Old revels of Nieuw Amsterdam
by Cheryl A. Rice
November 27, 2008 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Old revels of Nieuw Amsterdam

Rhinebeck is a cornucopia of Dutch holiday treats this week, featuring Sinterklaas and a glittering Starlight Parade

Sinterklaas is coming to Rhinebeck! From December 1 through 3, Sinterklaas atop a white steed, Grumpuses at the ready, will pass through the streets of Rhinebeck (check for information on the streets involved, and when), bearing surprises for the kiddies. It's the first time in ten years that Sinterklaas has visited, and the whole village is celebrating. Contests, crafts and singing will all culminate in a Children's Starlight Parade and Pageant, and we have Jeanne Fleming to thank for it all.

"Basically, 20 years ago, I was asked by the Town of Rhinebeck to create an event," she said. The legendary Rhinebeck Arts & Crafts Fair had just moved to West Springfield, Massachusetts, and Rhinebeck was hoping for something to equal its popularity. Fleming said that after the first meeting with other interested citizens, it was decided that the event should be child-centered. After some research, she found "this wonderful, wonderful event that has happened in Holland for a long time. The spirit of Sinterklaas is the spirit of the early Dutch who settled the Hudson Valley. It brought communities together around the children, and it had nothing to do with commercialism."

The Grumpuses are, according to the story on the website, the "wild sidekicks who carry out Sinterklaas' judgment on the children - either switches for the bad or candies for the good. But our Grumpuses are people you know in the community who are candymen, there for joyous revels and to delight the children. The Grumpus is also the Bel Snickle in German culture. You can see an exhibit of a few of them courtesy of Abby Clark in the window of the Rhinebeck Department Store."

Many shops and restaurants around Rhinebeck will be participating in one way or another. A Teddy Bear Beauty Contest will be held at 11 a.m. the day of the parade, December 6, and a $25 Grand Prize will be awarded for the Most Charming Bear, as well as a featured appearance onstage at the pageant that evening. For inspiration, contest organizer Sarah Channels has placed bears in the windows of shops around town. For more information, contact Channels at (845) 876-3865. The Beekman Arms, on Route 9, will have on display both a giant cookie tree designed by Jessica Bard and an illuminated book by Nadine Robbins, Grace Gunning and Molly Ahern.

At 45 West Market Street (formerly Bing's Restaurant), workshops will be held up through the day of the parade in order to construct the giant puppets that are the highlight of the event. All ages are welcome for the workshops, but volunteers are still needed - either older teens or adults - to carry and animate the puppets in the parade itself. Donations of "sparkly, glittery materials" for the puppets, costumes and other decorations are needed. "It's great fun," said Fleming. Workshops are scheduled for Wednesdays through Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, contact Fleming at (845) 758-5519.

December 6 will be the day of both the Starlight Parade and a gaggle of other events across town and beyond. At the Beekman Arms, storyteller Jonathan Kruk will entertain listeners with the story of St. Nicholas and Dutch New York at 11:30 a.m. A St. Nicholas Day Craft Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Astor Home for Children at 6339 Mill Street. Handmade crafts, baked goods, seasonal and exotic plants will be for sale. The Astor Home for Children is a community-based non-profit facility that provides mental health and welfare services to children from the Hudson Valley and the Bronx. For more information, see, or call Stephanie Habich at (845) 871-1171.

From noon to 5 p.m. the same day, there'll be a Crown and Branches Workshop for children at the Dutch Reformed Church, across from the Beekman Arms. For a star to add to your crown or branch (purchases benefiting the Rhinebeck Elementary School fourth-grade whale watch project), see the Wish Lady there. Stars also allow children, donning their crowns, to participate in the parade. From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., the Vanaver Caravan and the Arm-of-the-Sea Puppet Theatre team up to offer Festival of Light: A Holiday Spectacular at the Church of the Messiah at 6436 Market Street (Route 9).

The Rhinebeck Town Hall has a full schedule of events for the day. A magic show by Andy Weintraub begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by belly dancer Serpentessa at 2 p.m. At 3 p.m. is the Tara Somerville Sugar Plum Fairy with Krista Nichols, and at 3:30 p.m. is a performance of the popular medieval sketch St. George and the Dragon. Local dance company Solas An Lae presents A Little Nutcracker at 4 p.m., and the Rhinebeck Girl Scouts will offer The Dance of the Wooden Shoes at 4:30 p.m.

Participants will assemble for the Children's Starlight Parade at 5:30 p.m. on West Market Street at 5:30 p.m. Just prior to that, the lighting of the Town Tree will take place in the Rhinebeck Savings Bank Plaza at 5:15, along with the arrival of Sinterklaas to lead the parade. The parade will proceed east on Market Street, ending at the Grandstand in the municipal parking lot on East Market Street. Entertainment there will follow the parade. A Living Nativity begins at 8 p.m. at the Dutch Reformed Church. Cookies and cocoa will be served. There will also be dancing for adults at the Rhinecliff Hotel starting at 9 p.m. with music provided by the On the Lam band.

Around the Rhinebeck area, other holiday-related events are scheduled for the same weekend. The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck will be unveiling an original adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol from December 5 through December 21. Call (845) 876-3080 or see the website for details. The Wilderstein Mansion, at 330 Morton Road, just off Route 9, will be adorned for the holidays by well-known Hudson Valley and New York City artists and designers. A Yuletide High Tea will be served on December 6 featuring traditional holiday cakes and open-faced tea sandwiches. The Yuletide High Tea costs $25 per person, and includes a tour of the mansion. A $10 fee covers a Tea and tour for children. Reservations are needed. Just the tour itself is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, with children under 12 admitted free. Call (845) 876-4818, or see for more information.

The Mills' old summer place - the mansion now known as Staatsburgh - will be decorated for Christmas as usual, featuring a 29-foot tree. On Sundays in December kids can play the Holiday Whodunit, where costumed interpreters posing as maids, guests and others offer young visitors clues to solve the assigned case. And on Sunday, December 7, the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society will present a concert at the Church of the Messiah featuring the Vincia String Quartet. Tickets are $25 general admission, $5 for students and free for kids under 13. See the website for details.

Event organizer Jeanne Fleming took a few years off to marry, raise a family and care for her son, Jordan Matthews. Matthews is well again and 18, so Fleming is back, as she promised, and is as committed to the Sinterklaas celebration as ever. "It has that spiritual underpinning and at the same time, it's a lot of fun." See for information on other Dutchess County events.

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