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Holiday Stroll lights up Main Street, Northampton

  • A group of people toast marshmallows during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Isaac Stith, left, and Billy Warren, both 8, of Westhampton, sing holiday favorites during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. They were singing with a group from Westhampton Good Works. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Giant puppets walk among a crowd gathered for the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A giant puppet walks by City Hall during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Giant puppets walk among a crowd gathered for the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Giant puppets walk among a crowd gathered for the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tobey LaRoche, left, serves free minestrone soup from Paul and Elizabeth's during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Maddy Davidson, left, who works for Cedar Chest, hands out free glow sticks during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Caren Weiner, who is the owner of Chestnut Mountain Tree Farm in Hatfield, prepares a table-top tree for a customer during the annual Holiday Stroll, Saturday in Northampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



For the Gazette
Sunday, December 03, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — On any other day, cars whiz down the four lanes of traffic on Main Street in Northampton. But on Saturday, the street was alive with carolers, campfires and community members clutching hot chocolate, as the town celebrated the second annual Holiday Stroll.

Trees dazzled with white Christmas lights, and faces were illuminated by glow sticks being handed out by Cedar Chest staff.

For the second year in a row, the event was hosted by the Downtown Northampton Association. Main Street was closed off from 5-8 p.m. for the festivities.

A choir of elementary school children and adults from Good Works Group, a volunteer group in Westhampton, gathered in the street near First Churches to sing “Winter Wonderland.” And that it was.

Many of the singing groups at the stroll, including the Good Works Group, passed around hats to collect donations for the Interfaith Emergency Homeless COT Shelter in Northampton. Lori Ingraham, chairperson of the management committee at the shelter, estimated the amount raised last year was in the thousands.

Rock Voices, a community choir based in Hadley, Northampton, Auburn, Hartford, Connecticut and Brattleboro, Vermont, also collected funds for the shelter. The group sang for an hour on the steps of First Churches, covering everything from Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” to Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop Children What’s that Sound.”

Jessica Moore, who has been with Rock Voices for about a year, sang at last year’s stroll. This year’s 30-degree temperatures felt much warmer than last year’s weather, she joked.

“I think it’s really important that we all look out for each other,” Moore said. “Music has healing properties… it joins us together.”

Close by, the Northampton Parks and Recreation Department set up games for children, such as a Santa hat ring toss. Volunteers manned the games and handed out hot chocolate donated by Smith College.

At the end of the street, teenagers from Shaolin Kung Fu Center of Hadley performed a routine outside of town hall, the façade of which was lit up in vibrant red and green. Sam the Minuteman, the University of Massachusetts Amherst mascot, meandered down the street, past families with baby strollers and groups of people socializing. Puppets on stilts towered over the crowd.

Lines stretched from the center of the road to the sidewalk, as attendees waited to toast s’mores over a bonfire. Stephanie Agrew, a Northampton resident, stood in line with her two children.

“It’s important to have community events that are free to get everyone together and build a stronger sense of community,” Agrew said. “It’s nice to see people out and about.”

By the Pleasant Street intersection, attendees danced to pop songs played by Hits 94.3 and 93.9 The River. Stroll-goers tried on hats and fuzzy boas as they posed for a free photo booth on the Northampton District Court lawn.

Friends and neighbors of all ages gathered to celebrate the season in the heart of Northampton — even those with four legs. Maddy Smiarowski of Hatfield attended the event with Henry, a friendly, white dog with a red bow around its collar. Smiarowski happily spent the night listening to carolers and warming up by the fire. “It’s a beautiful night,” she said.