No matter what astronomical, meteorological, spiritual, historical, mythological or cultural phenomenon you personally consider the “reason for the season,” there’s no denying that all the holidays that revolve around the Winter Solstice celebrate one thing in common: light. It’s something that everybody needs a little more of at this darkest time of the year.
In an effort to bring people of all belief systems together in a massive, festive, citywide pre-holiday extravaganza, 22 years ago Poughkeepsie began hosting its annual Celebration of Lights, returning on Friday, December 4. It started with a ceremonial tree-lighting and a parade incorporating music and dance from many cultures. Before long fireworks were added to the menu.
The Bardavon 1869 Opera House has been a key partner in the Celebration of Lights from the get-go as well, presenting some family-friendly classic film on the big screen. This year the movie will be Miracle on 34th Street (1947), starring Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, Maureen O’Hara as his boss at Macy’s and a very young Natalie Wood as her Santa-skeptic daughter. Tickets cost $6 and the show begins at 8 p.m., preceded at 7:30 with a concert on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ.
The evening’s festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m., when mayor John Tkazyik and members of the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council lead the parade down toward the Hudson River from the corner of Main and Garden Streets. The first tree-lighting occurs at the corner of Main and Garden Streets, and a second one at Dongan Square Park at Main and Clover Streets concludes the parade. In between you’ll see performances, floats, riders or marchers from the Amerscott Highland Pipers, the Poughkeepsie Exempt Firemen’s Association Color Guard, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort, Adams Fairacre Farms’ Layton Percheron horse-drawn hayride, Miss Hudson Valley, Miss Hudson Valley Teen, Dutchess Jeep & Dodge, the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, the Roaring Thunder Car Club, Arlington Auto and Tire, the Young Bright Teens community program, Hudson Valley Girl & Boy Scouts, the Poughkeepsie High School Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, several Hudson Valley Philharmonic brass ensembles, Arm-of-the-Sea Theatre, the Percussion Orchestra of Kingston and 200 children from Warring, Morse, Clinton and Kreiger elementary schools and Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus riding on a fire engine.
At 7:15 p.m., the Poughkeepsie River District Business Association and Legion Fireworks will present the fireworks display. Businesses along and near the parade route will showcase holiday window displays created by local artists and offer entertainment, and food and beverage specials. So whether you’re hurrying back up to the Bardavon for the movie or just want to linger amidst the holiday-spirited crowds, you’ll find plenty of convivial fun for the whole family. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/events/1716174718619638, www.bardavon.org, www.pokriverdistrict.org or www.middlemain.com.
Special note for marchers: Due to construction, changes have been made to the location of the start of the parade, as well as the parking for parade participants. Please arrive for lineup between 5:30 and 6 p.m., and enter the City of Poughkeepsie Municipal Lot Service Road on Crannell Street (through the entrance on North Hamilton Street). You can then pull your vehicle off to the right side of the road (facing Catherine Street) or you can park in the lot itself. There will be staff to direct you at the North Hamilton entrance.