Come this weekend, both Highland and New Paltz should look a bit more festive. Each community is gearing up to decorate for the holiday shopping season in their own way. In New Paltz, the celebration has a distinct multicultural and commercial flavor. Organizers there plan to continue their annual Downtown Unwrapped celebration, where the Main Street businesses decorate their storefront windows for the holiday.
In Highland, the focus is more on a traditional Christmas. Event planners there will light up a tree in the center of the hamlet, as well as bringing Santa Claus to town.
Here are more details about what each community has planned.
New Paltz Downtown Unwrapped began in 2007, when a group of businesses on Main Street decided to compete for who could become the king of storefront window decoration. The celebration has grown to include events at Water Street Market and annual appearances by Santa Claus.
“The whole idea of it is to unify the downtown New Paltz community,” explained organizer Melinda Minervini. “It’s been building every year.”
On Friday night, Downtown Unwrapped will kick off with special events from 6 until 8 p.m. Expect local stores to take the wrapping paper off their windows and show their Christmas and Hanukkah decorations in full glory. Judges will go from store to store to pick which display they like best. Santa should be on hand to pose for pictures with the kids. People should try to meet up at 2 Church Street, where the members of the Downtown Business Association will light up snowflakes with Christmas lights.
On Saturday and Sunday, businesses in New Paltz will be giving out special discounts and prizes, which could be anything from a coupon to free hot chocolate. Children should expect a fun treasure hunt looking for hidden gnomes at Water Street Market on Friday night at 7 p.m. and all day Saturday.
“That’s a new thing that we’re doing this year,” said Julie Robbins, who also helped plan the event.
In the nearby Town of Lloyd, event planners are getting ready for a three-phase “Light up the Hamlet” celebration that’ll start on Saturday. Volunteers and revelers will gather at 9 a.m. and spend the morning stringing up white lights from the trees throughout the hamlet center in Highland.
Unlike New Paltz, which strategically targeted an event for the village core on Main Street in an effort to boost holiday gift shopping, Highland’s event is focused on the core of town for convenience. “it’s just because the hamlet is the core of the community,” explained Wendy Rosinski, with the Town of Lloyd Events Committee.
Businesses throughout the Town of Lloyd are encouraged to put up white lights in their windows in a show of support with the decorations downtown.
From Nov. 21 until Dec. 3, children in Highland can participate in a “Winter Word Hunt.” Kids and their parents will go from location to location downtown looking for red stockings in the window to gather the needed clues to win the challenge.
Later on in early December, the events in Highland get a little sillier. On Saturday, Dec. 3, the town will gather at 9 a.m. to hand Santa Claus’ laundry out to dry. The whimsical tradition of hanging Jolly Saint Nick’s undies out for a public viewing began as a Canadian tradition. However, event planners in Highland fell in love with the idea and imported it.
On that same evening, at 6 p.m., revelers will gather in the hamlet center in Highland for a Christmas block party. During that celebration, the town will light the tree, Santa Claus will arrive — not by his usual sleigh — but by fire truck, and the town will set off fireworks.
People who took the time to fill out their Winter Word Hunt forms should turn in their answers during the block party. Later that night, three lucky winners will be awarded a prize.
Other national events
New Paltz isn’t the only place trying to drum up business before Black Friday. Nationally, a number of events are focused on helping local businesses get some holiday shopping business.
On Saturday, the national America Unchained campaign asks people to spend their gift money at small, independent stores rather than large national chains. Later on Saturday, Nov. 26, there’s a similar event called Small Business Saturday, which also asks people to patronize their nearby locally owned shops.
“A lot of these events are what we do naturally,” said Minervini, who outside of planning Christmas events owns Handmade & More. For local business people with small independent shops, the idea of promoting shopping at small businesses comes naturally. “Anybody who has had a small business like we’ve had has always believed that.” ++