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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 15, 2011

Victorian Holiday celebration delights both young and old

ALTAMONT — Tours of beautiful local homes, Santa’s arrival by train, and a live Nativity made the 10th annual Victorian Holidays event last weekend a success, according to organizers.

The group Altamont Community Tradition put on the event.

“To pull off this weekend, I think 13 people did a great job,” said ACT President Judith Dineen. “The house tours were spectacular. We did 273 house tours. We broke all our records.”

Dineen said that 1,200 people attended, and that number included many children who waited to see Santa on the train.

The live Nativity included a young family who is new to the area, with Michael and Teresa McNeany playing Joseph and Mary, and their infant son, Zachary, portraying Jesus.

“This was my pet project,” Dineen said. “They really just fit the part. They were wonderful.”

“This was our third year,” said Pastor Bob Luidens of the Altamont Reformed Church about the live Nativity. “We’re delighted to do it.”

His church hosted the event, Luidens said, but the enactment included volunteers from other churches. 

Dineen said that the Victorian Holiday depended entirely on volunteers, from donations of trees by Agway, wreaths by the First Bank of Scotia, and a trolley complete with volunteers from the State Employees Federal Credit Union. The wreaths and trees were distributed to residents, who returned them with decorations, Dineen said.

“We’re a non-profit; we don’t have a budget,” she said.

An “amazing team”

Dineen coordinated the event, but said of ACT, “I’m just the president. It’s an amazing team. They all do something. I just fill in the little stuff.”

Elaine Person prepared the flier used to advertise the weekend.

“She is great,” Dineen said. Dineen, herself, handled other publicity, she said.

“Ronnie D’Alauro and Lois Ginsburg ran the wine and cheese — our kick-off,” Dineen said. The wine-tasting occurred Saturday evening, and the holiday event ran all day Sunday.

Mike LaMountain coordinated the arrival of Santa, she said, while Danny Ramirez handled getting the trees decorated by volunteers.

“The trees were decorated by the people in the village,” Dineen said. Girl Scout Troop 1133 had the winning tree in the decorating competition, she said

Ginsburg handled the wreaths, which were also decorated by volunteers, Dineen said.

Dean Whalen, a member of the village board and of ACT, built fires with his Scouts in Orsini Park to warm people who were waiting for Santa, Dineen said.

Dineen said that she was told last year that the celebration did not have enough children’s events. This year, Meg Seinberg-Hughes organized a craft table for the children, Dineen said.

“That was a success. That was new,” she said.

Thomas Person worked the crowd as Macintosh the Clown.

“Tom is a kid magnet,” Dineen said.

Teri Conroy donated her llamas for the live Nativity, in which they portrayed camels, Dineen said.

Conroy’s Henry, the goat, was cast as a sheep, Dineen said.

Other ACT volunteers included Norman Bauman, Ron Ginsburg, Joe Race, Marc Smith, Jim Miller, Chuck Ciaccio, Tom Gessick, Connie Rue, Lars Turin, and Rhonda Flansburg.

“I’m very happy with the whole thing…a compilation of fantastic work by very few people,” Dineen said.

Christmas in disguise

Larry Adams, who works for the village and for Agway, worked with other volunteers to set up a Christmas gift at the event for a local 97-year-old woman, according to volunteer George Pratt.

Pratt, 83, is well known in Altamont for his horses, and he rode his 16-hand horse during the holiday event. He said he rode “on a big buckskin of mine,” and went on, “I was there as part of a children’s day.” Pratt described what he termed one of several “little situations” on Sunday.

The crew at Agway arranged for a 97-year-old woman, who uses a wheelchair and who had not ever touched a horse, to meet Pratt and his steed, he said.

Bent and seated in her chair, Pratt said, “She couldn’t quite reach his nose.” He gently helped her by taking the arm of her jacket and directing her hand, he said.

“You couldn’t dream it up,” he said. “It was unique. It was a Christmas present in disguise.”

“Exquisitely respectful”

Dineen warned her team, as she said that she does each year, that this may have been the final year of the event.

“We need people to open their doors, and it’s hard. You have to ask a lot of people to get six [homes],” she said.

Members of ACT often research the houses’ deeds and prepare histories for those on the tours, but not each home needs to be historical, she said.

“People love to come in and see the house decorations,” she said. An Arts and Crafts bungalow was included among the Victorians this year, and she sought but did not get newer homes in the Kushaqua neighborhood, she said.

Dineen has opened her home for the tours twice before, she said.

“They’re exquisitely respectful,” Dineen said of the public. “They pay to do it, $10 per house tour. You don’t get people wandering through your house for no reason. We provide things to go over their shoes.”

Dineen said that some hosts set a holiday table for show, and that, one year, a hostess placed gingerbread cookies on the table.

“The cookies were gone at the end of the day,” she laughed.

Providing snacks is not necessary, but some hosts do bake for their tourists, or offer cider, Dineen said.

“It was really bustling. I was pleased this year,” she said. “I’m so grateful for this community and this team — this bunch from ACT.”

— Jo E. Prout

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