Yesterday was the Sinterklaas celebration in Rhinebeck, the town next to mine. The event is based on the Dutch Christmas tradition. You can read all about at the Sinterklaas site. It was a tradition in Rhinebeck that had stopped some 20 years ago and its orginator, Jeanne Flemming (of the famed NYC Halloween Parade) has brought it back to life. It felt like a celebration of community, light and love with which to fill these darkest days of the year. It was clear that the event was masterfully designed to be home grown and community-oriented. The partnership with Master Puppet Designers Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Superior Concept Monsters and Jeanne and a host of other community members gave birth to a truly spectacular pageant.

All day kids came to a big room in one of the churches where they created their own crowns and sceptors to carry in the parade later in the day. They also got to go to the Wish Lady and tell her their wish which she would write on slip of paper so they could attach it to their spector. The crowns were amazing creations laden with sparkles and beads and buttons and ribbons and all kinds of stuff that the kids could choose from an enormous collection of materials that were donated by local folk. Adults filled a giant dove scultpture with slips of paper carrying their wishes.

There was an array of events and activities all day long. I saw the Vanaver Caravan amd the Arm of Sea Theater group present a dance and music performance celebrating the season of light in the Church of the Messiah. The show was opened by the Black Sea Hotel, a sweet sounding quartet singing Balkan a’cappella. There was a play in the Town Hall. And on the streets: musicians — a Balkan band, a brass band on stilts, an a’cappella group sing old New England hyms, Morris dancers, and the all-famous and inspiring grumpuses. I can’t even describe the gumpuses. I’m hoping to share some photos, though. And more much . . . a magic show, storytelling and on and on.

I saw lots of friends and neighbors. Jill and I were “ask me” people. Jill did a much better job of this than I did. And then Gabe and Jess arrived from Albany. After taking a little sustenance at Bread Alone we watched the Grumpuses dance to the Balkan band Max’s New Hat in the municipal parking lot. After that we headed up to the Starr Library (accompanied part of the way by the band: Max’s New Hat).

The library was the site of the assembling of the parade that would descend the hill into town under the watchful and expectant eyes of the crowd that had been gathering all day. Sophia and Alex guided us gently into various puppets — big puppets that towered up above on poles or on carts with wheels and smaller ones that were worn like hats, but giant oversized hats. Some puppets are one-person arrangements while other took a cast of ten to animate. Jess, Gabe and I chose to be in the section of the parade for the season. We carried the figure of Spring. She was a beauty and I think we did her well in bringing her to life. It took a little bit to get situated with each of us in the right place and to practice her moves some. But then we guided her into action and along the parade route swooping left and then right and an occasional full turn! It was a blast. There’s more but it’s late and sleep calls.