Above: Santa pays a pre-Christmas visit to the annual Woodstock Holiday Open House in December 2010. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Shopping small and local for the holidays will get you a whole lot more than a warm fuzzy glow of political rectitude. It’ll get you truly one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones, as opposed to the 50,000-of-a-kind items being hawked at the mall or your local big box. It’ll get you feeling appreciated by the local business owner behind the register. And best of all, it’ll get you an outrageously good time spent prowling the decorated downtowns and beauteous bazaars of the Catskills region.
A great many churches, PTAs, animal welfare folks and assorted other good eggs will be hosting craft fairs, and a wise shopper will take heed. The level of craftiness around the entire region being what it is, your odds of finding the Perfect Something for that beloved but impossible-to-buy-for Someone are very good indeed.
There is much, much more happening on local Main Streets in December than any one article could hope to encompass. What follows is our humble attempt at a guide to some of the region's sparkliest holiday highlights.
The aptly named Craftskills festival will be happening this Saturday, December 1 in Bovina Center. Their promise, that you will discover beauty you never knew was in your own backyard among the artisanal wares, will undoubtedly prove true.
Also on December 1, the Hobart Community Center will be hosting its own Holiday Gift Fair, 10am to 4pm. While you're there, for the bookish souls on your giving roster, check out the shops at the Hobart Book Village, which just celebrated the opening of three new storefronts last weekend.
Can't get enough books? Check out the Margaretville Library's holiday book sale from 10am till 3pm, December 1.
On Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8, SUNY Delhi will host a two-day holiday bazaar featuring wares from dozens of local vendors. Stick around after the bazaar on Friday night for a special ten-course Italian Panarda dinner prepared by the college's national-award-winning culinary students at the on-campus Signatures Cafe; slots will fill up fast, so be sure to make reservations.
The Sidney Chamber kicks off its annual Holly Jolly fest on Friday, December 7. There will be a parade at 6:30pm, and Santa will be making time for free pix at Trackside Dining. The following Saturday, December 15, the Sidney folks have a clever idea that probably deserves to go viral: A children’s holiday party at the Sidney Library, 10am to 2pm, which allows parents to have a Kid Free Shopping Day downtown.
But before you think about kid-free shopping, take the little elves along on Saturday and Sunday, December 8 and 9, to Maple Shade Farm in Bovina for Christmas On The Farm. Their bash promises to include Santa, sleigh rides, animals and seasonal music, along with locally sourced crafts and gifts, ornaments and baked goods.
The town of Franklin has dubbed Saturday, December 8 "Christmas Stroll Day," and from noon to 5pm there will be a holiday market at the Franklin Fire House at the intersection of Main and Institute Streets. There will be handicrafts, soaps, candles, holiday wreaths, and baked goods and local food.
In Stamford, they’ll be celebrating the season with a Holiday Pop-up Farmers Market held at the Frank W. Cyr Center on Main Street on Thursday, December 20, from 3pm to 6:30pm.
Greene County loves to do the Victorian Stroll, a dance step with a lot of classic Christmas in it. This Saturday, December 1, you can venture into Catskill between noon and 5pm for the succinctly named “A Day in December,” a very kid-friendly happening wherein Santa and the Zucchini Brothers join the Victorian strollers, jugglers and such. There’s a cookie contest and fireworks, and sponsor Sawyer Motors will be giving away 50 bicycles.
Another Victorian Stroll will happen in Athens on the afternoon of Saturday, December 8. Cultural events will be ongoing throughout the village, with a highlight being the ice carving artistry on display at the bandstand by the river and at the Crossroads Brewery.
The ski towns of Hunter and Windham also sparkle up and get merry. Classic holiday films will be shown in Hunter from 2:30 to 4:30pm on Saturday, December 15, followed up by a Holiday Parade and a Christmas Light Parade.
Windham’s Winter Festival welcomes guests beginning at 10am on Monday, December 17 with a craft fair, choral carols and Santa’s arrival, after which he and Mrs. Claus will star in a children’s play.
Olde Tyme holiday-making will be going on all day on Saturday, December 1, at the annual Victorian Christmas Celebration up in Sharon Springs. It seems that a great many people show up dressed in period garb to check out the merchants’ specials and various festivities. To help you get into the spirit, they will sell you a Victorian hat to wear for donating $10 to feed the hungry.
Lawyersville will hold a holiday bazaar at the Lawyersville Church Hall on Saturday, December 8, from 9am til 2pm.
A Holiday Farmers’ Market will be held in Cobleskill on Friday, December 14, 12:30pm to 6pm, and Saturday, December 15, 9am to 3pm, at the Fire Department Hall.
The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts hosts its Holiday Market on Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2. They promise music and a crackling fire, along with an impressive lineup of vendors: Everything from wearable and fine art to granite cheeseboards to imaginatively re-purposed hand-painted vintage farm tools.
The Catskill Art Society in Livingston Manor will hold a holiday bazaar every weekend this month at their Main Street digs. It kicks off on December 1 with the railroad-themed “Holiday Trains On Main,” and continues with a tasty-sounding array of all-local, all-the-time offerings. Also at CAS: From December 15 to 24, Willow & Brown, a beloved local shop that was destroyed by fire on November 20, will be reincarnated as a pop-up boutique open seven days a week for housewares, clothing and accessories.
Duke Pottery in Roscoe is hosting a holiday craft-and-pastry sale on December 1, with proceeds to benefit the good Catskills family-farming folks at FarmHearts. The following day, December 2, the Roscoe Hose Company Community Center hosts a holiday market and craft show from 10am to 2pm.
The Crystal Connection in Wurtsboro will top off a month-long holiday sale with a “Weekend of Light” on Saturday and Sunday, December 22 and 23.
The UC is basically turning into one big festive shop-stravaganza all month long. The various centers of commerce will be decorated, revved and ready to go, each with its own array of indie merchants who must be seen to be believed, pretty much from now until late December.
Several communities kick off the season with opening receptions, replete with live entertainment and deep discounts. Check out Downtown New Paltz Unwrapped (as if they were ever wrapped) from 6pm to 9pm this Friday, November 30. Unison Arts and Learning Center will be offering “gallery-quality” goodies at the New Paltz Middle School during its 22nd Annual Holiday Crafts Fair on Saturday and Sunday, December 1 and 2.
Saugerties kicks out the Santa-jams on Sunday, December 2, with its Holiday in the Village which, for reasons that perhaps need not be explained, throws Disney characters into the holiday mix.
Next weekend it’s Woodstock's turn to let the pretty lights shine. The town’s 31st Annual Holiday Open House takes place on Saturday, December 7 from 5pm to 9pm and will feature Christmas caroling as well as visits from Mrs. Claus and Frosty.
The Kingston Stockade Holiday Open House (roasted chestnuts and buggy rides, anyone?) begins with a holiday parade at 5pm on December 7. The Holiday Craft Fair of Handmade and Vintage! at Cornell Street Studios on Sunday, December 8 will no doubt be a bonanza for art lovers and vintage fans alike.
On December 8, the Olive Free Library will host its Holiday Craft Fair from 10am to 4pm. They’ll feed you a really good cheap lunch while you shop, and the proceeds will benefit the library.
Also on December 8, the Pine Hill Community Center is hosting its 25th edition of Catskill Cabaradio, the potluck-hosting "A Prairie Home Companion meets David Letterman meets Hee Haw extravaganza" of a radio show. This episode's lineup includes storyteller Joan Henry, singer Kyle Esposito, poet Sharon Ruetenik, Elly Wininger and The Pine Hill Playboys, Answers to the questions every mother should know, lots of trivia, and, of course great food. Starting at 6pm.
Saturday, December 15, Rosendale gets its joy on for Frozendale Daze in the style you’d expect. Early happy hours at the 1850 House and the Bywater Bistro and sing-along showings of The Sound of Music at the Theatre Collective should make for a spirited afternoon.
In Pine Hill on December 15, the Pine Hill Community Center will hold its Annual Winter Holiday Fair and Chili Festival, featuring crafts, gifts, children's workshops, and chili donated by the legendary Jaime DeForest from 10am to 4pm.
On December 15 and 16, over a dozen artists will set up a Holiday Pop Shop in the Wilber Mansion in Oneonta (11am to 6pm, at the CANO gallery at 11 Ford Avenue). They'll be selling handmade jewelry, glassware, pottery, leather, knits, soaps, candles, cards, printed t-shirts, fudge, specialty baked goods, and much more. Also on tap while you shop: ongoing children’s activities, chair massage, periodic live music, and beverages.
Below: Video from the 2010 Victorian Christmas Celebration in Sharon Springs, courtesy of the Fabulous Beekman Boys.