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
The Rhinebeck Christmas tree
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.
The Closing ceremony
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.
Downtown Rhinebeck is so beautifully decorated for Christmas
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:
I do not know how Christmas creeps up every year. It starts when Forth of July weekend ends and then we blink our eyes and there is Christmas. The years just keep getting faster and faster. Even though the holiday season snuck up on me the month of December was full of interesting events.
I had to put my walk around Manhattan on hold for most of the holiday season. Between classes, work, the Fire Department and selling Christmas trees (as you have seen in other blogs), the month of December was a busy one. There were different events to attend, activities to participate in and places to visit.
Christmas to me is not just the holiday itself but the time of the year to give back and help raise money for those in need. I really believe in giving back to the community during the holidays so there was a whole series of fundraisers that I attended. As my friends always say of me, you never sit still for one minute.
The holiday season started right after returning from seeing Lillian out in Kings Park, NY. We had such a nice time together having dinner with the other families and enjoying the entertainment that I promised her that I would see her in two weeks for the family Christmas dinner at her facility.
The next day, I got up early to the firehouse to help wash the truck as the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department was participating in the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. Our Chamber of Commerce sponsors the parade and Christmas tree lighting every year on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always a lot of fun. It gives all of us a chance to give back to the community as the procession of floats, decorated cars and organizations participate in the parade ending at the circle near the edge of town for the tree lighting ceremony.
Engine One in the Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
Before the parade, all of us met up at the firehouse to wash and decorate the trucks and then stage by the Boulevard before the parade. I always enjoy watching the little kids in awe when the trucks pass by. It was cold the night of the parade so the crowds were thinner than previous years but still people looked like they were having a nice time. After the parade was over, everyone met at the circle for the tree lighting ceremony which got the usual ohhs and ahhs.
I had to be up early the next day as we had to unload 340 Christmas trees from the truck for the Annual Christmas tree sales for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. This is our organization’s largest fundraiser and it is our job to sell all those trees for our scholarship program. We must have set a new record for emptying the truck and by the end of the season for selling them (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Six).
It is something for me as next year I will be going on my twentieth year on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. I have seen the growth of the organization and the all the high school seniors that we have given a head start with our scholarship program. I can’t believe I have served on the Executive Board for four years now as Director (Sargent of Arms). It has been quite the journey.
The members of the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association setting up the trees.
This starts the holiday season in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Boulevard decorated for the holidays, fantastic window displays by our town merchants and everyone excited that Santa was coming. The holiday season means holiday parties, tours of decorated mansions, hand writing Christmas cards and keeping everything in check. I went to a record thirteen Christmas parties and get togethers this year. I am the member so many organizations and with four jobs everyone wants to get together. I was a busy person this year.
Right after Thanksgiving Weekend with the endless activity and getting to work selling those trees, I had to go back to work and put my schedule together for the month of December.
My first weekend of December was busy with back to back activities with Sinterklaas Weekend ahead of me and the day after the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party. This is always a busy weekend so I spend my weekend up in Rhinebeck at the Quality Inn (See review on TripAdvisor) while I run from one place to another. This was on top of the fact that my class would be presenting their final project for my Communications class the Monday I got back to work.
This was my sixth year participating in the parade. Rhinebeck, New York is a magical place at the holidays. The store windows are beautifully decorated with all sorts of merchandise that showcase the stores and the trees that line the downtown are layered with white lights that illuminate the downtown. Little wooden paintings line all the trees in the downtown area and garland accents a lot of buildings. It looks like a quaint little Christmas town straight out of a Currier & Ives print.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
I help with the set up at 10:00am at the Starr Library every year. This year the theme was the Butterfly. (At the cocktail party fundraiser before Thanksgiving, the Sinterklaas community was introduced to the Butterfly King & Queen and were given the traditional blessing before the start of the Sinterklaas season.) The committee created Butterfly puppets for the parade that we put together that morning. As I unpacked the truck with the other volunteers, I could not believe how fast the year went. I kept asking myself how did this go so fast.
The same group of volunteers I have worked with for four years and we all worked in tandem with each other, emptying out the truck, unloading all the puppets and then putting them all together and stacking them against the library for the night of the parade. I have done this for so many years, I know how to put most of them together in my sleep. We were done in about two hours and then I was able to enjoy the rest of the days activities.
I have been volunteering in the parade now since 2010 and I can definitely tell you that the number of people has tripled over the past four years alone. After the Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms Hotel (I get a kick out of Mother Holly’s ‘feeling Jolly’ speech every year), I got a copy of the day’s activities and then snuck up to Red Hook, NY right up Route 9 to visit a few stores and restaurants on my bucket list for my blogs (you will find Little Pickles Children’s Store on ‘LittleShoponMainStreet’ and Village Pizza II on ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC’ on my WordPress.com blog sites). Red Hook’s downtown was decorated for their Christmas event the next weekend. As one gallery owner explained “everyone is in Rhinebeck for Sinterklaas, so the town is quiet”.
Little Pickles in Red Hook, NY
I was able to visit businesses for my blogs that had not been open the weekend I visited President Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY (see the Van Buren Homestead on my VisitingaMuseum.com site) and revisit old ones. I wanted to get a better feel for their downtown. (Please don’t miss the pizza at Village Pizza III at 7514 North Broadway. Their slices are excellent).
By the time I got back to Rhinebeck at about 1:30pm, I could not find a parking spot. The town was mobbed with people and almost every block around the downtown was lined with cars. I had to park almost five blocks away.
The rest of the afternoon was full of concerts, performances by the dancing polar bear and the grumpuses and lively singing at the churches. All four churches in town had either singing groups or bands. Lining the Main Street of Rhinebeck were all sorts of local charities selling Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot dogs and other snacks. Most were almost empty when I got back as people were snacking as they walked the streets to get from one activity to another.
The Grumpus singing and dancing in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
I decided to relax and not run around for the afternoon as I have seen most of the shows and acts that were on the roster and pinpointed how I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon.
I first visited the Butterfly nest that was located in the courtyard. The artists are very creative on the Sinterklaas staff. They built entire Butterfly cocoon that you could walk through. There was music going on in and around the cocoon and when I exited, the grumpuses were starting to do one of their dances in the courtyard. They had the whole crowd laughing and clapping along.
My stop on the event was the ‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah. I have seen this show over the years of coming to Sinterklaas and I swear, the girl who plays the main character has not changed in the last five years. She is just getting older.
‘Into the Light’ Show
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the United Methodist Church listening to the Brass bands. I got to hear the Funkrust Brass Band and The Second Line Brass Band. It was nice to just sit back and relax and listen to the music. I had been running around the town the who afternoon.
After the bands, it was time to get ready for the parade. So back up to the Starr Library and my position in the parade as part of the “Star Forest” of puppets. We lucked out again that night as the weather was mild and it was in the high 40′ that night.
As the excitement of the parade started and we made our way down the hill, I noticed immediately that the crowds had really grown this year. They were five deep at the parade route on both sides and everyone had their cellphones out to record the parade. With all the white lights on the trees, all the decorated windows in full light and all the Sinterklaas stars that lined the route, it was a beautiful and festive night when coming into town.
Me in the Parade in the ‘Star Forrest; by the Mother Earth Float
People got so excited to see “Sinterklaas” (the Dutch word for ‘Santa Claus’) and the various characters in the parade as ‘Mother Holly’, ‘The Pocket Lady’, ‘The Dancing Polar Bear and his trainer”, ‘The Butterfly King and Queen’, ‘The Grumpuses’ and ‘The Wild Women of Rhinebeck’ joined the brass bands, floats, puppets and singers, dancers, performers and animals who make the parade what is every year. It really is exciting to be part of this parade.
At the end of the parade route, we pass the stage with all the members of the Sinterklaas family to make our final goodbyes until next year and drop off the puppets. It was funny that the whole time I was walking in the parade I kept telling myself how fast the year had gone and I could not believe I was here again.
Watch me in the Sinterklaas Parade in the ‘Star Forrest’ on the right
I dropped off my puppet and went to watch the last of the parade before leaving for dinner. It was fun to watch the fire throwers perform at the end of the parade. It was a nice way to end the evening and after the performance was over, the crowds dispersed to go to dinner. Every restaurant in town was mobbed all evening.
I went to a barbecue restaurant that I had wanted to try for years, (See review on TripAdvisor). I had the buffet dinner ($20.00) that they had set up for the day and just ate. I had to admit as much as l liked the food, the waiter annoyed me when he charged me for the refills on the drinks (Noted in the review and in his tip).
As I walked back to my car, it started to mist and rain lightly. I did not realize how far I had packed away from town. I was four blocks away near the Duchess County Fairgrounds. That is how busy the town was that day. I just went back to the hotel and relaxed. I had an early trip the next morning.
The next morning after a big breakfast, it was off to the Boonton Firemen’s Home for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party for the residents that we throw every year. The facility was nicely decorated and we had some crowd that afternoon with all the residents present and their family members as well.
The band was a lot to be desired as they were off key most of the time and the lead singer could not sing a note. The place was really in the holiday spirit when member, Jerry Naylis and his family, who sing in their church choir and whose daughter in law sing opera, entertained the crowd. It really livened up the room and put us all in the holiday spirit. His little granddaughter stole the show when she sang ‘Jingle Bells’.
The Naylis Family entertaining the residents at the Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ
During the intermission we gave the residents their Christmas presents, monogrammed sweatshirts with their names on them, as a gift which I still see them wearing everytime we come to the home for events (See blog, BCFHA@Wordpress.com-Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association below).
The residents look forward to this party every year and were very touched by the gifts and the holiday thoughts. It was a fun time for all.
The members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association with the residents in December 2018
After the party was over, the members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association went to dinner at the Columbia Inn for our annual get together. We had a great time just catching up with one another and having a few laughs. The restaurants pizza is terrific too (See review on TripAdvisor).
With the weekend closing, it was back to work for me and another week of a round of holiday parties. First though, my students presented their project, “Bergecco-Park Consulting Inc. presents “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”, their final exam project (See Day One Hundred & in ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’). The students gave a very professional presentation to a crowd of professors and administrators and members of the Athletic, Theater, Art, College Foundation, Alumni Association and Department of Special Services were on hand to view the presentation. It was well received by everyone and I could not have been prouder as a professor (please view that blog for the full project presentation).
Our logo for “Welcome Week 2019-Follow the Yellow Brick Road back to Bergen Community College”.
See the whole project presentation on my site, “MywalkinManhattan.com”
After I finally had the presentation behind me, it was a series of holiday parties one after another between the school, the fire department and various organizations that I am involved in (and that number is high). I joined the faculty at the college for our annual holiday get together, which was really nice. They had a full Thanksgiving dinner for us and a lot of holiday cheer. The Administration got up and wished us all a happy holiday season and good luck with the remainder of classes. It was nice to talk to the other professors who had come to the presentation. They gave me nice feedback at the party.
The next night it was off to the Engine One Christmas Party at Segovia’s in Moonachie. It was a nice evening with the guys, toasting the year and the successes that we had as a company (See The Brothers of Engine One HHFD-Blog on WordPress.com). It had been a busy year for us activity and project wise accomplishing both getting the bell fixed and chromed and getting the tee-shirts finally ordered and out to everyone. It was nice to catch up with everyone in a relaxed environment.
On Friday night was the annual Friends of Mills Mansion Holiday Cocktail party and fundraiser. Normally this is the night before Sinterklaas but it seemed that no one was in the holiday spirit on November 30th so they held it the week after.
Me at the Mills Mansion Holiday Party with members of the Friends Executive Board and dancers from the Isabel Duncan Dance company.
We had a really nice time. The event for the first time was sold out and the mansion was packed with well dressed people. The food was excellent and the servers did a nice job passing appetizers to all the guests. One of the local wineries was sampling one of their new sweet ice wines as well as a Chenin Blanc. It was a perfect dessert wine for the holidays.
The rooms were fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas and the Jazz band they had performing were excellent. They were engaging and people cleared the floor for impromptu dancing. It was nice to see people get up and dance again. It was nice to just sit back and catch up with other members I had met over the years and listen to the music. After that I took a quick tour of the rooms before heading back to the main room to hear the holiday greetings from the Executive Board.
The formal dining room at the Mills Mansion for Christmas
It was important that they sold out the event because the money will go to renovating both ceiling in the dining room and redoing the curtains that line the dining room windows. The mansion is slowly returning to its past glory and these events make this possible. The only problem was I was really tired after the event and it was a long ride home.
The weekend was coming up and there were two big events planned and I wanted to get enough rest to enjoy them. The first was on Saturday afternoon where I joined the Cornell Club as we we took a tour of the Ladies Shopping Mile and Gramercy Park with an event, the “Victorian Tour: Origin of Christmas Traditions” (See Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight). We literally walked this entire section of the City around Union and Gramercy Parks and walked up lower Sixth Avenue to visit the old department store buildings to know their history as part of the shopping area after the Civil War.
On Sunday was the dress rehearsal for the “Washington Crossing Reenactment” at Washington Crossing Historic Park. The event takes place every Christmas morning to remember when General Washington crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British. It was an interesting event that everyone should see once in life. It is very important to know how he crossed the river, in what type of boat and the conditions they were under that morning during a snow storm.
The Military Parade by the Delaware River
We started the morning with a Artillery Demonstration and then this lead to a Fife and Drum Parade in the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the park. Then the troops had a Musket Firing Demo & Soldier’s Drill by the Delaware River. At noontime, the troops had their formation and the Reading of the Order of Battle.
See the parade of soldier’s before the Crossing December 2018
By 12:45pm when the troops made their trip, the event was narrated by Major General Walter Lord, U.S. Army (Retired). The troops had their parade movement and then they loaded the Durham boats, which were rebuilt for the event from the original designs that General Washington and the troops actually used.
The Washington Crossing Reenactment 2018
What I found interesting about the event was that they used the same boats as General Washington used and even in normal conditions, it was hard to maneuver these boats in the river. One of the boats even had problems had with the crossing and it took them extra time to cross and they had rescue boats off to the side in case the boats lost control, Imagine doing this during an ice storm riding in boats with chunks of ice coming at you in the water. What these men did to save our freedom is commendable.
The reenactments have been going on at this site since 1838 where it was discussed the importance of this historic event. The first attempt at a proper crossing was done in 1844 but the crowd was so rowdy and drunk that it marred the event. When they tried the event again in 1876, it was so cold and the exposure to the weather and too much alcohol consumption by the crowd marred the event again and it was noted not to attempt is again for another hundred years (History of Washington Crossing-Park).
As part of a pledge project in 1947, a group of Rider College students attempted the crossing again and it received national attention. In 1953, a half-scale Durham boat was built and a proper ‘authentic’ using the same boats as used that day of the crossing and it was successful. Over 700 people came to the event and since then it has become an annual tradition (Washington Crossing Park History).
It was a busy first half of the holiday season and just kept getting busier as the holiday got closer. Between work and outside activities, I just kept running.
Please read about the Victorian Walking Tour on Day One Hundred & Twenty Eight.
I can’t believe that the year went by so fast. I blinked my eye and the leaves changed colors and it was the end of the summer. The weather has been so unpredictable since the beginning of 2018, it is hard to judge the seasons. It was a cold Winter, was cool and rainy most of the Spring, and the Summer was either humid or rainy. We never had normal seasonable days the way we have had in the past. We had two rather nice days around Labor Day Weekend and that was about it.
The Fall became cool very quickly. Where as last year, the leaves did not change colors until November 12th, this year it got really cool early in October and the leaves changed quickly and were off the trees because of constant rain storms. So much for the seasons!
Halloween was the exception to the rule. We had a sudden burst of an “Indian Summer” and the weather to 59 degrees on October 30 and the night of Halloween it was 64 degrees, a perfect night for the Halloween Parade. It was nice to have three days of above 60 degree weather and then by November 2nd back down to 40 degrees. Still it made Halloween more fun and engaging.
Halloween activities ranged from watching films to museum events to the best part of all, the New York Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. Its more of a lower Manhattan parade now but still keeps it heart in the community. I even designed our shirts for Engine One HHFD with a Jack-o-Lantern logo.
The Engine One Hasbrouck Heights tee-shirt logo.
My first activity of Halloween was visiting the Meadowlands Museum for the Annual Scarecrow Festival. The tough part was it was a gloomy day and there were not many participants. Still the people who came were really artistic and very enthusiastic. There were only a dozen or so scarecrows on the sticks but there were some interesting designs. The sad part was there were only about twenty or so people at the event. This could be a very interesting event if they advertised it more.
Scarecrow Day at the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, NJ
The second event I attended was the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum Historical Society’s Annual Cemetery Walk through both the Old Dutch Cemetery and the Valleau Cemetery across the street. This is an interesting tour that I did last year by with different actors at the grave sites.
What the Schoolhouse Museum located at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood does is they wait until nightfall and they take you on a lantern tour of the grave sites of prominent members of the Ridgewood community and an actor plays that person and describes their life and their role in the community.
Joe Suplicki from the Ridgewood Historical Society
Under the direction of Ridgewood historian, Joe Suplicki, who leads the tour into the graveyard with lantern in hand, you will walk a lighted path of luminaries into the heart of the cemetery to the different sites. The most interesting one I found on this tour was the mausoleum of J. J. Newberry, the founder of the discount department store. This company went out of business years ago but I had not realized the family had lived in Ridgewood.
The Cemetery Walk in Ridgewood, NJ.
The tour really does take you to the spooky parts of the cemetery and it is best to stay with the group. Although no one is popping out at you, you still have a creepy feeling from walking around all the tombstones. It is almost a relief to get back to the museum. The best part is that Demerest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ donates their apple cider and cider doughnuts to the museum for the end of the tour and that is a real treat.
You get to munch on doughnuts and listen to ghost stories from the head of the museum around ‘a campfire’. The best part is watching the kids scared from stories that are told and by kids I mean the forty year olds. Their children are too busy on their cell phones. The museum does a wonderful job every year and for the $10.00 donation it a nice tour.
My next venture on the Halloween list takes me to Croton-on-Hudson to the Van Cortlandt Manor to the annual ‘Pumpkin Blaze’. That is a site to see every year. Even though I have visited it over the last five years, I never get tired of looking at it. The estate is illuminated with hundreds of pumpkins. The pumpkins take all sorts of shapes, sizes, carved faces and even in the structures.
When you enter the estate, you are greeted with a form of mortuary, Halloweenish music that sets the tone for the walk. The Pumpkin Blaze has gotten even more popular in the four years that I have been going and I had to get the tickets way in advance. The weather was nice but it had cooled by this point and was in the low 40’s when I got there.
I was part of the last group that arrived at 8:30pm so the place was starting to clear out when I arrived. It is a lot easier coming towards the end of the night as it gives you more time to walk around.
The display was just as spectacular as in years past. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by the river with carved lit pumpkins of all expressions until you reach the pumpkin bridge, ‘The Pumpkin Zee Bridge’ and travel over it to the rest of the displays which include pumpkin jack in the boxes, a pumpkin ferris wheel and a pumpkin tunnel.
The Pumpkin Zee Bridge and Spider Web at the Pumpkin Blaze.
Through out the display, I walked the path by myself to see pumpkin skeletons, the pumpkin version of the headless horseman, spiders, dinosaurs and a pumpkin circus train. This lead to the main house, the Van Cortlandt Manor, where there were pumpkin scarecrows, a pumpkin cemetery and a light show at the manor that was ablaze with lit pumpkins. The whole effect was engaging.
I doubled back around the cemetery and walked through the sea of pumpkins smiling and grinning at me. The music continued to play as I doubled back through the display but by this time the crowds started to thin and it got colder. When I reached the gift shop it was about 38 degrees I heard someone say. I looked back at the dark lawn with the music still moaning and thought about the amount of work to make this spectacular display every year.
My last event of the holiday was work as a marshal for the Halloween Parade in New York City. I have been working as a marshal for five years now starting in 2014. My job is the least glamorous part of the parade. I work the performance gate where all the performers enter the parade route to their floats. It is also one of the tougher jobs of the parade as I have to make sure all the people who don’t belong in the parade stay out.
It has gotten easier since the passes are now on cell phones or the performers print them out. They know that they have to bring it to the parade. What I love are all the people who try to wheedle their way in to see the parade at its starting point. I have watched people say that they lived there, were staying at the hotel near by, they have dinner plans across the street, they are meeting someone there or try to sneak in with the groups of performers, After five years, I have gotten wise to everyone. The only problem I have is that I work with people who just let people in because they don’t want to confront people. I just tell them “and the cow jumped over the moon!” when they give me a lame answer.
This year I had a pretty good track record of keeping people out with new volunteers who followed the rules. It is fun watching the parade come to life. I have watched hundreds of volunteers come through the parade entrance in costume and with instruments in hand who volunteer to make the magic of the parade.
After we got everyone in the parade route, we closed the gate for the night and the NYPD protected it. I got to go into the parade route and by Broome Street got to watch the parade come together with a combination of floats, performing acts and costumed participants progress up the Avenue. By the time I got to the parade starting point most of the parade was already over and had proceeded uptown. I got to see the last of the floats and bands head uptown.
The robot themed puppets in the parade.
By 9:00pm, the last float headed uptown with a group of Mardi Gras drag queens yelling and screaming over disco music. The rest of the people in the parade were the costumed participants from all over the world who were thrilled to be in the parade. We left yelling and cheering as they entered the parade route.
There were many creative costumes in the parade. You had your usual cartoon characters, police, fire fighters, superheros and witches and devils. There was not much politics as I had seen in the last two years though there were a few Donald Trump masks. Maybe because I was seeing the end of the parade head up town, it looked to me like people were there to have fun and march in the parade less the politics. I did see some unusual and creative costumes such as geometric angels, elaborate dress costumes and show outfits. There still is a lot of creativity left in the population and they like to show it off one night of the year.
To end Halloween, we all met at Tipsy Parson on 156 9th Avenue for a parade rap up party. It was a nice way to end the evening meeting with all the parade marshals and volunteers. They had a nice meal for us as they did the year before with pulled pork sliders, spiced chicken wings, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and assorted desserts. Everyone was starved by the time we got there at 9:30pm and made multiple trips to the buffet.
It was nice to sit back and laugh with everyone. My distant cousin, Mark Schuyler and I got to kid around through the evening about some of the stories we heard about people trying to sneak into the parade lineup. We have been swapping these stories now for five years ( I can’t believe it was that long) and still through the back of my mind I thought “We are here again? A year has gone by this quickly? Where did it all go?”
Through the laughing I realized that time has gone by pretty quickly and Christmas was right around the corner. As another Halloween drew to a close, I look back on this Halloween and realize that you can have fun without dressing up and Trick or Treating. You just have to see where life takes you and the experiences in front of you.
The Christmas holiday season was a whirlwind of activities for me that took me again away from Manhattan and up to Rhinebeck, New York for the annual ‘Sinterklaas Holiday Festival’ and activities. Sinterklaas is a Dutch holiday tradition that has been recaptured in the Hudson River Valley and is run the first Saturday in December every year. It is to celebrate the coming of ‘Sinterklaas’ or “Santa Claus” as we know it. This was my third year in helping out in the parade.
Sinterklaas at the closing ceremonies
As the literature states, ‘Sinterklaas is the celebration where children are transformed into Kings and Queens and honored as the bringers of the light at the darkest time of the year.
The tradition of Sinterklaas comes all the way from the Netherlands, brought by the Dutch settlers who arrived in Rhinebeck over 300 years ago. Sinterklaas, the patron of children and sailors, finds a welcoming community in the Mid-Hudson Valley as recreated through the lens of modern day America.
The revived tradition is non-denominational and all inclusive, everyone is invited to participate. The young, the old, the in-between, absolutely everyone and anyone who wants to be part of a community of hope for a joyous and peaceful world are all welcome.’
Our coordinator for the parade, Trish, wanted me up by 10:00am and that was a treat taking a two hour drive from Northern New Jersey to Upstate New York, but it ended up being a very nice and very quick trip up as there was no traffic on the road.
Again the weather could not have been nicer as it reached 60 degrees in Rhinebeck at the height of the afternoon and even I could not believe it got that warm. It was such a nice day that when we were putting the floats together, I did not even need a jacket.
I put together the ‘Honey Bee’ puppets as my first project. The artist did a really nice job with them as they were our theme for the parade, honoring one of nature’s creatures, the Honey Bee.
‘Distinct from all other animals with the exception of those that give us milk, the Honey Bee makes more honey than they need for themselves and that’s why there is enough for us. They don’t just give us sweetness but medicine, flowers, fruits, vegetables and meat, natures beauty and bounty. They make our lives beautiful, tasty and nutritious.’
We put the puppets together in record time and later in the parade (see YouTube under ‘Sinterklaas Parade 2015), they made quite a site as it grew dark and they lit up the beginning of the parade. After my partner, Liz and I, put them all together, we worked on the knight horse costumes for the parade and then on the star puppets. We had so many people helping that we got done in record time and got to spend the afternoon enjoying the activities in the afternoon. We did not have to be back until 4:30pm for the startup of the parade.
The Sinterklaas Parade in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
The festival was chock full of events for all age groups, from puppet shows, to book readings, musical acts on stilts, storytelling and all sorts of musicians from the local colleges from brass bands to a Capella groups to choirs performed at all the churches and at city hall. In the parking lot across from the Beekman Arms Hotel, there were high wire acts, local bands and all over town there were local groups like the Four H and the Boy Scouts selling treats at booths all over the Main Street.
There is a special show at the Church of the Messiah called “Into the Light: A holiday Spectacular”, which has become very popular every year. The lines wrapped around the building. Its the holiday story of a young girl’s journey throughout the world searching for the light. The play features giant puppets and groups of children from the church singing.
‘Into the Light’ show at the Church of the Messiah in Rhinebeck, NY
There was a giant honeycomb in the courtyard by the restaurant that makes thin-crusted pizzas and the kids got to meet the Queen Bee. The line was so long that I could not get in but later that evening I was able to see the inside and I have to say that one of the artists was creative in putting this together.
I also saw a giant polar bear walking around town and you had to sing him. It must have been a long day for the actor who had to do that in that heavy costume but it was fun to watch. Watching the kids to sing to him and watch the bear dance was a lot fun.
There was a Pocket Lady who symbolizes the generosity of Sinterklaas and in her pockets are all secret surprises for children and at the Rhinebeck Fire Department there was a Crowns & Branches workshop where kids could decorate branches and crowns that would be used in the parade and meeting the Wish Lady, who would provide a wish for your branch. Watching the Grumpus do there dance all over town was a lot of fun. They are some of Sinterklaas’s helpers and I swear are probably the same people who have been doing it for years. They dance and bang drums all over town.
The Grumpuses in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
The best part was visiting the Reformed Church for their bake sale. They had really good frosted cookies and I swear I went back three times much to the thankfulness of the kids running the booth. The Third Evangelical Lutheran Church has a lunch area in the basement and they made a mean grilled cheese for a small donation and the tables off to the side was laden with Christmas cookies, which were part of the cost of the lunch. When I tell you these people can bake at the Church, they can bake. Their frosted cookies and cakes were really good. For a small donation, you can eat like a king for lunch.
At dusk, when it starts getting darker, the lights on the trees come into full form and all the businesses on the Main Street light up their display windows. The town looks like a little Christmas village out of a Currier & Ives portrait. It really puts you in the Christmas mood.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
I got back to the library at 5:00pm to get ready for the parade. My job like last year was lighting Sinterklaas himself. That is a lot of fun because you are at the beginning of the parade and you get to see the whole parade coming down the hill and that is quite a site.
Like the Macy’s Parade, there is such anticipation at the start of the parade and watching it come down the hill is like being at Mardi Gras. It is so well lit and so colorful with bands playing and people dancing and so full of energy. It looks like a giant party coming down the hill.
The guy who plays Sinterklaas I worked with the year before so I knew him. We did not get to talk much during the rain storm that drenched everyone last year and we just wanted to get off the parade route. This year it was still slightly warm as the parade started so it was fun to spend a lot of time with the kids. He is a naturally born ham and the kids just adored the guy. I had to chase him around the parade route with a lighting pack and a giant candle that lit him. He had all the fun and I had to make sure that he did not go dark the whole time. Work yes but it is so much fun watching how he made each one of these children’s day. Every time he passed a child to talk to them, they were so happy and they cheered.
Sinterklaas leading the parade
That was the power of Sinterklaas. If you are not in the holiday spirit, the Sinterklaas parade will definitely put you in the mood. It was a spectacular night of bands, great costumes, creative puppets and festive cheer.
The Dancing Polar Bear closing the show
It didn’t end a moment too soon as it typical with Rhinebeck this time of the year that the temperature drops like ten degrees in one hour. I handed my lighting wand in and watched all the costume characters from the parade get introduced to the crowd by the parade leaders. It was a nice way to end the parade and collect all the props while keeping everyone engaged.
I spent the night in Rhinebeck and relaxed. This is one event you should not miss while in Upstate New York. The Sinterklaas Celebration is a real treat of holiday activities and good cheer!
The Sinterklaas Parade 2015
Check out my other Christmas Adventures in Rhinebeck, NY:
I postponed my walk today and got all my errands done early so I could get to the parade route downtown on Dominick Street. It was my second year as a volunteer Marshal for the Annual Halloween Parade in New York City. This parade has gone in leaps and bounds in the twenty-five years that I have lived in the New York area.
Being in a parade can be exciting if you are the one marching in it. For those of us who work the parade, it can be a fun but trying evening. I got there at 4:00pm and it was nice because I worked with the same group of people that I did last year and we really get along well. It is also a very organized group of volunteers lead by our supervisor, Marc, who has been in the parade for years. Nothing gets past Marc including all the bullshit that people say when they are trying to sneak their way past the Marshaling area. I swear I heard some whoppers that even I didn’t know to believe.
Photographers arriving after the parade has already started looking for press passes, spectators who keep claiming that their friends are inside the Marshaling area, costumed people who would not walk down to Canal Street and walk through with the entertainers. Then the entertainers friends sneaking in with their friends not realizing that there is serious organization going into the parade from the launch area for the entertainers. I swear, we had more people yell at us as the parade was about to begin then all my years in retail. They all thought this is a spectator spot.
By six thirty, it was all out craziness considering many of the participants who were with musical groups and the floats were so late, it was a rush to get in. This is when everyone else tried to sneak in as well. So many people arrived late that by seven, some of the floats and bands had already left the staging area and were on route up Sixth Avenue. I saw more than one musician and costumed float marcher get annoyed when we told them their group left twenty minutes earlier. This is considering the parade was on a Saturday and there was not the usual traffic that day.
By 7:45pm, the parade had already long started and our duties were all done so we got to leave the post for the evening and I got to go inside the launch area and watch the parade from where the press stood, which is the best place to see everything at Spring Street and Sixth Avenue. There was so much going on getting the floats, bands and thousands of costumed marchers into their spots, I give my fellow Marshals for this part of the parade a lot of credit.
The parade from what I saw for the last hour of it was a lot of fun. People on the floats were preparing for their time slot, dancing around their creations, bands were putting the final touches on their costumes before the long walk up Sixth Avenue and then there were the thousands of people in costume corralled behind ropes ready to ‘walk the walk’ to show off their costumes to a huge crowd of New Yorkers, who were enjoying their version of Mardi Gras.
The Halloween Parade 2015
I had seen the parade as a spectator for years but to be part of the parade and see it from behind the scenes of how it is created for the pleasure for the spectators is amazing. The work that goes into planning this parade not just in getting sponsors and performers to perform but the building of the puppets upstate and the time and effort people put into their costumes for the parade is a true love of the holiday.
I wish I could have seen the parade growing up instead of the lame trick or treating in the suburbs I was subjected to every Halloween. For over a decade I worked in the city and it became a tradition with my friends and I or coming in with my father we would go to Chinatown for dinner and then go watch the parade. The last time I came to see the parade was in 2003 with my father and after dinner we settled in at 14th Street only to go almost mowed down by people trying to film the ‘Thriller Dance’ for the twenty anniversary of the video. After that, he refused to come in for the parade.
Thriller Dance The Village Halloween Parade
Towards the end of the parade after all the bands and floats had left to head uptown there will still over a thousand people ready to make the march. The alternate routes from Canal Street to Spring Street had people still coming up until about 9:30pm when the last of the marchers walked past us. Then started the clean up and break down by the police.
I walked down Spring Street after the parade to see massive amounts of people flood the bars and restaurants of SoHo, NoHo, Tribeca, Little Italy and Chinatown. The smart restaurants remained opened and were packed with patrons from the parade some braving the cooling evening and eating outside. It was still nice out by 9:30pm but temperature was dropping by the half hour.
I ending up at 456 Chinese Restaurant on Mott Street for the most delicious late night summer. They make a delicious shredded pork with plum sauce and the best crab and pork soup dumplings. I still consider this one of the best Chinese restaurants in Chinatown and the place stayed open to midnight the night of the parade. After dinner, I walked through Little Italy and their restaurants were still going strong at 11:00pm.
456 Chinese Restaurant on 456 Mott Street has the best Soup Dumplings
It has been such a nice night for the parade it seemed that every restaurant from 23rd Street to the tip of Manhattan stayed open and they were all busy! The parade attracts so many people that every restaurant from the fast food restaurants and pizzerias to the fine dining establishments were packed with people having a good time.
The inside of 456 Chinese Restaurant on Mott Street
By the time I back to parade site to take the subway uptown, the police had really cleaned up a lot. Most of the barricades were down and the garbage was being picked up. Another Halloween over and a another parade to look forward to in the future. It is something you should experience once visiting the city.
I credit ktodoma for this video of my second time in the parade as a marshal.
The Halloween Parade is every Halloween night on October 31st from 7:00pm to about 9:30pm. You can see the parade on Sixth Avenue.