The Cooperstown Community Christmas Committee thanks everyone for making this holiday season a success. With your donations and participation, the village was decorated, Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty and Rudolf, the Hill City Ice Queens, and a host of Christmas trees and gingerbread men arrived at the cottage with the Otsego School of Dance performing for the crowd. A special shout out to: Coach Lambert and the Cooperstown Central School basketball team, Danny Hargrove, Cody Moore and her equestrian team, the Village Crew, Tin Bin Alley, the Pit, the Cider Mill, Leatherstocking Corp., Tallman Enterprises, Andrea House for cookies and hot chocolate, Lake and Valley Garden Club, Price Chopper, Cooperstown Fire Department, the Chamber of Commerce, and all our new young and energetic members—we couldn’t do it without all of you.
COOPERSTOWN – Cooperstown Community Christmas Committee isn’t going to let COVID-19 be the Grinch who steals the holiday.
“It was clear by last summer that Christmas was going to be different,” said the 4C’s Peg Leon. “But we didn’t want to not decorate. It’s important to provide something for the locals and the children.”
This Sunday, Nov. 22, at 2 p.m., the village’s Christmas season starts, as families volunteer to decorate 48 Main Street light poles, as well as Santa’s cottage, with festive greenery to prepare the way for Santa’s arrival.
“Some families have been decorating the same pole for years,” Leon said. “They’re far enough apart to be socially distanced, and everyone will be wearing gloves and masks anyway.”
The committee will provide all decorations, and Tin Bin Alley will provide hot chocolate to warm up chilly hands when the decorating is done. To reserve your spot, email email@example.com.
Santa will arrive at his Pioneer Park cottage and light the tree in a virtual parade, broadcast on the 4C’s Facebook page on Thanksgiving.
“The parade draws such a big crowd, especially from out of town,” said Leon. “So obviously, we have to
do this virtually.”
“We are so pleased that the Christmas Committee found a way to perpetuate our Christmas traditions in safe ways,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, who will welcome Santa during the ceremony. “This is a wonderful way to continue our long-standing traditions amidst our current health challenges.”
And this year, Santa won’t be constrained to his tiny cottage, but will be out walking the streets to visit with families.
“Because we can’t do visits in the cottage, it’s all about Santa sightings,” said Leon.
Kids are invited to wave and “elbow-bump” Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty and Rudolph, and also to take a photo to submit to the Chamber of Commerce’s website in a “Santa Spotting” spree – whether you see them window-shopping downtown, picking up fresh produce at the Farmers Market, or feeding the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.
“Santa and Mrs. Claus are really pumped about making these surprise visits around town,” said Leon. “They’ll have masks on and be able to meet with people while still keeping six feet of social distancing.”
The cottage will still be in Pioneer Park, but with a new edition – a mailbox where kids can drop a letter to Santa.
But be sure to include a return address, because not only will he write back, said Leon, but his elves will include a special gift with the reply.
Letters can also be sent to P.O. Box 428, Cooperstown, NY 13326.
Also new this year is story time with Mrs. Claus, who will do a virtual reading on the Christmas Committee’s Facebook page every week through the Christmas season. The schedule has not yet been announced, but will be posted on www.facebook.com/cooptownchristmas.
“We want people to know that Christmas is still here,” said Leon.
For years now, you’ve seen Santa Claus around town all year long, perhaps manning the information kiosk in Pioneer Park, volunteering at The Farmers’ Museum, or at one community event or another.
Kids noticed it, too, and it raised questions in their young minds, and that troubled Santa. “They know it’s me,” he said in an interview the other day.
The result, years in the making, is “Santa’s Second Home,” a tell-all book that reveals a never-before-told secret: Cooperstown has replaced the North Pole as the place where the Jolly Old Elf spends most of his time.
For centuries, the icy top of the world was indeed domicile to Santa and Mrs. Claus and their workshop, but “lately, there have been a lot of changes,” the new book relates.
First, the polar ice cap has been melting at “an alarming rate,” making it a less-inviting place than it used to be. Plus, with wooden toys being replaced by “the latest electronic gadgets,” Santa had to mechanize his shop, add robots and computers to streamline orders and production.
“At the same time, Mrs. Claus has been yearning for a little house of her own, away from the bustle of the workshop, where she can have a nice little garden to tend,” Santa writes.
So, like any normal couple, the Clauses began to look for a second home, (perhaps eventually a retirement one, although this isn’t mentioned specifically), that is not too hot or too cold, or too big or too small. Most important, there had to be children, “lots of children.” And lots of Christmas spirit.
And so they happened on Cooperstown, with its “beautiful wreaths, lights and decorated trees.”
Naturally, when the Clauses arrived in town, they joined the Cooperstown Community Christmas Committee, which had come up with the idea of building a little house in Pioneer Park where children could meet the new arrivals every Christmas season.
“It’s been many years now since the Clauses have been spending time away from the North Pole in their second home,” the book reports.
With things running smoothly at the workshop, the couple find less and less reason to return, which is why you – and village kids – can see them year’round: going to church, raking or mowing the lawn at their “Victorian gingerbread” brick home, boating in the summers.
After Christmas, Santa shaves his beard and Mrs. Claus puts his shorn whiskers in the back yard for birds to use in making their nests.
Over the years, the Clauses’ Christmas residence in Pioneer Park, where they arrive in a horse-drawn wagon the day after Thanksgiving, has become more and more popular, with grown children of local folks bringing the grandchildren from as far away as Phoenix, Ariz., to join youngsters from towns around the region in giving their Christmas lists in person to the jolly couple.
The Pioneer Park cabin, in fact, has become a centerpiece of all the Christmas ferment around here, from The Farmers’ Museum Candlelight Evening to Brewery Ommegang’s Belgian Christmas.
While it hasn’t happened lately, Christmas in Cooperstown – the village is always talking about “shoulder-season” tourism promotions – was once more heavily promoted as something special.
A decade ago, the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce had a budget line to promote the holiday, former executive director Polly Renckens recalls, and launched such programs at discount Holly Dollars, decorated “Holly Trolleys” that toured people around to see the lights at the various Clark Foundation undertakings, and a Candlelight Stroll, where shops stayed open late and celebrants traversed Main Street in Victorian garb.
“It was a lot of stuff,” said Renckens, but it was a lot of fun. “Once it got organized, we kept in going and added a twist every year to keep people interested.”
The chamber would run TV spots promoting a Cooperstown Christmas. And Destination Otsego’s Deb Taylor, then county tourism director, remembers placing “All Malled Out?” ads in Albany-area newspapers, encouraging people to enjoy a less-commercialized holiday here.
“You need a catalyst,” Renckens said. Who knows? Maybe “Santa’s Second Home” will be just that.