Holiday cheer hits Saratoga

Posted by Sarah Barry

The holiday season in Saratoga Springs is celebrated throughout the downtown area. Almost all the shops and restaurants don festive window displays, and wreaths and trees line the streets and buildings. In addition to the decorations, Saratoga holds annual events to celebrate the season.

Each year on the Thursday after Thanksgiving, Broadway hosts the Victorian Street Walk. This is the 24th year of the event, which will take place on Dec. 2.

"Everyone participates in the Victorian street walk," said Linda Ambrosino, owner of the store G. Willikers on Broadway.

Downtown Saratoga stops all traffic on the street and all events are open to the public.

"We have entertainment from the Victorian street walk, but we also have our own entertainment. We have our own face painter and Mrs. Claus comes and reads if it is not too crowded," Ambrosino said.

G. Willikers will also have hot cider and cookies for the event.

Businesses have a variety of local entertainment outside the shops, including some of Skidmore's a cappella groups. The Bandersnatchers, the college's all male a cappella group, will perform outside of Soave Faire for the Victorian walk.

Aside from its participation in the walk, Soave Faire has special holiday sales in appreciation of its customers, but it also fundraises for local groups during the holidays.

"We're just starting our 38th year, we're one of the oldest on the block," said Lynn Soave, one of the store's co-owners. "We have a holiday promotion as a thank you for our customers, but we also utilize the time to focus on fundraising and gathering donations. There are a lot of people in need right now."

Soave Faire tries to donate to several local charities including the Estherville shelter and the empty stocking program.

Impressions of Saratoga will also participate in the Victorian Street Walk, and the store is covered inside and out with holiday decorations.

"It's my first Victorian Street walk in the store and I'm very excited about it," said Jamie Onderdonk, who works at Impressions. The Skidmore Accents, an all female a cappella group, will perform outside the store on Thursday.

"Music plays and everyone working will be dressed up in Victorian clothing. We're also having cider and cookies," Onderdonk said.

Participating businesses provide an itinerary of events and locations, but the list is also available online at http://www.saratoga.com/holiday/victorian-streetwalk.cfm.

Another attraction that runs in conjunction with the Victorian Street Walk is the Saratoga Festival of the Trees, which runs from Wednesday Dec. 1 through Sunday Dec. 5 and commences with the lighting of the trees on Wednesday.

This is the 15th anniversary of the tree festival and the celebration will be held for the first time in the new Saratoga City Center.

"The event is a fundraiser for the Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties. All trees are decorated by community individuals or local groups and businesses," said Earline Johnson, a festival committee member.

"There are floor trees, table top trees and arrangements all decorated — some by kid in schools, some by groups and individuals," Johnson said.

Many of the trees have specific themes; one tree decorated by Saratoga Hospital is themed "The Night Before Christmas" and comes with a wooden fireplace, teddy bears, tree skirt and wooden chair.

Volunteers are essential to the Festival of the Trees fundraiser, and everyone is welcome.

"We love having anybody who is free to come; many hands make light work. There are well over 200 volunteers over the five days. It's a kick off to the holiday season and we're so excited to be celebrating the 15th year in the new city center," Johnson said.

The large windows of the new city center allow for a view of the trees from the street. On Thursday the City Center invites everyone from the Victorian Street Walk to come in and see the trees, and each of the five days holds a different event — such as senior day and family day — for the community.

Holiday festivities run throughout November and December downtown. For further information visit http://www.saratoga.com/events.

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