Downtown Schenectady hosts annual open house
SCHENECTADY There’s only one thing that tops a run-in with Old Saint Nick each holiday season, at least according to 5-year-old Elijah Maxam. And that thing has hooves, a thick mane of hair and a swishing tail.
“Horses!” yelled Maxam in delight as he spotted the large animals pull up to City Hall on Saturday with a carriage in tow.
There were crafts, carolers and candy canes at Saturday’s 10th annual Holiday Open House, sponsored by the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corp., but the horses produced the most delight among children as they clip-clopped along city streets. Families and individuals lined up outside the tall steps of City Hall to wait their turn for a horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown.
At age 5, Maxam is a confident boy who doesn’t second-guess himself. Ask him what his favorite part of the Holiday Open House is and he will yell “Horses!” again with a roar so vehement you will wonder if the horses he speaks of have wings or light sabers.
But do they top Santa? He will respond again with a simple reply: “Horses!”
He’s just a kid excited for Christmas, explained his mom.
“This is our third year in a row here,” said Jamie Darrel, of Schenectady. “We go to every station and make our rounds. We’re going to do the horses now while it’s not a big line.”
The annual event features crafts, refreshments, musical performances and other activities throughout downtown Schenectady, primarily along the Jay Street Marketplace, North Broadway and State, Union and South Ferry streets.
On Saturday, families braved the cold and a few swirling snowflakes that never stuck to make a stop at each of the stations around downtown.
After a visit with Santa, plenty of crafts and a horse-drawn carriage ride, the Pikors were on their way to the library Saturday, where the Hampstead Stage Company put on a live performance of “A Christmas Carol” and kids could write and mail letters to Santa.
“We showed up at about 12 o’clock and it was first stop: Santa,” said Bonita Pikor, of Rotterdam. “We have our grandsons with us from Poughkeepsie for the weekend, so this was the ideal outing for us.”
The Pikors opened a bag full of crafts they had just completed inside City Hall. There were pinecone birdfeeders and Christmas trees made from birthday hats covered in garland.
While in City Hall, the grandkids — 5-year-old Xavier and 2-year-old Jaxon — got to meet and take a photo with Santa. John Pikor pulled the print product out from the inside of his coat. Pictured was the jolly bearded man and two kids looking at the floor with their hands in their mouths.
“They wouldn’t even talk to Santa,” Bonita Pikor said with a laugh. “They’re very shy. The older one is shy, and the younger one is a parrot of the older one.”
Outside City Hall throughout the afternoon was caroling by the Schenectady groups Octavo Singers and A Thousand Moms and dancing by Schenectady High School students. The Puppet People also put on a show.
The Holly Jolly Union College Trolley was also spotted rolling through downtown, done up in holiday decorations and lights and offering free rides to Proctors, lower Union Street and eventually the corner of Union Street and Washington Avenue for a Festival of Trees ceremony.
For some families, the free holiday events downtown are hard to pass up.
“I love it,” said Amanda Butler, 28, of Schenectady. “I really do. I bring them every year. We see Santa here. We also see the light displays in Washington Park in Albany and sometimes make it to the Polar Express in Saratoga.”
With her kids — Alaya Robinson, 6, and Ariyanna Caldeira, 4 — running up and down the halls of City Hall, excitedly shouting for her to “ Hurry, Mom. Look, it’s balloons!” Butler explained her greatest trick for getting through the holidays.
“We tend to wing it with holiday activities this time of year,” she said. “If we hear about something, we’ll go. I’m a single mom, so I have learned to go with the flow.”