Thou­sands ex­pected at Sinterklaas cel­e­bra­tion in Rhinebeck

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - PREVIEW - By Brian Hu­bert bhu­bert@free­manon­line.com @bri­anat­free­man on Twit­ter

About 12,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to de­scend on the vil­lage to wel­come back Sinterklaas on Satur­day.

Sinterklaas is a Dutch tra­di­tion which cel­e­brates St. Ni­cholas, a Chris­tian bishop, who was born in the fourth cen­tury and al­ways loved chil­dren, Jeanne Flem­ing, the event’s founder, said.

He took in all of the chil­dren re­gard­less of race or re­li­gious back­ground Flem­ing said.

Even­tu­ally he sailed from Spain to the Nether­lands, she said,

Last week Kingston played the role of Spain in Sinterklaas, while Rhinebeck rep­re­sents Hol­land.

Flem­ing ad­mit­ted she changes a few things up when it comes to the tra­di­tion of the hol­i­day, which first made its way to the Hudson Val­ley with Dutch set­tlers in the 1600s. With time that tra­di­tion evolved into to­day’s Santa Claus, Flem­ing said

While the hol­i­day orig­i­nally judged chil­dren as good or bad, Flem­ing’s ver­sion hon­ors them.

Crowns and branches, tra­di­tion­ally used to pun­ish chil­dren, be­come sym­bolic of wishes the chil­dren share with the Wish Lady.

Kids can make their own crowns and branches at the fire­house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m..

On a re­cent Mon­day Flem­ing was at her tidy two-story 19th cen­tury home over­look­ing the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge on the sprawl­ing Rokeby prop­erty putting the fin­ish­ing touches on Sinterklaas.

Flem­ing is helped by a large corps of vol­un­teers who help to make crowns and branches and the large pup­pets dur­ing sev­eral weeks of work­shops at the Rhinebeck Methodist Church on Mar­ket Street.

Shelves in her of­fice are flanked by pup­pets of the hon­ored an­i­mals of years past which in­clude the horse and hon­ey­bees.

This year’s hon­ored an­i­mal is the owl, she said adding that ev­ery­one could use a bit of wis­dom in this year.

Each year the hon­ored an­i­mal is blessed by a lo­cal Epis­co­pal priest in a spe­cial cer­e­mony, Flem­ing said.

On a counter next to her com­puter was a model of a cuckoo clock.

That model will be trans­formed into a larger than life work­ing cuckoo clock that kids can walk into, Flem­ing said.

Through­out the day chil­dren can visit the Pocket Lady who in­vites them in­side her rain­bow-col­ored cape to pick out a present from her many pock­ets or the Po­lar Bear and his trainer.

At first he was a fe­ro­cious po­lar bear, but then he dis­cov­ered he loved mu­sic, Flem­ing said.

The fes­tiv­i­ties tell the his­tory of the lo­cal area, start­ing with Na­tive Amer­i­can tra­di­tions, and work­ing through the ar­rival of the Dutch, and then cel­e­brat­ing the many other groups of im­mi­grants who have called the Hudson Val­ley home ever since, she said.

The tale even tack­les some of the more chal­leng­ing as­pects of the Hudson Val­ley’s his­tory in­clud­ing slav­ery, which lasted from the 1600s up un­til the 1830s.

“Reg­gie Har­ris sings slave songs, and tells the story about slav­ery in Amer­ica,” Flem­ing said.

An­other tra­di­tion is the Snow King and Queen played by North­ern Dutchess hospi­tal chief Jamie He­witt and his wife Jamie this year. Past Snow Kings and Queens have in­cluded the Banta Fam­ily who own the His­toric Beek­man Arms and Tav­ern and have con­nec­tions to the ear­li­est Dutch set­tlers, Flem­ing said.

The Grum­puses, which Flem­ing de­scribed as kind of creepy char­ac­ters who have their ori­gins in the Balkans, are also a fan fa­vorite as they make their way around Rhinebeck.

Flem­ing ad­mit­ted they were kind a of an ac­quired taste for area kids.

“At first the kids were kind of afraid of them, but now they love them,” Flem­ing said.

Other en­ter­tain­ment op­tions in­clude a spe­cial oner­ing Sin­ter­cirkus at Up­state Films at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., and mu­si­cal per­for­mances rang­ing form Bard Col­lege’s Ge­or­gian Choir at the Third Evan­gel­i­cal Lutheran Church on Liv­ingston Street at 2:30 p.m. to lo­cal chil­dren’s mu­sic act Dog on Fleas at the Town Hall on East Mar­ket Street at 1 p.m. to a spe­cial per­for­mance where Reg­gie Har­ris joins folk-act Betty and Baby Boomers at the Methodist Church, also on Mar­ket Street at 4 p.m.

The his­toric Beek­man Arms hosts sev­eral per­for­mances in­clud­ing the Leela Pup­pet The­ater at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Roger the Jester at 2 p.m. Grian Mac­Gre­gor and her Ivy Vine Play­ers pup­pet show at 2:30 p.m., Tom Han­ford’s Pup­pets at 3 p.m., Story Crafters at 3:30 p.m. and the Hun­gry March Band at 4 p.m..

Per­haps the most pop­u­lar part of Sinterklaas is the Starlight Pa­rade, which Flem­ing de­scribed as more of a pro­ces­sion than a pa­rade,

It steps off from near the Starr Li­brary at 6 p.m., and pro­ceeds along Mar­ket Street through the vil­lage to the mu­nic­i­pal park­ing lot.

The pa­rade hap­pens be­tween the end of the Jewish Sab­bath and the be­gin­ning of Chris­tian Sab­bath, and it brings the com­mu­nity to­gether, Flem­ing said.

Sinterklaas leads the pa­rade, which also fea­tures a lighted peace dove and a horse pup­pet that vis­its each child.

Flem­ing said the pup­pet re­placed a real horse, which proved to be too prob­lem­atic.

Then dur­ing a starlight cer­e­mony where the adults hold 2,500 il­lu­mi­nated stars, the chil­dren are crowned as kings and queens, she said.

The fes­tiv­i­ties wrap up with an after party with On the Lam Band and The Fore­fa­thers of Funk at Lib­erty Lounge on Mont­gomery Street at 8 p.m..

Flem­ing said she cre­ated Sinterklaas 30 years ago to be a strictly non-re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tion.

She met with lo­cal Jewish lead­ers to strike the hol­i­day of any Chris­tian con­nec­tions.

But she wanted the a sym­bol where the com­mu­nity to­gether.

Even­tu­ally she said they set­tled on a star, which long guided mariners.

It soon be­came a pop­u­lar pas­time in Rhinebeck, but then it dis­ap­peared do to lack of funds, Flem­ing said.

That hia­tus would stretch for 20 years, un­til 2008 when it re­turned.

Now Sinterklaas is more pop­u­lar than ever with the fes­tiv­i­ties be­ing fea­tured promi­nently in ma­te­ri­als that pro­mote Rhinebeck, Flem­ing said.

PHO­TOS BY TANIA BARRICKLO-DAILY FREE­MAN Vi­o­let Glez, a long-time vol­un­teer, builder and per­former with Sinterklaas, works on a gi­ant owl’s head.

Suzy Mor­ris of Tivoli, the cos­tume de­signer and builder for Sinterklaas, works on some as­cots, or ties, for the cuckoo clock at­ten­dants that will be part of the Rhinebeck cel­e­bra­tion on Satur­day.

The owl is the hon­ored an­i­mal for this year’s Sinterklaas. Above is a gi­ant owl head that will be part of pup­pets in the pro­ces­sion.

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