This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
My neighbor’s Scarecrow, Giggles. I think this thing is evil (Ha Ha)
If all else fails, watch the original version of the movie “Halloween” from 1978 on YouTube:
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
When I finally finished walking Sutton and Beekman Places, I finally decided to take the long walk down Broadway that I had planned for two years. As you can see by the blog, I like to take one neighborhood or section of the City at a time and concentrate on getting to know it. What is the history of the neighborhood? What is there now? Who are the shop keepers and the restaurant owners? What is the neighborhood association doing to improve the area? I like to become part of the neighborhood when I walk around it.
But recently I have noticed people on the Internet have been posting that they walked the entire length of Broadway and bragged about it like they were ‘performing brain surgery’. So I put aside my next walk and decided to see what the fuss was about walking up and down Broadway. I am…
I have never seen a holiday come and go so fast that it zoomed by. We had one less weekend this year in the month of December before Christmas and it seemed to set everyone in a panic. I have seen holidays fly by but this one was for the records. It seemed that everyone crammed in as much as they could the first two weekends of December and did not come up for breath.
I was no different as work took up everything leading to Halloween and then boom, five weeks later there was Thanksgiving and Sinterklaas. As I wrote in earlier blogs, we went from 71 degrees on Halloween Parade to 25 degrees five weeks later for the Sinterklaas Parade. You just can’t predict the weather.
The Puppet Rehearsals started my Holiday Season in early October
Visit the blog “Day One Hundred and Fifty Three: “Halloween Again”:
After my class’s presentation in Paterson, I left the next day for Florida to visit friends and family. There were some concerns with my friends and I wanted to be sure that they were okay and then I wanted to spend time with my brother and niece. After that I traveled to visit my mother for her birthday so it was a nice visit.
It was also a good working vacation too as I added on new stores to my LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com site and new museums on my VisitingaMuseum.com site:
It was also a good vacation because after the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. presentation in Paterson, NJ was behind me, it was a big sigh of relief. As I said in that blog (Day One Hundred and Fifty-Eight), it was a lot of work and stress for all of us right before Thanksgiving but it was the best time to present it because the students could relax over the holidays and be proud of what they accomplished.
When I returned home from Florida on my business/vacation trip, it was full steam ahead with the holidays. I promised myself this year that I would cut back on a lot of the get togethers and events to attend and I stuck by it. Still there was a lot to see and do and things I wanted my readers to know on my blogs.
The holiday season this year though started without me. I was not home for the Christmas tree drop off for the Men’s Association, the Annual Holiday Parade in Hasbrouck Heights and our Department Party for the Fire Department and the Holiday Party for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association. I was away that first weekend visiting friends and family and work on this blog. I got into the spirit and the holiday rush when I returned.
The holiday season started for me the first Saturday of December with marching in the Annual Sinterklaas Parade in Rhinebeck. I am now going on my seventh year participating in the parade and almost a decade of being up in Rhinebeck, NY.
Rhinebeck, NY like the rest of the Hudson River Valley is just magical at the holidays from Halloween to New Year’s. Downtown Rhinebeck is picturesque like a modern Currier & Ives print with the twinkling white lights, the Sinterklaas paintings attached to the trees and the beautifully decorated retail windows which showcase their goods and the parade stars.
Rhinebeck, NY is magical at Christmas
I was so busy working in the morning with my Introduction to Business class on the wrap up of their project and preparing them for their final exam that I did not get up to Rhinebeck until 2:30pm so I missed the whole puppet set-up.
It was really cold the day of the parade and must have been around 38 degrees even with the sun. I did not see as many people as the last two years and you could actually walk the streets. The police closed off the main street so you could finally walk around Downtown Rhinebeck with no problems.
All along the streets and alleyways were entertainers, bands, costumed characters and people on stilts talking to people and engaging the crowds. The one thing I have to say is that it was getting colder and colder as the day went on. I felt for the people in costume who had to deal with this weather.
I wrote more about my afternoon at the parade on Day One Hundred and Fifty Six: The Sinterklaas Parade:
That Saturday evening it went down to almost 24 degrees and it got cold! Even with four layers, I could see my breath right in front of me. That didn’t stop the crowds. They were five deep for the parade which like every year it magical. Between all the colors, lights, floats and stars hanging from poles along the parade route it adds to the excitement of Sinterklaas coming to town.
I was working in the star forest by the Mother Earth float so I was toward the back of the parade so I could see most everything from the hill overlooking Downtown Rhinebeck. It is something to see the parade from the parade itself up on the hill. The whole town is ablaze with energy as each band and dance team performs.
I loved the looks on the kids faces as all the puppets lean into the crowds. Then right behind us the crowd follows the parade into the parking lot to enjoy the show. This is when the crowd dispersed.
I have never seen a crowd clear up as we rounded the corner and dropped off our puppets. The other people I worked with went home and after the show and the fire performers finished the last of the crowd dispersed. I just wanted to walk around the town one more time before I left town.
The parade is magical when the puppets enter Downtown Rhinebeck
By the time finished my walk around town, it must have dropped to 22 degrees and everyone was off the streets. It got so quiet in Rhinebeck. The restaurants were still dealing with the crowds but not as busy as I remembered the last two years. When I had a slice of pizza at Village Pizza at 119 East Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor), the place was quiet which not normal that night. You could still get a seat. It was worth it though as their pizza is delicious.
I got home late that night and I will tell you that it got colder that night. The windows of the car really froze up. Normally I would spend the night but I had to visit a series of decorated mansions to visit, a few holiday events at museums and an Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine Mansion at the Newark Museum.
The next day was a whirlwind of activity as I ran from one activity to another. Because of having one less weekend before Christmas all the organizations were having their events the first Saturday and Sunday of December so I had to plan my visits like D-Day. I wanted to be able to update my VisitingaMuseum.com blog with visits to all the holiday events. It was too much in one day but I did it.
I started that Sunday at the Lodi, NJ VFW for the Knights of Columbus monthly breakfast. For $6.00, I had to load up on the carbs because I would not be eating until 4:00pm. The Knights of Columbus know how to make breakfast and I loaded up on scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and French Toast and potatoes before my long day of running around. The discussion amongst all of us was how we were all tired of Christmas and it had not even arrived yet. It just seemed that everyone else like me was running from one thing to another.
My first stop that morning was the the Boonton Historical Society at 210 Main Street in Boonton, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited earlier in October after a Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association meeting and they had mentioned this get together. It was a very nice event.
The Historical Society had a few local musicians and entertainers playing to the crowd and a nice assortment of small appetizers and cookies to nibble on while you walked around the displays. It is a nice place to get insights on the development of the iron industry in New Jersey plus the growth of business in the State. They also had a nice exhibition on the Trolley system in New Jersey.
The next stop was the Holiday Festival at the Hopper-Goetschius House at 245 Lake Street in Upper Saddle River, NJ. The Historical Society of Upper Saddle River ran this engaging little festival which was a lot of fun. The weather had broke and it was sunny and a pleasant 48 degrees out.
Santa in the Dutch Barn at the Hooper-Goetschius House
You could visit Santa in the Dutch barn, participate in historical games in the schoolhouse, watch a demonstration of blacksmith work, eat fresh popcorn and chestnuts that were cooked over an open fire the outdoor kitchen and tour the house itself which was decorated for a Victorian Christmas.
There were tours of the house, story telling in the dining room, classical music being played in the palour and fresh Christmas cookies and hot apple cider in the Colonial kitchen which dates back to the late 1700’s. they really did a nice job but then it was off to the next site, the Newark Museum for Afternoon Tea at the Ballantine House.
The Ballantine House at the Newark Museum was decorated for Christmas as “Mrs. Ballantine’s Christmas Eve Open House”
If you ever drove from Boonton to Upper Saddle River to Newark in one afternoon, it is a lot of running around and a lot of driving through traffic during the holidays. Thank God all of these events were on a Sunday when the malls are closed (Bergen County, NJ has strict Blue Laws).
I got there just as they started serving tea and the room was packed with people. The event was held on the top floor of the old Ballatine Mansion which is part of the Newark Museum. It had once been the attic of the house which Mrs. Ballatine converted into an apartment for her married daughter and her family. It now serves as the Trustees Room.
The Newark Museum at 49 Washington Street in Newark, NJ. The Ballantine House is to the right.
That was a very nice afternoon of nice conversation with other guests, wonderful food (the sandwiches and pastries were plentiful on the table) and an interesting talk on the history of the Ballantine Mansion and the family. After the tea was over, we were lead on a special out of the mansion which was decorated for the Christmas holidays circa 1890. It must have been a pleasant affair for the family as the day started with church services and then a Christmas luncheon.
After the talk, it was back to the house again and changing clothes and selling Christmas trees from six to ten that evening. We only sold five trees that night and I was so happy that after 8:00pm we had no customers and I could just sit by the fire and relax. I was all ‘Christmased’ out that day. It was just nice to sit and smell the pine trees. I was happy when the day was over. Fun yes but I was tired from all the driving. That was just the first weekend.
Selling Christmas trees is part of the our fundraising for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. I have been doing this for twenty years.
Here’s me promoting the event:
The second week was just as busy. I ran two holidays parties at work. One group not many people attended so it was just the four of us. Still it was nice. The other group I had twenty people in wheelchairs who we ‘wined and dined’. Each one of us baked something, we arranged to have gifts for all the residents of the facility I work with and then I made a big batch of stuffed shells and made a dessert tray as a gift so that the residents had something from me to take back to their rooms. I have never seen a group of people light up and be their old selves. Living in a nursing facility is hard but I think we did bring ‘Santa’ back in their lives that afternoon.
We had another wonderful lunch at work with a full turkey dinner and a lot of well wishes and then the rains came for two days and did not let up. So we had to change the day of our Men’s Association Christmas party to the next night and I ended up having a nice time.
Setting up the Christmas trees
We all huddled around a fire and talked about the past year and the success of the Christmas tree sale. This will mean more scholarships in the future to our students and hopefully more future customers. People believe in what we are trying to achieve. The pot luck brings in everyone’s creativity and we had a nice meal.
The second weekend came and went as fast as the first. I gave my final exam in the morning to my class and for the most part everyone did well. I think we were all relieved when the class was over. They left as soon as they were done. I went off to sell Christmas trees in the afternoon and there was only thirty one trees when I left.
I went off to a historical Christmas event at the Bergen County Historical Society at 1202 Main Street in Riveredge, NJ. They had the whole complex decorated for a Colonial Christmas. It was enchanting with the candles in the windows and people in costume walking around the buildings. In the Campbell-Christi House they had set up a Colonial era pub so you could have dinner with a modern twist to pub food including Shepard’s Pie, Mac & Cheese, a dessert plate and fried doughnuts It was all served by people in costume.
The Van Steuben House, part of the Bergen County Historical Society
Then you were walked down to the Van Steuben House near the river for entertainment. Performer Linda Russell and her group sang traditional songs that would have been sang during the holidays.
Unlike the Victorian Christmas’s of a hundred years in the future, Christmas after the Revolutionary War was quite simple. Houses were decorated with holly, mistletoe and garland and there were church services in the morning with a lunch afterwards. Things like presents and Santa would not come until after the Civil War.
One of Linda Russell’s most popular songs
Performer Linda Russell performed traditional Christmas songs that were sung of that era in the main room of the Van Steuben House where General George Washington had stayed during his time in the Bergen County during the Revolutionary War. She lead a lecture and in song how people enjoyed themselves on those cold nights. It was a nice insight on the early holidays.
The next morning was a long trip up to the Hudson River Valley to visit some of the decorated mansions of the area. My first stop was Germantown to visit Clermont, the homestead of the Livingston family at County Route 6 (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com below). The house was beautifully decorated with garland and trees and was being set up that evening for the house’s ‘Candlelight Tour’, where actors in costume performed as guests. I came up before the event on one of the middle tours and got a personal tour of the house.
The house sits frozen in time when it was donated to the State of New York with period furnishings and family heirlooms decorating the rooms and walls of the home. It was decorated with rows of garland, holly and mistletoe like most homes of the era and lavish Christmas trees in certain rooms. The formal dining room table was set of the holiday dinner.
The formal dining room at Clermont
The tour including the history of the Livingston family in the area and in the country and the influence that the house had during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Then there was a discussion of the people that lived here and their stories. It is an interesting tour.
My next stop before the afternoon was over was a tour of Wilderstein at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck, the home of the Suckley family, who were relations of the Roosevelts and Livingston’s. I had visited the beautiful decorated mansion many times in the past and on a glorious sunny day, the view of the Hudson River from this spot is spectacular.
Only the first floor of the mansion is open for tours and was elegantly decorated for the holidays. Ms. Suckley lived into her 90’s and dwelled only on the first floor in the end so the house is pretty much intact from the Victorian era. She kept the house immaculate and restorations continued. You could tour the living room, dining room, front palour, entrance hall and library which were decorated in holly, garland and Christmas trees with gifts in two of the rooms. Like the other mansions it was decorated for formal dinner.
The elegant dining room at Wilderstein
By the time I got home that evening, we had sold out of Christmas tree for the Men’s Association and we closed the stand down for the season.
As classes geared down to their last day and work was pretty much over for the semester at the college, I concentrated on MywalkinManhattan blog and visiting as many cultural and historical sites that I could to update my VisitingaMuseum site. There are a lot of places to visit and things to see during the holidays in the New York City area and I wanted to share this with readers all over the world.
I revisited some sites in New York the day of the Holy Apostles Holiday Party that I went to for the work in the soup kitchen that I try to do once a week. During the day, I went back to Central Park South to finish walking part of the neighborhood and then walked across Manhattan to visit the Mount Vernon Hotel & Museum at 421 East 61st Street.
The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum at 421 East 61st Street in Manhattan
The museum was once a day hotel during the early 1800’s which means that you just went there for the afternoon and early evening for activities and lunch which was considered dinner back then. The house was open for tours to see it decorated for the Colonial holidays.
The main rooms has holly and garland all over the banisters as they were preparing for the Christmas holidays and the main dining room was set for a holiday luncheon. Foods that the visitors might have eaten at the noon time meal including turkey, oysters, fresh fruits and vegetables and apple and pumpkin pies. They did a nice job interpreting the meal.
Meal at noontime at the Mount Vernon Hotel
Later that afternoon I stopped by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree that they set up every year. I have been it hundreds of times over the years but I never like to miss it.
The Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
I also visited the Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History for about ten minutes before the crowds at the museum forced me out. It was packed during the holiday break.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
That evening we had the Holy Apostles Holiday party at the Church of the Holy Apostles and it was a very nice evening. We had a complete Italian dinner with salads and desserts and the music provided by the Avenue’s (a local private school) Jazz Band. These kids are wonderful and can really play. It was a nice evening and a good way to end a very busy year in the Soup Kitchen. It just keeps getting busier with the needs changing.
On Friday night before Christmas, I was finishing my walk of the Central Park South neighborhood businesses and the evening treated myself to a Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall which was appropriate since I spent so much time in the neighborhood. It is such a beautiful building inside and out.
I love Carnegie Hall at Christmas
I went to the show “A Frank and Ella Christmas” with performers Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins who performed the tunes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I love to see Carnegie Hall when it is lit for the holidays and decorated on stage. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit. Essential Voices USA were the back up vocals that evening and it was a wonderful concert. They sang all the classic songs with Santa leading a sing-a-long at the end of the concert.
Here is Tony DeSare singing “I’ll be home for Christmas” as he did in the concert
They sang all the traditional songs such as “It’s the most wonderful time of the Year” and “Jingle Bells” and this beautiful version of “I’ll be home for Christmas”. The sing a long ended the concert with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Here comes Santa Claus” and ended with “Jingle Bells”. It really got the audience moving and everyone was humming as they left the theater. I walked across the street to see the building decorated with wreaths and garland and lit in full view. It is quite a site at the holidays. After that I headed home. The next morning was the last day of class.
I gave out my grades the next morning. Class had finally ended and it had been an interesting semester. I had a ball with my students. Who ever thought we would present a project at Paterson City Hall? I did not. Most of my students told me how they loved the experience. That made me feel good right before the holidays.
Sunday brought us “Santa Around Town” our annual romp around Hasbrouck Heights, NJ with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. It was such a beautiful and we really lucked out with the weather. It must have been 50 degrees when we started the event and a sunny afternoon.
“Santa Around Town” with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department December 22nd, 2019
We stopped at ten stops around town greeting families and their pets to an evening with Santa Claus. People get such a kick out of it. We have families that come every year and some plan their holiday parties around the event. I always find it excellent outreach to the community and like to watch the children’s faces when they take a picture with Santa. I also enjoy when people have their dogs take a picture with Santa. I get a kick out of that. It was a busy evening and we did not get back to the firehouse until 8:00pm.
See my write up on the Brothers of Engine One HHFD:
I had a lunch with a good friend at Sanducci’s Italian Restaurant (my review on TripAdvisor) the day before I left for my mother’s for Christmas and this has become our Christmas tradition. It was nice to catch up with her not realizing that it had been over a year since we saw one another. It is strange how fast it all goes.
I spent Christmas Eve morning visiting the cemeteries starting with my aunt and cousin in one place, then one set of grandparents in another and then visiting my second set of grandparents, my uncle and then my father, which is always the toughest at the last cemetery. I am not sure what people feel about paying your respects at the holidays but I feel it is very important. I do believe it keeps them alive at the holidays.
The it was off to my mother’s for Christmas. It is the one time of the year all three of us get together with my mother. Since my father’s passing, my brothers and I have tried to spend the holidays together. Since we are coming from all over the country it can be hard but well worth it. We have such a good time at my mom’s.
My brothers and I on Christmas Day
We get together as a family on Christmas Eve night for dinner at a Chinese restaurant which is a lot of fun. The owners know my mother really well so we get treated very well and they always treat us to a special dish or appetizer which I think is good business. I go the restaurant pretty much every trip I make to my mom’s because she loves going there so much. When we got home, we just talked most of the night and caught up with what was going on in our lives.
Christmas Day was very nice. We got up late and had breakfast and then exchanged smaller gifts (most of my gifts were emailed off ahead of time) while the fire was going and we played Christmas songs. My brother’s dog got in on the action and she just played along with a toy my older brother bought her.
My mother, the amazing cook that she is made a delicious tenderloin, homemade lasagna, salad and garlic bread. It’s great to have a mother who can cook. We sat around the table with my family and friend’s of my mom reminiscing about Christmas’s past. It was a nice evening and a nice way to spend Christmas Day.
Before I left my mom’s to head home to attend the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium to root on Michigan State University, my mother, brother and I went to lunch at a local restaurant in Downtown Lewes called the Striper Bites (see review on TripAdvisor) that she had wanted to try and I had wanted to review. The food is wonderful yet I am the only one who can go to a seafood restaurant and crave a hamburger which was delicious.
We also visited the store, Fairy Godmother at 103 Second Street in Lewes that I featured on my blog, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com. This adorable children’s store should not be missed. It has the most original merchandise for infants and toddlers.
Fairy Godmother is at 103 Second Street in Lewes
I was looking forward to the Pinstripe Bowl since they announced it a few weeks earlier that my Alma Mater, Michigan State University, was going to play at Yankee Stadium. It was warm but rather gloomy day that the game was played. I had gotten to the stadium early for the Alumni Tailgate up in one of the suites. It was really nice as the cheerleaders and band came up to spread the cheer and we also got to meet the new President of the MSU, President Samuel Stanley.
The New Era Pinstripe Bowl is at Yankee Stadium every year. It was Michigan State University versus Wake Forest University
It was a nice afternoon with all sorts of stadium foods to choose from like hot dogs, hamburger sliders, mac & cheese, French fries and a barely touched salad. They served assorted cookies and brownies for dessert so I was not hungry for the rest of the day.
Here comes MSU: Go GREEN/GO WHITE
Then all of us got to our seats and it was let the game begin. I have to say it was a nail-biter all the way to the end as it was not a high scoring game. We had some great plays one of the best one being one of our players, Mike Panasuik, knocked the ball from Wake Forest and ran in for a touchdown. It happened so fast the other team did not have time to react. That was the turning point of the game.
Mike Panasuik getting the interception that changed the game
It was a very rough ending to the game as no one scored in the last quarter and we won the game 27-21. I could see by the other Alumni we were glad the game was finally over. It was a spirited ending though with the presentation of the trophy and our Quarterback Brian Lewerke getting MVP of the game and setting a school record. It was nice way to end his time at Michigan State and a nice win for the college.
Winning the Pinstripe Bowl
Highlights from the Pinstripe Bowl 2019
The remainder of the week before the New Year it was like one long road trip visiting decorated mansions for my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’. I have never put so many miles on my car before and made so many trips up to the Hudson River Valley (I am beginning to think that I need a weekend home up there) I feel like it is my second home.
Because of the extensive list of homes I visited, you can see their history’s and write ups on my blog VisitingaMuseum.com:
These are the mansions I visited during the week between Christmas and New Year’s:
The only time that you can visit The Skylands Manor at 5 Morris Road in Ringwood, NJ is the first week in December when they decorate the house for Christmas. During the rest of the year, it is used for catering and an inn.
The Skylands Manor in Ringwood, NJ has a beautiful location
The Skylands Manor is decorated by various Garden Clubs and individual organizations. Because of a snow storm that hit the week before the mansion did not seem as decorated as it had in previous years. Still the entrance way and main hallway were very originally decorated.
The garden clubs do such a good job decorating the house. Each use their members own ideas and the amazing part is that they have one week to get it all up and two days to take it down and get it out of the house before it is used again.
The next weekend I travel led to Ringwood Manor at 1304 Sloatsburg Road in Ringwood, NJ right around the corner from the Skylands Manor. This lavish display is done by the Friends of Ringwood Manor who also run the cafe and the barn where artwork and gifts are sold. The home of the Hewitt family is in the process of being restored and are raising funds for a new roof.
The Sun Room decorated at Ringwood Manor in Ringwood, NJ
The lavish display at Ringwood Manor is not how the house would have looked but is a nice interpretation of many ideas that can be coordinated into anyone’s home. I don’t think people would have decorated every room like this but the Friends do such a great job and have such original ideas I never like to miss this house at the holidays.
When returning from Ringwood, NJ from visiting the mansions and in the summer the Botanical Gardens, make a pit stop at Auntie El’s Farm at 171 Route 17 South in Sloatsburg, NY to eat. They have the best baked goods, pies and jellies.
During the holidays I like to go up just for their cider doughnuts, which are still warm when you buy them ($1.00) or their cake truffles ($3.00) which are rich and decadent. Their Caramel Apple Pie ($12.00) was a little rich for me but still delicious. I feature them prominently on my site LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com.
Auntie El’s Farm Market is such a great experience at Christmas
The baked goods and those delicious doughnuts make the trip up to Ringwood, NJ very special
The Hermitage at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, NJ is one of the most famous mansions in Bergen County being the home of Theodosa Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr. The house was the headquarters for General George Washington at Mrs. Prevost request who she herself was afraid of losing her home.
The house was decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays a big difference from the year before when its them was a ‘Depression Christmas’. The house was nicely but sparsely decorated that year reflecting the times. Here it was all garland on the banisters and archways and set for a formal Christmas dinner.
Here is some the era’s clothing for the event
I followed the map of Hudson River decorated homes for the holidays and went one by one until Christmas Eve. My first trip including Boscobel at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison, NY , a mansion in Cold Springs, NY.
The house was beautifully decorated for the holidays and has the most interesting gardens.
The next home I visited was Mount Gulian in Beacon, NY at 145 Sterling Street. This historic home was used as headquarters for the Revolutionary War and the where the Society of Cincinnati was formed as a Veterans group. The original house burned to the ground in 1931 and this is a recreation.
They were just taking the decorations down at Mount Gulian but this home was a major point of refuge during the Revolutionary War.
On my next trip up to the Hudson River Valley, I visited some of the NY State Park sites starting with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home Springwood at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park, NY. The house is going to start a major renovation which our tour guide said it needed and will close April of 2020. As we were touring, they were removing books in the library and the only part of the house that was decorated for the holidays was a Christmas tree in the library.
The library at Springwood was the only part of the house that was decorated at that point. It looked really elegant in the wood paneled room but the room is slowly being taken apart. The house will close in April 2020 and reopen about a year and a half later so see it now before the closing.
The Vanderbilt Mansion and Estate at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park the next estate over was also starting to close for the holidays. I got there on the first tour of the day so I got to see it before most of the rooms were taken apart.
The home of Fredrick and Louise Vanderbilt was decorated to the hilt for the holidays considering when Louise was alive they closed the house up and moved to New York City for the Social Season.
The entrance foyer of the mansion was beautifully decorated for the holidays and there was flowers and garland all over the house.
The Mills Mansion (Staatsburg State Historic Site) at 75 Mills Mansion Drive in Staatsburg, NY was decorated to the hilt for the holidays. I usually attend the fundraising cocktail party here right before the holidays but the weather was so bad that night, I did not venture the trip so I came right after the holidays.
The Mills Mansion is always decorated to the hilt by the Friends of Mills Mansion and each room in the house has its own character. Like most of the homes in the area, Ruth and Ogden Mills did not stay here too many times for the holidays.
The formal Dining Room at the Mills Mansion is elaborate.
The home of Samuel Morse ‘Locust Grove’ at 2683 South Road (Route 9) in Poughkeepsie, NY was down the road from some of the more popular mansions. The home of Artist Samuel Morse and creator of the Morse Code and Cable lines owned this beautiful home as his ‘summer cottage’.
The Locust Grove estate is at the start of the big commercial district of Route 9 South so please watch for the turn off as it is sharp and you may miss it.
Locust Grove was another home that was not used during the holidays by the family but more as the summer family retreat until Samuel Morse died and then it was sold to another family who lived locally. Still the mansion is beautifully decorated.
The last of the mansion’s I visited before the New Year was the Van Cortlandt House & Museum at Broadway and 246th Street in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This beautiful home was the seat of the Van Cortlandt estate before the family sale in the late 1880’s. The family had several homes at this point in the New York area.
The Van Cortlandt family had this home since before the Revolutionary War and the estate had been in the family for about five generations. The house was decorated for the post -Revolutionary War era Christmas with garlands, mistletoe, holly and berries all over the house. You can take the tour on your own.
The palour at the Van Cortlandt House was decorated with garlands and berries and the outside of the home was covered with wreathes.
I walked down Broadway and visited the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum at 4881 Broadway at 204th Street to see how the house was decorated for a Dutch Christmas. It was plainly decorated with some garland here and there. Like the tour guide said to me that this was a working farm before the Revolutionary War and things would have been plainer here.
Even though a traditional Dutch Christmas was not a big part of the home, it was interesting to see the everyday life of the traditional Dutch farmer in that era
My last stop that afternoon was to take a tour of the Cloisters Museum which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring their Medieval Collection located in Fort Tyron Park overlooking the Hudson River. The museum was decorated for Christmas during the Renaissance and they were conducting a tour on “Holly and Hawthorne: Decorating during the holidays” on how people of that era embraced the coming of Winter by sprucing the house up with pines and flowers that bloomed in the Winter months. I thought it was an original theme and played into how the museum was decorated for the Christmas holidays.
The Cloisters Museum looked so elegant at Christmas
My last stop before my trip downtown was at Bodega Pizza at 4455 Broadway to have a pizza at a restaurant I have wanted to try since the summer. I had passed it many times on my walk down Broadway but it was always closed.
Bodega Pizza in Washington Heights
The pizza was excellent and so well cooked and the service could not have been nicer or more welcoming. The only problem was that they pulled a stunt with the bill and charged me an extra dollar for the pizza which I did not find out until I left the restaurant. The food and service are wonderful but double check the bill before you leave.
It was a different story when traveling to the mansions. Running all over the Hudson River Valley can make anyone hungry and I stopped at a few restaurants that I had either passed or had been on ‘my bucket list’ to try. On my first trip up to see the homes higher up the river, I stopped at Jade Palace Chinese Restaurant in Wappinger Falls, NY on Route 9 for dinner. The Cantonese food is excellent and the place was not that busy. The Roast Pork Lo Mein was excellent and so were the egg rolls.
Jade Palace in Wappinger’s Falls, NY
Another restaurant I visited was the Pete’s Famous in Rhinebeck, NY at 34 Main Street in Downtown Rhinebeck, NY. This local diner is my ‘go-to’ place when I visit. I love their stick to your ribs type of cooking. On a cold night I treated myself to a Hot Turkey platter with mashed potatoes and broccoli. That hit the spot for dinner. Their Chicken Rice Soup really warmed me up as well.
Pete’s Famous in Downtown Rhinebeck
When visiting the mansions closer to Beacon, NY, take time to travel up Route 9D and drive through the small towns that parallel Route 9. It has much more character and you will miss Wappinger’s Falls, a small quaint town out of a Currier & Ives print that is rapidly gentrifying like the rest of the small Hudson River towns.
Downtown Wappinger’s Falls along Route 9D has a lot of character
Right near the river, I was recommended Wagon Wheel Pizza at 2654 East Main Street by one of the merchants. I am glad that i waited until 4:00pm when they opened. The pizza was wonderful and the owner could not have been more engaging.
Wagon Wheel for pizza is delicious
This traditional family business harks back to the 1970’s pizzeria’s that I remember going to as a kid and the pizza is excellent. The sauce has such great flavor and there is nothing like a fresh pie when it comes out of the oven. The owner could not have been nicer and it is a nice spot to talk to the locals.
I was so exhausted from all the running back and forth to the Hudson River Valley and running in and out of the Manhattan that I needed to relax on New Year’s Eve. When I returned from my three mansion tour and lunch, I was warn out. I spent the coming on the new decade asleep and the only reason why I awoke at Midnight to greet in the next decade was because my neighbors were shooting off fireworks. Otherwise I would have slept right through it.
The Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2019
What was special was they left the Annual Tree at Rockefeller Center up until January 8th so it was nice to see it lit without all the tourists milling around it. It was the perfect to visit Rockefeller Center. What a beautiful tree this year!
The Pointer Sisters sang it best. There is nothing like Christmas in New York!
What a fun song!
Places to Eat:
(I did not include the prices as they keep changing and the hours which can change during the times of the year. I made all the connections to each’s website).
Because of the extensive amount of Historical Sites and Decorated Mansions that I visited during the Holidays Season, please check out my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ on WordPress.com for more information on the Decorated Mansions and Museums:
I can’t believe that Halloween is over again! It comes and goes so quickly and I can already see the traces of Christmas on its way. There are times that I can’t believe that July and August go by so fast and then there are the holidays.
Halloween, as you can see by the last few years of this blog, have become more than just handing out Halloween treats to kids at my house. In fact, even when I have been home I rarely see trick or treaters, the most being 14 kids about ten years ago. Kids today at least in my part of the neighborhood have little interest in doing this anymore.
Halloween started for me on the first weekend of October with the ‘Pumpkin Blaze’ at the Van Cortlandt Manor (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Last year I saw the Blaze on the last weekend it was open on the first weekend of November and the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and I said never again. I wanted to see it when it was warm out and I could take my time to really see the displays.
So I asked my Aunt Deloris to attend with me as a delayed birthday present to her and on October 7th we headed up to Croton-on-the-Hudson to see the Annual Pumpkin Blaze. It was unusually warm that night at 62 degrees but there was the threat of rain later that evening. Still for the entire time we were at the Van Cortlandt Manor, it was mild and pleasant. Since we attended on a Monday night long before Halloween, the crowds were not as large.
It was a spectacular display this year with many new displays to ohh and ahh at while walking the paths around the manor. To let you all know, the Pumpkin Blaze is a volunteer event and major fundraiser for the Hudson Valley Historical Society. Thousands of hand-carved pumpkins are illuminated all over the grounds of the estate and the light makes it quite intriguing.
The pumpkin carving starts in late August and early September
As you enter the path into the estate, they are lined completely with lit pumpkins. That lead to the Circus train display and the Tappan Scream Bridge, both made from a combination of real and plastic pumpkins, The train had gotten longer and more detailed over the years with detailed ghostly animals arriving at their destination.
The spooky Circus train
Another display that was amazing was the Museum of Modern Art display that had with copies of famous works in pumpkins. It was in honor of the renovation and extension of the museum.
The Andy Warhol Soup Can
The Headless Horseman Scream
As we exited the ghostly museum, you pass the musical carousel and the Albany Post Road that was lined pumpkins. There were pumpkin jack in the boxes, pumpkin dinosaurs and pumpkin mummies. The displays were bigger, more detailed and more elaborate then years past.
The pumpkin carousel
The paths leading to the Van Cortlandt Manor were lined with a pumpkin cemetery and then the dinosaur displays. This lead to the light show at the Van Cortlandt Manor that was lined with pumpkins and a light show that illuminated the house. The house was surrounded by pumpkins of all faces and expressions along the path around the house. This lead to another cemetery that had the Van Cortlandt family names as you exited the property.
Van Cortland Manor at Croton-on-the-Hudson
As we exited the property it lead to a series of tents that carried all sorts of gifts and Halloween items, two different food concessions with hot dogs, cider, homemade doughnuts and popcorn. It was very active after everyone had walked the show.
Then my aunt and I came across this giant pumpkin that was craved out of wood that everyone was taking pictures at and we pose for our own Halloween portrait. That was a lot of fun dodging the other families to take the shot.
My Aunt Deloris and I at the end of the Annual Pumpkin Blaze
Just as we were leaving the site and heading to the car, the heavens opened up and it started to rain. We just made it to the car as it started to pour. As we headed back to New Jersey and crossed over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the rain started to let up to a light dizzle. When we reached Paramus, it was just a light mist.
We stopped for dinner at the Suburban Diner at 172 Route 17 North in Paramus, NJ ( see review on TripAdvisor) for a snack. The snack ended up being a large Turkey Club Sandwich with a side of fries, cole slaw and a pickle. This thing was huge! My aunt ordered a BLT that was just as large and for two people who just wanted a ‘snack’ we devoured everything. I guess it was all that walking.
I continued my Halloween activities to where it all took place, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY, where the months of September, October and early November are very busy. Historic Hudson Valley has lots of events this time of the year, one of them being the Pumpkin Blaze.
Another event I attended was the “Home of the ‘Legend'”, a tour of Washington Irving’s home, ‘Sunnyside’, which is located at 3 West Sunnyside Lane in Irvington, NY (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited the house years ago but they now had a Halloween tour of the house.
‘Sunnyside’ was the home of Washington Irving from 1835 until his death in the house in 1859. The house was originally a small two room stone house had been built around 1690 for a tenant farmer and had once been part of the Philipse Manor estate grounds. When Washington Irving bought the house in 1835, eyeing the home when visiting his son Oscar who lived in the area.
Washington Irving’s Sunnyside at 3 West Sunnyside Lane
With his friend, George Harvey, a painter, they created the home in the Romantic style with almost a fairy tale appearance. The ‘storybook’ home is covered in wisteria and has the most beautiful views of the widest area of the Hudson River. The author wrote some of his most famous stories from this house. He lived here with his brother, Ebenezer and his five daughters after his business failed so the house was a busy one.
Washington Irving’s study
The house was sold to John D. Rockefeller for the State by Washington Irving’s great grandson, Louis Irving in 1945 preservation. The house tour is really interesting as the old Victorian wing was torn down to preserve it to the time of Washington Irving so it has the original kitchen, ice house and barn. These ten acres were a working estate.
I got to see Washington Irving’s study and bedroom with the original furnishings which I thought was interesting. It does have a small kitchen for all those people and the bedrooms the rest of the family had were almost the size of today’s contemporary homes. So it must have been tight for the family.
When you exit the kitchen from the back to end the house tour, you head to the back lawn where the ice house is located, the gardens and the barn. There are ten acres to roam around with ponds and streams and again that amazing view of the Hudson River. This tour should not be missed when it opens back up in the Spring.
The last event I went to in Tarrytown was ‘The Unsilent Picture, which took place at the Tarrytown auditorium. The program was a movie based on a story line mystery that takes place one evening and the local actors play out the characters to scare a family member. I was so tired from the cold and it was so boring that I think I fell asleep for five minutes and missed a section of it. I just didn’t get the interest in the whole thing. I would bypass this in the future.
The Unsilent Movie
Here is the trailer for the movie:
One Halloween event you should look into is the Victorian Halloween Tea lecture at the Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY. These lecture teas are very interesting and the food is wonderful.
The Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive
I have been a Friend of the Mills Mansion now for about four years finding that I was going to a lot of their events it just made it easier to join and get priority on their special events which are enjoyable. This event was a tea and lecture of how the Victorians recreated Halloween from a dark more countryside evening wrapped in mystery to an engaging urban event with costumes, specialty foods and traditional events like apple bobbing that guests then made their own. Local Historian Carol Kohan discussed how the event went from a dark rural event to fun and engaging holiday.
The Victorian’s made everything elaborate and overdone and the Halloween celebrations were ‘taken up a notch’ with elaborate costumes, parties, bonfires and desserts and candies that were to be served. There were special invitations and cards that were to sent and rules of etiquette.
Following the Civil War and at a time when disease was not understood the way it is now, there was an interest in spiritualism and seances were in vague as people want to reach out to their loved ones. So having a medium at a party was part of the activity. The Victorians knew how to transform a holiday.
During the discussion, we enjoyed an afternoon tea of the specialty Staatsburg Tea blend, a variety of finger sandwiches, pumpkin and cranberry scones and many types of pastries including mini pumpkin cheesecakes, tiny devil’s food cupcakes and assorted sweet cookies. The caterer always does a nice job with the food and service here.
The food at these function are excellent and plentiful
After the tea and lecture, we took a detailed tour of the Mill’s Mansion which I had taken many times but this was with another tour guide and he gave us another perspective to the house. He mentioned stories of the Mills family that I had not heard before and we also got to see how the renovations of the house were going. It looks like the dining room and entrance hall will be finished in time for the holiday party.
All of these activities lead to the big event in my Halloween every year, the NY Greenwich Village Halloween Parade which I have been marshaling now for five years. Participating in the event this year, I got an invitation to go to Rokeby, the estate of the Aldrich/Livingston family to see the puppet rehearsals. This year’s theme to the parade was “Wild Things” and the puppets and costumes were to reflect this.
Because I had the above Afternoon tea at the Mill’s Mansion the next day, I stayed at an Airbnb for the night and that was interesting. I had a feeling that the host really did not want to meet me as she scrambled out the door that night. The room was in a small private home near downtown Kingston and the nice part was that I could enjoy all the restaurants, museums and historical sites (See VisitingaMuseum.com for the sites I visited) and go back to the room to sleep.
After I checked into the Airbnb, it was off to The Rokeby Estate which is a 400 acre property in Red Hook, NY. Most of the artists for the Halloween Parade and the Sinterklass Parade in December (see my blogs on this as well) live on the Rokeby Estate in the homes that surround the old mansion.
The Rokeby Estate in Red Hook, NY
By the time I got up there, it was just starting to get dark and trust me, the roads are not paved going up to the house and it gets dark up there. I parked by the barn where all the magic happens and they create and assemble all the puppets. This was interesting because I got to see all the designs and all the construction areas of the barn.
The rehearsal went by well and they even created music for the puppets to dance to when performing. Then the participants holding the puppets lead everyone to the Rokeby Mansion and we all assembled on the porch which was lit with Christmas lights and watched the performance from there.
The Wild Things at the Puppet Rehearsals at Rokeby
The Max’s of the Wild Things
Watching from the porch of Rokeby was a lot of fun and what a place to view everything. Before it got dark, I got to talk to Tracey and Wilt Aldrich and introduce myself (we are like 12th cousins by marriage) and we got to chat before the performance. I got to see the sun set over the Hudson River from there and it was spectacular. The colors over the mountains was amazing and you can understand why people moved up here.
After rehearsals, it was off to Rhinebeck for dinner at Pete’s Famous, a diner concept downtown that I highly recommend. I had a much needed Hot Turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes ($10.95) and a Coke (see review on TripAdvisor). The main meal was loaded with that thick turkey gravy that diners are known for when serving this dish. The meal started with a Chicken and Rice soup that really warmed me up. It was nice to warm up in the restaurant and chat with the waitstaff.
Pete’s Famous at 34 East Main Street in Rhinebeck, NY has wonderful food
After dinner, I just walked around downtown Rhinebeck, NY knowing that Sinterklass was only four and a half weeks later. I could see that the Christmas lights were being put on the trees already. Then it was off to bed and back to the Mills Mansion for the tea. The parade would be four days later.
Halloween Night was really unusual again this year. The weather was threatening rain all day and it was weirdly warm being 71 degrees and humid that night. Somehow we never saw the rain that night and as it got dark didn’t even notice the clouds.
I got the parade early this year arriving at 3:00pm to meet with the Head Marshal at the gate (and my distant cousin by marriage), Marc Schuyler. I had lucked out and had been invited to the Marshaling meeting the week before which made me better prepared for the parade. By the time I got there, most of the marshals had arrived and I got to work with the locations of people and where everyone was supposed to go.
My ‘cousin’ Marc Schuyler and myself at the parade entrance
With the exception with one pain who lived near by and snuck into the parade route, we did not have one problem this year and getting people into the parade was easy. We had no hassles this year and because it was not raining as expected, the parade route got really busy. People came out for the parade in droves and the costumes were more creative than in previous years.
We got all the bands in, all the ‘Thriller” dancers checked in and all the float people into the park on time and kept the tourists out. By the time we closed the gate at 8:00pm, there was no one left and the parade was in progress. By the time I got to Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, most of the parade was uptown.
I got to see about four floats go up Sixth Avenue and one band before the rest of the parade was people in costume. There was everything from Superheros to cheerleaders in that parade. People dressed as horses, birds and trees. Lots of Jason’s and Freddie Kruger’s and spirits of death. People were dressed like little kids and cartoon characters the list goes on.
There was a small get together after the parade but that was not until 10:00pm so it gave me about an hour to walk around the Village and watch people in action. I swear I walked all over the Village and Soho and every street and restaurant was mobbed! Because it was so warm outside all the outdoor cafes were open. All the outside tables were taken and it seemed that every restaurant was packed with people with more waiting. Even the McDonald’s and littlest pizzerias were busy. With no rain and warm weather, people were in the mood to be outside one last time.
A group of us had light dinner that night at Da Umberto on 107 West 17th Street in the Village and the food and service were wonderful. They had a nice buffet set up for us and we had a choice of a Risotto Bolognese, Penne with a Pesto Cream sauce, Rigatoni with Vodka sauce, or Eggplant Parmesan as the main dish, a wonderful salad with house dressing and a Tiramisu for dessert. The food and the service was excellent and we had a nice evening just sitting around and talking about the parade.
Da Umberto is an excellent restaurant! Make sure to try the pastas
When I left the party around 11:30pm, it was still going strong as was the street party after the parade. People were still eating outside, house parties could be seen from the windows and people were still parading around in their costumes.
When I got home just past Midnight, I felt the first drops of the storm and when I got inside around 12:15am, the heaven’s opened up and did it rain! It pounded the roof. God had really spared us all of that. It was the last night that I slept with the air conditioner on and the heat off because when I woke up it must have dropped 25 degrees and the heat went right back on.
Another Halloween over and here come the Winter and Christmas!
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.