Tuesday, December 3, 2019

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.

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, you were, and are a trooper. I know how hard you worked, to be ably followed by Ellen for many years. Thanks to you and Ellen and many others Hudson became a wonderful community.