Kids’ Almanac: Secret Santa, holly jolly hometown hero and family-friendly New Year’s options

The screenwriter of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Romeo Muller, was a longtime High Falls resident. He was a larger-than-life local character, known for tooling around town in his red Cadillac convertible. This Saturday, December 26 at 3 p.m., the Rosendale Theatre will celebrate Muller’s life and work with a free screening of another of his Christmas classics, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (shown above).

The man of the hour’s due to arrive in Woodstock on Christmas Eve – but how?

So what’s the big spoiler that everyone’s talking about this month? That Major Thing that Happens in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? That one will not be divulged here (or elsewhere in this issue), but good luck to you browsing the Internet this week without finding out involuntarily. Or maybe some tipsy cousin or colleague has already spilled the beans at some holiday party. But no, that’s not the one.

Neither is word that Kit Harington was spotted on set for the shooting of Game of Thrones Season Six, despite the fact that Season Five ended with his character, Jon Snow, apparently being stabbed to death by Night’s Watch mutineers. Very stabby, very dead. But his alleged miraculous return is so last month’s news.

In Woodstock, this December and every December, the great cosmic mystery that everyone you meet is hoping to solve is this: How will Santa arrive at the Village Green on Christmas Eve this year? What novel form of conveyance has never been used before in the annual tradition’s three-quarter-century history, yet still falls within the limited event budget of the organizing committee?

Those must be some imaginative people. In past years Santa has shown up on elephant and camelback, by hot rod and dogsled, zipline and hot-air balloon. He has climbed, skied and rappelled. How do you come up with something entirely new every year? It helps to be a town that’s a notorious hotbed of creativity, that’s for sure.

But the biggest mystery is how the secret is so closely kept. Have you ever met a Woodstocker who claimed to know ahead of time? Word has it that not even all the Christmas Eve Committee members are privy to what suggestion among many was ultimately chosen until the Big Night.

So ’tis the season for speculation. Has any unusual species of livestock been spotted poking a head out of a horse trailer passing through town lately? Did Sheriff Van Blarcum acquire an Army surplus tank at the last cop-gear convention? Have Philippe Petit’s neighbors been noticing that he’s looking a bit pudgy around the midsection of late, as he practices on his backyard high-wire? Your guess is as good as mine.

Meanwhile, put Christmas Eve on the Village Green in Woodstock on your bucket list, if it isn’t already there. Bring a kid or two if you’ve got some handy. Many locals show up without fail, no matter how horrible the weather, and some oldsters have been attending every year since they were wee ’uns. It’s one of our region’s most enduring and endearing holiday traditions.

If you don’t live within walking distance, do arrive as early as possible, or you won’t find a parking spot within walking distance – or a place to stand with a good view, as thousands usually turn out. As soon as the 5 p.m. Adirondack Trailways bus to New York City heads out of town on December 24, the police close Tinker Street to traffic, and a choir sings carols in front of the Dutch Reformed Church while the crowd gathers and anticipation builds.

Santa Claus typically arrives by 5:30. First there will be a parade of lit-up and decorated firetrucks, with the Lindsey Webster Band playing live music. And then…keep an eye in all directions, because there’s no knowing how the guest of honor will appear. He hands out about a thousand stockings containing Christmas and Hanukkah treats to kids at the Village Green, volunteers head out to deliver baskets of cheer and food to Woodstock’s housebound and needy, and then it’s all over once again: time for the Christmas Eve Committee members to put on their thinking caps for next year.


Free screening of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town on Saturday, celebrating life & legacy of High Falls screenwriter Romeo Muller

If you grew up in America anytime since the 1960s, and your family owned a TV set, you were probably exposed to the most popular holiday television special of all time, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. It gets rescreened every year at this season, and at least one of the songs from its score has become a staple of shopping-mall holiday music: Johnny Marks’s “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” originally recorded by Burl Ives.

The screenwriter for Rudolph, Romeo Muller, was a longtime High Falls resident, up until his death in 1992. By all accounts, he was a larger-than-life local character, known for tooling around town in his red Cadillac convertible. An exhibition of art, artifacts, documents and photos associated with Muller has been on view since May at the D & H Canal Museum, and can still be seen on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through early January, when the museum closes for the season.

Among Muller’s many teleplays for the Rankin/Bass animation shop during his long collaboration with them were Frosty the Snowman, Return to Oz, Puff, the Magic Dragon, The Wind in the Willows and the cartoon version of The Hobbit. This Saturday, December 26 at 3 p.m., the Rosendale Theatre will celebrate the life and work of Romeo Muller with a free screening of another of his Christmas classics, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970).

Muller’s screenplay for Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town explains how Kris Kringle becomes the world’s most famous gift giver. It conveys messages of generosity, concern for others and challenging illegitimate authority. Among the actors who supplied the voices for the stop-motion animated characters were Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn and Paul Frees.

Also on the program will be a screening of the last of Muller’s works to be animated in his lifetime, first aired just days before his death: Noël. That teleplay started life as a children’s story – the author’s personal favorite among his works – which he read aloud on Christmas Eve for many years on Kingston Community Radio. Noël relates the tale of a cheerful Christmas ornament with a special happiness that rubs off on the succession of families who occupy a home. Charlton Heston narrates.

On hand for the occasion at the Rosendale Theatre will be Walt Maxwell, who hosted Romeo’s annual radio reading of Noël; Bert Stratford, producer of the TV version of Noël; Bill Merchant, chair of the D & H Museum’s Board of Directors; and the author’s niece, Krista Muller. The double-feature screening will be followed by an open-microphone discussion of Romeo Muller’s life and legacy. People who knew him are invited to come and share their memories.

Admission to this special community event is free. The Theatre is located at 408 Main Street in Rosendale, and the Museum is located at 23 Mohonk Road in nearby High Falls. For more information, call (845) 658-8989 or visit


Olana hosts Jingle Jangle Winter Celebration this Saturday

Frederic Edwin Church’s exotic manse above the Hudson River will soon welcome quiet hordes of visitors, recovering from Christmas and Chanukah but not yet ready to settle down for that long winter’s nap. And why should we? This is the “holiday season,” after all. And on Saturday, December 26, the Olana Partnership’s second annual “Jingle Jangle: A Winter Celebration” will take place to prolong the joy.

Whether you’ve been to the Olana State Historic Site before or not, the afternoon festivities designed for all ages will bring more holiday excitement to your weekend. From 1 to 5 p.m., there will be things happening at both the Wagon House Education Center and the Visitor Center; the main house will be open for guided tours (for an additional fee) and the Museum Shop will be finishing its season with deep discounts on great gifts for any season.



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