last week of August and is well worth the trip up to Rhinebeck. I thought that again in 2019 and will again in 2020!