Thursday, December 5, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 7

Today's Winter Walk memory comes from Lisa Durfee, whose costumes are always one of the joyous surprises of the evening. Lisa and her partner, Alan Hamilton, have dressed for the occasion as a Victorian lady and gentleman and as Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of Joseph Marley. In 2013, Lisa made a solo appearance as the Fairy Queen of Winter Walk.

The proprietor of the vintage clothing store Five & Diamond, Lisa is responsible for creating the costumes of two characters who have become a Winter Walk tradition: the Gingerbread Man and the Snowman. The costumes were made in 2005 and 2006 and have been part of Winter Walk ever since. In her memory of Winter Walk, Lisa recounts how she created them.

In 2005, I made the Gingerbread Man costume at Five and Diamond especially for Winter Walk. Of course, I can't say I designed the basic pattern--a cookie cutter did that--but the construction details were all my own idea. 
First, I drew my pattern onto two layers of interfacing. Then I got three yards of brown felt and three yards of one-inch-thick polyester batting from a local upholsterer. The interfacing cutout became the pattern for the felt and batting cutout and became the lining that keeps the itchy batting off the wearer's skin.
I sewed all three layers together on the sewing machine, leaving about a one-inch seam allowance. When the brown felt seam allowance was trimmed away, the batting became the edge icing! (This part was a real bitch, however, because I needed a lot of space to move a big costume like that through a sewing machine. I did it on the floor.)
Then I sewed the front to the back at the head only. The rest of the costume was attached together with plastic pricing gun bullets. After that, it was just decorating: stuffed buttons and eyes made out of felt, attached with a glue gun, and, of course, an opening at the mouth so the wearer can see and breathe.
This costume turned out to be very flexible, warm, and cozy.
The next year, I made a snowman costume in the same manner.

Look for both of Lisa's amazing costumes on the street this Saturday night.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

An Editorial on "Ugly Construction"

Gossips is steadfast in its reporting on the deliberations of Hudson's regulatory boards and regularly publishes the images of renderings and models for proposed new construction presented to those boards--most often to the Historic Preservation Commission but sometimes to the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals. The renderings and models often provoke outraged comments from readers about the inappropriateness of the design. Given that experience, I was intrigued when I came upon this editorial in the Columbia Republican for December 2, 1919. Written a hundred years ago, it suggests there is a need for a design review board to impose "standards of taste" on new construction and prevent the construction of "buildings designed without the least sense of taste or appropriateness."

One wonders what, a hundred years ago in Hudson and its environs, inspired this denunciation of the "erection of cheap and ugly dwellings."

Update on the Snow

If you woke up this morning to find the snow situation not much altered from what it was last night, here's the latest word on the subject from City Hall.

The snow removal continues!
Thanks to everyone for your patience and understanding as we tackle cleaning up the extremely large amount of snow. We were not able to make as much progress as hoped last night due to the heavy weight of the snow. The removal procedure will continue for the rest of the week.
Again, please continue to pay close attention to signage regarding NO PARKING throughout the day and evening.
Regular opposite/alternate side parking regulations remain in place UNLESS there is a sign saying NO PARKING. If this is the case, please park on the other side regardless of the opposite/alternate parking rules. The NO PARKING signs are your guide.
Please avoid any penalties (fines, towing, etc.) by adhering to the NO PARKING signs.
Additionally, please follow established guidelines for clearing sidewalks. Snow should be shoveled to the curb. The regulations regarding shoveling can be found at the City of Hudson website.
Continue to check the City of Hudson website for updates and additional information.
Lastly, please tell your neighbors, be safe, and know we are doing all we can to clear  up the snow as quickly as possible.
Update on the Update: The giant snow thrower and the dump trucks just passed Gossips Central here on Allen Street.

One More Cancellation

If you were thinking of showing up for tonight's Housing and Transportation Committee meeting, you can make other plans. The meeting, which was to take place at 6:45 p.m. at City Hall, has been canceled.

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 6

Today's Winter Walk memory is shared by Gary Schiro, who served as executive director of the Hudson Opera House, now known as Hudson Hall, for nineteen years, from 1998 to 2017.

I have been at every Winter Walk except 2018, when I was still in the midst of my "long winter's nap." And I have happy memories of each one of them, through good weather and bad. From the beginning, it was such an amazing combination of generous volunteers, lively and game merchants, hard-working civil servants, dedicated staff, and was fully embraced by the community. It has been transformational for Hudson, and a shining example creative placemaking. There is one particular moment, though, that I know I'll never forget.
In the beginning, of course, there was no need to close off the street. Then we closed off one block, then two, and eventually almost all of Warren Street. Around the year 2000, we closed off the 300 block for the first time. I never made it very far away from the Opera House when Winter Walk was happening; there were too many things to keep an eye on in the building, too many visitors to greet, and I wanted to be easily reachable if anyone needed me. It made sense to mostly stay put. I always said the hour leading up to the kickoff of Winter Walk is the most chaotic, energetic, and unruly hour in the life of that busy building. However, once the choirs have sung, the horns have played, and Santa is on his way to City Hall, the evening moves into the happy rhythm of smiles and greetings and seeing long-lost friends--the real core of what powers the event. I had been perched in the building for an hour or so when it dawned on me that, for the first time, I could at least go into the middle of the street and take a look without being too far from Command Central. I was cold that night, but not brutally so, and very clear. There were many revelers out in the street, as well as costumed characters and carolers. I turned and looked uptown and couldn't believe my eyes. There was an absolute sea of people, an enormous crowd, seemingly headed in this direction. We had never seen a crowd like that at Winter Walk, and I realized in that instant that this was no longer an event that we produced. Though we raised the money, hired the performers, arranged the fireworks, coordinated everything with city agencies, this was no longer ours. It belonged to them. That is why, even in the worst weather, thousands still came out and were astonishingly cheerful. It's near impossible to be at the event and not smile.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Because of Snow and Holidays

Gossips has received word that the following Common Council committee meetings have been canceled--in this week and the coming weeks.
  • Wednesday, December 4  Youth, Education, Seniors and Recreation
  • Monday, December 9  Economic Development  
  • Wednesday, December 18  Public Works and Parks
  • Monday, December 23  Fire and Police  

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 5

With this year's Winter Walk only days away, Gossips continues sharing memories of Winter Walks past. Today's contribution is from Sarah Lipsky, who chaired the committee that organized the very first Winter Walk in 1997 and the next three Winter Walks after that.

Photo: Hudson Valley Lodging Association
There was a stillness in the air in the hour before the first Winter Walk began. The street suddenly became quiet and dark. I feared that, despite months of preparation, no one would come. But at 5 p.m., Warren Street began to fill with people, activity, and holiday sounds of singing and music and the wonderful sound of the horse-drawn carriages coming down the street.
In 1997, I had an antique shop on Warren Street and had just joined the board of the Hudson Opera House, when Carole Clark, another board member, shared her ideas of a Winter Walk. She asked if I would head the committee and organize the event. It was a new adventure, and I jumped right in. A lot needed to be done in a limited amount of time to create a special evening to highlight the incredible shops and talent in Hudson.
Warren Street was so different in 1997. There were many empty shop spaces, and many people in the area only focused on the negative aspects of Hudson. The Hudson Opera House was not open yet and major interior renovations had not started. Winter Walk started on a shoestring.
I looked for donations but knew we needed a way to raise more funds. I decided that selling chocolate could be a solution. After many tries, I found a sympathetic executive at Lindt Chocolate who agreed to sell truffles to us at cost. I ordered small white candy boxes and bought black ribbon. With the help of Kelly Cummings, another board member, we had a beautiful gold seal made with the image of the Hudson Opera House.
I had to drive to Albany to the Lindt store at 9:30 p.m., after they closed, to purchase the chocolates. My daughter, who was only two at the time, was euphoric as we walked into the darkened store with the incredible smell of chocolate. She raced around the store in her pink snowsuit as the manager and I sat on the floor and counted out thousands of chocolate truffles. 
The next night, in my antique shop, with board members Harriet Shur, Lorelle Phillips, and others, we filled candy boxes, put on the Hudson Opera House seals, and tied the ribbons. I asked local businesses, who generously agreed, to sell the candy boxes which enabled us to raise additional money we needed to pay performers, musicians, hire the horse-drawn carriages, print posters, and meet many other event costs.
Other antique dealers agreed to open their shops for Winter Walk evening. With the help of Abby Lappen and Gloria Terwilliger, we were able to fill shop spaces and windows with talented musicians and incredible window performers. I went door to door on Warren Street encouraging shop owners to stay open that evening and decorate their windows for the event, offer refreshments, or host performers. We announced a window decorating contest to encourage shop owners. Warren Street had the most fantastic holiday windows.
I booked horse-drawn carriages and found street performers and food vendors to help create a festive feel on the street. We reached out to area schools and organizations to encourage their involvement by caroling or selling food or holiday items on the street during Winter Walk. We received children’s book donations for Santa’s gifts through Lorelle Phillips and The Town Fair, the wonderful children’s store that had been at 555 Warren Street. Rick Scalera, the mayor at the time, agreed to let me photograph him in his Santa outfit on a sleigh at a farm in Kinderhook, so we could use it for publicity. With assistance from Kelly Cummings, we had a barrage of press releases highlighting the event. The Register Star and The Independent, now Columbia Paper, printed all of our press releases and were so instrumental in publicizing the event. I and many others put up posters in every spot possible throughout the county.
We opened the doors of the Hudson Opera House in 1997 at the first Winter Walk. It was a thrilling moment to have a ribbon cutting, see all of the excitement and energy on the street, and have the Hudson Opera House be an active part of Hudson again. None of us knew what would happen at the first Winter Walk, but it was obvious that the community embraced this festive evening of bringing people together on a dark, cold December night. 
The next morning, I booked the horse-drawn carriages for the second Winter Walk and began planning how to improve and expand the event. After that year, we had to close the street to traffic because of the crowds. The event expanded to the full the length of Warren Street.
We added fireworks, which initially were set off at the top of Academy Hill, before the townhouses were built there. Winter Walk became the event that kicks off the holiday season and one that local residents and out of town visitors plan for. Some new Hudson residents moved here and new shop owners opened here because of first coming to Winter Walk. With the help of many volunteers, I organized the first four Winter Walks, and then Ellen Thurston graciously and ably took over the very time-consuming chairperson position! Everyone who has been involved shares in the accomplishment of this wonderful community event that continues to evolve and has become a Hudson tradition.

Thinking About the Dunn Warehouse

With about two feet of snow on the ground and on the roofs of Hudson buildings, the state of the Dunn warehouse, the last surviving industrial building on the waterfront, comes to mind. So today, Gossips reports on the discussion of the building that took place on November 19, at the most recent meeting of the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Intitiative) Committee.

The City has been awarded $1.5 million for the stabilization and restoration of the building--$500,000 in a Restore NY grant awarded early in 2017 and $1 million in DRI funding. It has been unclear until recently if any of that money can be claimed and spent without a private developer partnering with the City in the building's restoration and reuse. In the past year, it has been determined that the $500,000 Restore NY grant can be utilized, but the $1 million in DRI funds cannot be used without there being a private sector partner for the enterprise.

In October, a team of structural engineers from Chazen, the group that is helping administer the DRI projects, was dispatched to assess the building and make recommendations for its immediate stabilization. At the DRI Committee meeting on November 19, they made a preliminary report, identifying two areas of immediate concern: the roof on the eastern portion of the building and the brick wall on the south side of the building, where there is now a giant overhead door, which was installed in the 1850s building sometime in the 20th century. (The pictures below were taken in April 2018.)  

The initial recommendation was that the roof on the eastern portion of the building be removed and rebuilt and that the collapsing southern wall be braced. A full assessment report and a stabilization plan package is expected to be presented at the next meeting of the DRI Committee, currently scheduled to take place on Tuesday, December 10, at 2:30 p.m., at City Hall.

About That Snow

Mayor Rick Rector just released the following statement about plans for snow removal in the city.

The City of Hudson will begin a major snow removal procedure throughout the city starting this evening, Tuesday, December 3, at 11:00 p.m. Additionally, the National Guard will be in town today to assist with the shoveling of fire hydrants.
The removal of snow will continue through the week, and a busy week it will be, with the annual Winter Walk this Saturday, December 7.
DPW will commence the placement of NO PARKING signage this afternoon around the city. Please pay close attention to these signs as there should be no parking in these designated areas after 11:00 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, December 3, 2019.
To avoid penalties (fines, towing, etc.), please adhere to the sign information when you are parking a vehicle.
Please check throughout the afternoon for the temporary signage. Let your neighbors know, and please let the DPW workers know how much their work is appreciated.
We will be updating again tomorrow morning or later today for any revisions. As always, please check the City of Hudson website for both basic snow removal regulations and new updates.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

No meetings had to be canceled today, because there were no meetings scheduled. Tomorrow and the next day will, however, see some action at City Hall.
  • Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 3, Mayor Rick Rector will hold a public hearing on two proposed local laws. The first--Local Law No. 2 of 2019--would impose a nine-month moratorium on the registration or operation of any new short-term lodging facility; the second--Local Local No. 4 of 2019--would amend Chapter 112 of the city code to allow the City to award purchase contracts and contracts for services in competitive bidding on the basis of lowest responsible bidder or best value. The public hearing takes place at 4:00 p.m. in City Hall.
  • Also on Tuesday, December 3, the Conservation Advisory Council holds its regular monthly meeting at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. Trees--tree inventories, tree boards, tree maintenance--will no doubt be on the agenda for discussion at the meeting.
  • On Wednesday, December 4, two Common Council committees meet: at 5:30 p.m., it's Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation, and at 6:45 p.m., it's Housing and Transportation. Both meetings take place at City Hall.
And that's all for the week.

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 4

It is a remarkable fact that only once, in the twenty-three years of Winter Walk, has the event ever been canceled because of bad weather. That happened in 2003, when a legendary blizzard, the December 2003 Nor'easter, dumped more than two feet of snow on Hudson from December 5 to December 7. (Winter Walk was on December 6 that year.) So today, when we are experiencing a reprise of that early December storm, Gossips shares a Winter Walk memory from Sarah Sterling, who had an unusual assignment that evening. Sarah has given her memory the title, "The Blizzard That Closed Down Winter Walk."

Photo: Michael Weaver|Flickr
Today is a perfect day to reflect on blizzards!
Ellen Thurston and I got together recently to reminisce about one of our favorite tall tales.
Every so often Hudson gets a Great Blizzard. Not long after I moved here, we had a big one, and this one succeeded in shutting everything down. Ellen and I were part of the group putting on Winter Walk that year. I think my job consisted of wrapping books for the kids in funny papers. Does anyone call them that anymore? You know, the kind with color that rubs off all over your hands. I may have helped dress some of the strollers, too. Around then, Nancy Wiley would wear her amazing dress that had active puppets on the skirt. I believe it’s still being used.
Doug Thorn [then president of the Hudson Opera House board] made the decision to cancel Winter Walk, as he didn’t want to be responsible for children dying on the road. (Ellen’s recollection!) This left almost everyone notified except for the man arriving by train, who danced with a life-sized doll. Ellen and I were drafted to meet him at the train and try to explain the situation. I think someone thought I spoke Spanish. (In truth, I only understood a little Italian).
So we slogged down to the station with the snow getting deeper by the moment. The train arrived, and we tried to explain our problem to the conductor. She thought we were out of our minds and wanted to protect her passengers from us. Finally we got our dilemma through just as a short man with two huge suitcases descended from the train. Sure enough he didn’t speak a word of English. Ellen and I somehow thought he should just stay on the train and make the round trip, but after a few go-rounds, it was decided he’d get off, stay in the station, and get the next train back to New York. I remember clearly that I gave him my gloves because he had arrived without even a coat. Satisfied with our job accomplished, we slogged back up the hill with the snow at least up to our knees.
I did see his act because he came for several years after that. Parts of his suitcase contents were a boom box and the doll. She was gorgeous, and it was an amazingly realistic performance--all tangos. Ellen thinks the song lyrics were very risqué, but this story gets taller by the minute. 
A Gossips Afterword: I don't know about the lyrics being risqué, but I remember his performance one year in the window of the Hudson Supermarket building at 310 Warren Street. It was amazing, but one or two of his moves with that partner of his made Dirty Dancing seem downright demure.

A Sweet Fundraiser for a Favorite Cause

Today is National Mutt Day, so despite the fact that everyone is snowed in and Verdigris, the tea and chocolate shop at Second and Warren streets central to this story, has declared a snow day, it seems the perfect time to share this announcement.

Photo: Judy Curran
Pekoe, the resident dog at Verdigris Tea & Chocolate, is pleased to announce a benefit for Hudson's brand-new dog park. Buy a bag of Dog & Bone cookies, and the proceeds from this toothsome twosome will be donated to the dog park. While these home-baked confections are for humans, they are definitely Pekoe approved. You can join the Hudson Dog Park Facebook group here.

So, tomorrow, when the the storm is over and the snow is cleared away, head over to Verdigris, 135 Warren Street, to stock up on Dog & Bone cookies and help support the ongoing maintenance and future enhancement of Hudson's new but already much beloved dog park.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 3

On the first day of December, as the first significant snow of the season blankets our little city, we continue our memories of Winter Walks past. Today, Gossips shares a memory provided by Elena Mosley, the executive director of Operation Unite and a longtime member of the Hudson Opera House board of directors.

Photo: axesmundi
Movement and dance have always been the highlight of Winter Walk. A "tableau" of dancers, imitating mannequins, then suddenly moving, exciting the crowd. This was the brainchild of Abby Lappen. Live dancers in the store windows. Sternfeld Newsies dancing the headlines, and, in a quick twirl, the Albany Berkshire Ballet were melting snowflakes on upper Warren Street. The big windows of 601 Warren Street and the Finnish Line across the street held the chilled onlooker back while pressed against the windows' thick glass. In the blink of an eye, community hip hop dancers flipped the crowd sixfold into the streets. From the Triform Bell Choir to Kuumba Dance and Drum, the Pleshakov Music Center [544 Warren Street] was flooded with families and folks enjoying the warmth of the Hudson movement. As the Gingerbread Man passed by Guy Apicella's quick ballroom dance shoes and the lady in the mysterious coat of hidden goodies, one looked and stuck out one's tongue for a passing dancing snowflake.

Catching Up with HDC

Last Tuesday, the board of the Hudson Development Corporation held its regular monthly meeting, and a few things happened at that meeting that merit reporting.

First, the cash poor HDC is soon to have a new source of income. The agency is poised to enter into a lease with Redburn Development to rent a portion of the concrete slab behind The Wick Hotel--what remains of the part of the Kaz warehouse building that was demolished, at Redburn's expense, late in 2017. 

According to the terms of the proposed lease, Redburn will pay HDC $2,000 a month to rent a space that will provide thirty parking spots for the hotel. This income will allow HDC to make the payments due to CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation) on the $200,000 loan that enabled HDC to purchase the CSX parcel. Those payments now amount to $10,000 a year.

In another revenue producing initiative, HDC has discovered that, in addition to the Kaz property, it owns a vacant lot on Mill Street (228 Mill Street), 3.3 landlocked acres on the river side of Mt. Merino, a parcel at the foot of Dock Street that abuts the Hudson Dog Park and the Furgary Boat Club, and two parcels that are underwater in the Hudson River. The greatest attention at the meeting was given to the lot on Mill Street, and it was decided that the lot should be surveyed to determine if it is saleable. 

The board also discussed vacancies on the board. There are currently three, after the resignations of Mark Morgan-Perez, Walter Chatham, and Gregg Carey. Board president Bob Rasner suggested that former board member Chris Jones serve on the nominating committee along with board members Carolyn Lawrence and Nick Haddad.

On a topic related to board membership, Rasner reminded the board that there was a motion on the table to add the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council as ex officio members of the HDC board. That motion had been made by Council president Tom DePietro at the board's October meeting. Currently, the mayor and the Common Council president are the only ex officio members of the HDC board. Once upon a time, the majority and minority leaders did serve on the HDC board, but at the end of 2015, the board amended its bylaws to limit the number of elected officials on the board to two--the mayor and the Council president. At the time, there were nine members of the board and four of them--almost half--were elected officials. The change was made to allow a greater number of community members to serve on the board, but some at the time believed it was an attempt to remove "any voices from the minority communities." In 2015, Tiffany Garriga was the majority leader and Bart Delaney was the minority leader.

At the end of the meeting, Rasner spoke about the goals of the agency when he became chair of the HDC board earlier this year: rebuilding the board and the CSX acquisition. He noted that the goals had been achieved and asked rhetorically: "Now what do we do?" He went on to opine that, to the question of what to do with the Kaz property, "there were no wrong answers" and suggested, as he has before, that HDC might just sell it to a developer because they were not developers. He then asked, again rhetorically, "Does development of this property even fall within our mission?" He offered the opinion, "It doesn't appear that it does."

Because the next regularly scheduled HDC meeting falls on Christmas Eve, it was agreed that the board's December meeting would take place on Friday, December 20, at noon. Amendments to the bylaws, including once again making the majority and minority leaders of the Common Council ex officio members of the board, will be taken up at that meeting.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 2

With the 23rd annual Winter Walk just a week away, our memories of Winter Walks past continue, with another recollection of the very first Winter Walk. Today, Gossips shares the Winter Walk memory of Byrne Fone. Best known to Gossips readers as the author of Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, Byrne was one of the original members of the Hudson Opera House Board of Directors, which began the tradition of Winter Walk back in 1997.

On a crisp December Saturday night, now many years ago, I tricked myself out in vaguely 19th-century garb: high stovepipe hat, tailcoat, flowing scarf, cape, and cane--all found in my partner Alain Pioton's antiques shop, the Hudson Antiques Center [536 Warren Street], which he had opened in 1985. That night, unusually for a Hudson winter's eve, Warren was filled with folk, some of them also in costume, all wandering from one end of the street to the other, ogling the rich glitter of decorated shop windows and tempted to enter by savory delicacies too inciting to refuse. Musicians played in many shops and walked musically along the street, crowds, Pied Piper-like following, joining in the song.
In my invented role of 19th-century street vivant, I passed among the merry crowd, chatting with friends and strangers. My message: "Here I am, a ghost of Christmas past, come to tell you that this new night on the town is the invention of Hudson's oldest treasure, brought to life again: the Hudson Opera House."
It was the first Winter Walk. It was 1997.
In that year, the Board of Directors, who had overseen the restoration of the decrepit building since acquiring it in 1992, had been casting about for a citywide event to celebrate the season and highlight the ongoing revival of one of Hudson's grandest buildings, which was as well one of America's oldest surviving theaters, built in 1855. Taking a cue from history, we called it then the Hudson Opera House, for 19th-century Hudson had called it that. And who could doubt that it was--and is--operatic, even if, between the date of its construction and that street walk in 1997, only one opera had ever been performed there.
Though no divas regularly commanded the stage nor tenors thrilled the audience with golden tones, the Hudson Opera House had offered a variety of identities. It was built as Hudson's City Hall, but it also housed the police station, the Franklin Library, and the First National Bank of Hudson. Its huge auditorium saw lectures, musical and theatrical events, cotillions and graduations, and even, it has been claimed, poultry shows. Eventually, the poultry were replaced by the Moose. It was their fraternal lodge.
But then the building was abandoned and sold to an "out-of-town developer"--a phrase that darkly suggested demolition, a fate that it began to seem might indeed become a reality. But that fate was not to be.
After years of standing empty, the building was acquired by a group of Hudsonians, all optimistic and amateur enough not to realize the true scale of what we had begun. By 1992, as a non-profit corporation, we had ownership of the building. Our grand plan was to restore it and open it again, for Hudson, as the Hudson Opera House.
Despite the passion of the board, it could not be denied that during those years the project was ignored by many, viewed dubiously by some, and scoffed at by others. To some, it seemed a pointless folly, a cause already lost, a project agonizingly slow and costly. For many, there was a whiff of elitism about it. An opera house? In Hudson?! In what way could it ever have a connection with "real" Hudson life?
We saw what was needed was a way to link the project of the Hudson Opera House--immediately and publicly--with the increasingly vibrant city life that had been sparked by the arrival of antiques dealers in the 1980s and bolstered by new residents who had heard about the excitement. We knew that the Hudson Opera House had to take to the streets. At a board meeting, Carole Clark, owner of the always fondly remembered Charleston restaurant, produced a masterstroke: the appealing and alliterative suggestion for a street event. She called it a Winter Walk on Warren. And thus it came about.
I returned to Alain's shop from my perambulation in the crowded and festive street. Just as in the other shops, waves of visitors were flowing in, sampling mulled wine, munching sweet savories, and looking with pleasure, curiosity, or sometimes mystification at what we had to sell. Ensconcing myself in the window in a rather grand thronelike chair, still Micawberesque in top hat and cape, my voice carried to the street by a microphone cunningly hidden, I read from A Christmas Carol to the crowds bemused by this talking apparition from another age.
"He had never dreamed that any walk could give him so much happiness."
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Friday, November 29, 2019

Memories of Winter Walk: Part 1

On December 7, Winter Walk will once again fill Hudson's main street with revelers, ushering in the holiday season. Gossips has learned that this year Hudson Hall will be commemorating Winter Walks past, present, and future, and that prompted Gossips to ask some people who have been associated with Winter Walk in different ways over the years to share their favorite memories of Winter Walks past. One of those memories will be shared here every day, from now until December 7.

We begin with Carole Clark, whose childhood memories of department store windows along Fifth Avenue lavishly decorated for the holidays were the inspiration for Winter Walk. In 1997, Carole Clark, a member of the original Hudson Opera House board, was the proprietor of Charleston, Hudson's first farm-to-table restaurant, at 517 Warren Street (now Baba Louie's). It was in the restaurant that the event was first conceptualized.

Photo: Pinterest|Mount Merino Manor
Winter Walk, originally called Winter Walk on Warren Street, was created in response to a need shared by the Warren Street business community and concerned Hudson residents to inspire Columbia County residents and regional neighbors to come to Hudson. At that time, Hudson was denigrated even by Hudsonians who lived in the city's "suburbs." People thought that Hudson had nothing but antique shops selling old stuff and that the streets were dangerous. Antique dealers, then the vast majority of retailers, complained that their holiday sales were low, even though they invested great effort in decorating their windows. Indeed, the holiday windows were amazingly artful and sumptuously gorgeous. Warren Street sparkled in December.
The challenge was to inspire people to visit the city, enjoy the holiday windows, and venture into the shops, which would offer hospitality in the form of complimentary food and drink. I presented the idea of sponsoring a holiday stroll to the Hudson Opera House Board of Directors, and a committee was promptly formed to create the event. I envisioned a "country" winter walk, with horse-drawn carriages and strolling carolers. Neighboring shop owners, who were my customers and friends, were very enthusiastic and wanted to participate. Everyone got into it. The shop windows were better than ever--dazzling!
Inspired by my childhood memory of the animated windows in the department stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City and a gifted choreographer and dancer Abby Lappen, who worked part-time with me, I envisioned Hudson's windows activated to the delight of passersby. Abby had created a series of evening of "Bar Dances" in my restaurant, Charleston, which were an enormous success. She was excited about the windows idea and gathered a large group of volunteers to work with her. I'll never forget the first Winter Walk, when I dashed out of the restaurant kitchen in my apron, with my camera, and saw the crowds of people gathered in front of the windows, amazed and exhilarated by the performers. Exclamations of "It's not real . . . Yes, it is. It's a real person!" were heard from adults as well as children.
The dancers/mimes were indeed magical. People thronged into the shops, impressed with their extraordinary beauty and "hospitality."