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Inaugural Holiday Stroll in Northampton brings holiday cheer

  • Charlotte Rey-Bellet, 5, of Florence watches her mother, Lisa Jenike, put together the walls of a graham cracker house during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Alex Burgess, left, Rachel Peterson, Andi Porter and Ellen Gilson Voth sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” to close out a set in front of Ted’s Boot Shop on Main Street in Northampton during the Holiday Stroll on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lucy Forray, 4, of Florence continues on her stroll after visiting with stilt walker Ryan Freeze of Northampton during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday. Freeze is lit brightly by the emergency lights from a Northampton fire engine which children were welcome to visit. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ben Reardon, left, of Longmeadow photographs his wife, Tara Steiger, and daughters Camille, 2, and Georgia, 4 1/2, as they visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. The North Pole-like temperatures (below freezing) were warmed slightly by the propane heat lamp. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Tony Lechner, right, directs the Rock Voices chorus in "The Word", by the Beatles, on the steps of First Churches during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. Several singing groups performed at the Stroll, with all donations going to benefit the Interfaith Homeless Shelter. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • “’Smores,” toasted on a fire pit in the middle of Northampton’s Main Street, were a big hit with visitors to the Holiday Stroll including, in foreground, Heather Sharpes Smith, left, of Gill and Antigoni Lively, right, of Florence on Friday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Peyton Pettiford Rowan, left, Adele Jordan and Pippa Watts enjoy hula hooping in the middle of Main Street courtesy of Alotta Hoopla, during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Josephine Lynn, 3, of Haydenville, perched on the shoulders of her father, Josh Lynn, applauds after watching the Celtic Heels perform in front of Northampton City Hall during the Holiday Stroll on Friday, December 9, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Florian Jaracz, right, 7, of Cummington watches a performance by the Celtic Heels, which include his sisters Joanna and Faustyna, during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Aaliyah Grant, 5, of Northampton tries her luck in the Frosty Snowball Toss game put on by the Northampton Recreation Department during the Holiday Stroll in Northampton on Friday, December 9, 2016. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@StephMurr_Jour
Friday, December 09, 2016

NORTHAMPTON — All things were merry and bright in downtown Northampton Friday night as the city hosted its first-ever Holiday Stroll. A portion of Main Street was shut down for the inaugural event that drew hundreds and set the city aglow with holiday cheer.

From Strong Avenue to State Street, downtown was open to people young and old to walk around, sample food from local restaurants and peruse the downtown shops.

From Santa Claus, to Sylvester Graham, to Mayor David J. Narkewicz, it seemed everyone was on hand for the event hosted by the Downtown Northampton Association.

“I think this is awesome,” said Maxime Valbrune, of Easthampton. “There’s a lot of open space for kids to run around, there are a lot of games.”

Valbrune brought his two children, ages 8 and 3-and-a-half, to enjoy the stroll. His younger child, Maxa-Andre Valbrune, was mesmerized by the stilt walkers who strolled up and down Main Street.

“He won a prize but he didn’t even care,” Valbrune said with a laugh. His son’s eyes were glued on the street performers, he said.

On one end of Main Street, radio station Hits 94.3 played pop hits as strollgoers danced to the music. University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate students Vanessa Mirranda and Greg McClung showed off their moves to a remix of “Party in the USA.”

Chilly strollgoers crowded the Florence Pie Bar booth to buy slices of pie, cookies, coffee and galettes.

Over toward State Street, the stroll took on a more historic flavor. A man dressed as Sylvester Graham, the Northampton man who invented graham crackers and the namesake of Sylvester’s Restaurant, led a graham cracker decorating booth outside Memorial Hall for “people young and old.”

The real Sylvester Graham died in 1851 after living out his final years on Pleasant Street in Northampton.

The Graham impersonator never broke character as he showed off a decadent gingerbread house created by a chef at Sylvester’s Restaurant. He encouraged passers-by to decorate graham crackers, and made children giggle.

Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra watched on as her two daughters decorated graham crackers with candy and frosting.

“This is amazing,” Sciarra said, adding that she hopes the stroll will become an annual event. Some residents enjoyed the Holiday Stroll so much, they hope it will happen even more frequently.

“They ought to do this several times a year,” said Marty Espinola as he stood by a fire pit placed in the center of Main Street.

Espinola, of Northampton, was trying to stay warm with his friend Lisa Hall on the chilly December night. The cold was bearable, Hall said, because so many shops were open.

“This is great,” Hall said. “When it gets too cold, you just go into a store.”

“I like the fact that there’s music everywhere, and so many creative projects,” Espinola added.

There was music everywhere indeed, including everything from live Greek music to the Rock Voices, which led a singalong with tunes like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

The stroll featured a number of other demonstrations and performances. “It is so wonderful to see everybody downtown,” Hall said.

Stephanie Murray can be reached at stephaniemur@umass.edu.