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The Holidays Are Just Around the Corner – help save the tradition of Sinterklaas

  |   November 10, 2010  |  Comment

Sinterklaas Cancels Arrival Event in Rhinecliff

Rhinebeck, NY —  Sinterklaas, the award-winning winter holiday celebration in Rhinebeck, is experiencing a serious downturn in fundraising this year.  Yesterday, the volunteer committee made the difficult decision to CANCEL the Thanksgiving weekend “Arrival of Sinterklaas” in Rhinecliff, NY, originally slated for Saturday, November 27th. This smaller arrival event has been cut to save funds for the bigger all-day event on Sinterklaas Day on Saturday, December 4th.

“We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions this year,“ said Jeanne Fleming, producer of the popular holiday event.  “And, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

The main event, Sinterklaas Day, will take place on December 4th in Rhinebeck, but the committee acknowledges that they are still a few thousand dollars short of their planned budget.  “We found ways to cut the budget by a third, but we’re still coming up short at this point,” added Ms. Fleming.

Sinterklaas has traditionally begun on Thanksgiving weekend with the Sinterklaas character arriving by boat on the docks of Rhinecliff.  He mounts his white horse and  leads a procession of hundreds of folks, to a celebration at the Rhinecliff Hotel.   The Sinterklaas Week culminates with an all-day festival in the streets of Rhinebeck on December 4th, entertaining thousands with dance, music, theatre, storytelling and a circus in the restaurants, hotels, theatres, church spaces and town hall of Rhinebeck.  The day ends with a sensational Starlight Parade with 20’ tall puppets, star lanterns, bands, dancers, fire-eaters, jugglers, and Sinterklaas on his white horse, leading the parade.  All events and activities are free and open to the public.

“We have all the elements in place to go,” said Ms. Fleming, “and we’re just a few weeks away.  We need the people who love Sinterklaas to really step up now, help out just a little and let us know we can go for it!”

The all-volunteer steering committee has been fundraising since July, hosting an art party at Zen Dog, a new art café in Rhinebeck, holding house parties and asking the community to participate in the “Follow the Stars” campaign, asking 1,000 people to donate just $20 towards the event.

“We only need about 310 more people to say ‘yes’ to Sinterklaas and donate $20 and become one of our 1,000 Stars, “ said Pat Sexton, a Rhinebeck resident and member of the committee.  “We’re so close, but we are definitely in need this year.”

Like so many other organizations, Sinterklaas is finding their usual funding sources are not able to support the community activities they have in the past.  “We’re hearing from everyone that there is no money.  Many are saying they are not funding the arts right now,“ said Ms. Sexton. “But this is more than just the arts, this is truly a reflection of how community should be, how we should feel together, celebrating and proud of our wonderful Hudson Valley and its talented people.”

Sinterklaas has been celebrated in the picturesque village of Rhinebeck, NY for the past two years, marking the return of its winter celebration after an 18-year hiatus.  It is the creation of American Celebration Artist Jeanne Fleming, best known for producing the annual New York City Halloween Parade, the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty and the 2009 Opening Celebration of the Walkway Over the Hudson.

Contemporized, but based on a old Dutch tradition, the event spans five weeks and includes a full month of arts workshops throughout November.

“We’re opening the workshops on Thursday, November 11,” said Lila Pague, a Rhinebeck shop owner and member of the committee.  “The interaction of the community in making all the parade elements, working together, meeting new people, bringing in their children to create works of art – that’s what most important about this event,“ Ms. Pague said.  “We can’t do without these opportunities to bring our community, our extended family, together.”

More than 3,000 people attended the events in 2008 and 2009 and participated in projects such as puppet building, silk screening, origami and carried puppets in the parade.  Local high school art classes and senior citizen painting groups design the unique signage that hangs in the trees around town.  The event has been recognized with a Dutchess County Spirit Award and the Dutchess County Executive’s Award for Art in Public Places.  The Huffington Post described the event as, “something magnificent to observe and participate in, just a smile away from Whoville with a hint of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”

The event is staffed by over 100 volunteers who donate more than $50,000 in professional expertise, time and materials.   Funds cover expenses such as insurance, equipment rental, art materials and artist stipends.

Supporters are asked to join the “Follow the Stars” fundraising campaign, by becoming one of 1,000 Stars with donations as little as $20.  Tax deductible donations can be made on the website:  www.sinterklaasrhinebeck.com or mailed to: Hudson Valley Community Productions (HVCP), 118 LaBergerie Lane, Red Hook, NY 12572.
For more information on sponsorships or donations, please call (845) 876-6880.

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