Decorated storefronts, candlelight tours, fireworks shows: throughout New York State the holiday season is being celebrated with more than just tree lightings. Here's a look at select events (most of them this weekend) in every region.
Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m.: The village of Lake Placid hosts a long-time (though abandoned for many years) tradition: the High Peaks Resort's Yule Log Hunt & Ceremony. First started in 1911, a log of of eight to 14 feet is hidden in the woods, and participants embark on a quest to find it. The High Peaks Resort sounds a bugle at 4:00 p.m. and the hunt begins. The first person to locate the log rides into town as the "losers" tow it (talk about a victory lap). A portion of the log is then chopped and burned at a public bonfire at Mid's Park, while another part of the log is saved either to share with other communities who participate in this tradition, or to use as kindling for next year's fire.
Thursday, Dec. 5 through Sunday, Dec. 8: Saratoga Springs knows that more is more. Visit the Saratoga Festival of Trees, held at the Saratoga Springs City Center, to see hundreds of highly-decorated holiday trees, as well as crafts available for sale. Extend the experience on Thursday night by strolling along the Victorian Streetwalk and attending the 6:00 p.m. outdoor tree lighting.
Saturday, Dec. 7 at 5:30pm: Bring light into a child's life by donating a toy to the High Falls Fire Department's Toys for Tots drive. Afterward, enjoy soup (from Depuy Canal House), Santa, songs and sparkling lights at the High Falls-Marbletown Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Central New York
Saturday, Dec. 7, all day: Sharon Springs takes the holidays very seriously, as evidenced by the packed itinerary of the fourth annual Sharon Springs Victorian Holiday Celebration. At 3:30p.m., those Fabulous Beekman Boys are emceeing a Victorian costume contest. Don your best Dickensian duds for a chance to win a gift certificate to the American Hotel, among other prizes. The day culminates in the tree lighting ceremony and caroling at 7:00p.m.
Friday, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m.: The Jamestown Snowball Express Christmas Parade and Holiday Celebration wends its way down Third Street with a parade led by a steam engine, and saving the best for last with Santa Claus on a caboose at the end. A snowball drop, tree lighting and fireworks show round out the festive evening.
Saturday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m.: Rochester's mayor ushers in the holiday season by turning on the lights of downtown's Liberty Pole. A town with a musical culture as rich as Rochester's doesn't disappoint in that department: the Prime Time Brass band leads a lively parade from the tree to Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park's ice skating rink. The evening's not over until a fireworks show lights up the town.
Today is the last day to see a most unusual modern spin on a very old practice. The Beacon Hebrew Alliance has partnered with BeaconArts to create a menorah welded from salvaged bikes. Local artist Ed Benavente's sculpture must be seen to be believed.
Saturday, Dec. 7 from 11:00am to 3:15pm: The lights are on and everybody's home. Visit Bay Shore's Sagtikos Manor for a tour and a fittingly historic lesson in this historic home. The holiday house tour's theme changes from year to year, and this season it's "Here We Come a Caroling." In each room, decorated to the nines for Christmas, a docent provides a story about a particular Christmas carol. Warm beverages, cookies and holiday present ideas in the gift shop will put you in a very festive mood.
New York City
Sunday, Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m.: The Rockefeller Center tree lighting may well be the most famous ceremony of its kind, but there's an under-the radar — though no less spirited event — held about 40 blocks uptown. The Fund for Park Avenue in Manhattan continues its 68 year tradition of stringing lights along firs planted in the median of Park Avenue, in honor of soldiers who died in military service. The lights on the trees are turned on simultaneously, creating a stunning spectacle for block after block. The ceremony is preceded by cookies, hot cocoa and crafts inside Brick Church, the event's home base, as well as holiday carols in the closed-off streets of Park Avenue.
Saturday, Dec. 6, from 5:00-9:00p.m.: Corning, aka "Crystal City," shines year-round. The glitter is amped up, however, with the aptly named Sparkle festival. The streets are blocked off to accommodate dance and musical performances, as well as carriage rides. Be sure to stop by the Corning Museum of Glass beforehand for the Holiday Open House. Admission is free to all, and visitors can take advantage of a discounted Make Your Own Glass experience; you can create a one-of-a-kind holiday ornament for your home tree at a cost of only $12.00 each.
Friday, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m.: Watertown's historic Public Square hosts a multi-media evening with its tree lighting, a light display, musical performances by The Jefferson State Singers from SUNY's Jefferson State Community College.