HAMBURG — Snow may be the farthest thing from most Hamburg residents’ minds, but the Hamburgh Holidays Committee has already held its first meeting of the year and is in need of volunteers to support this year’s Christmas celebrations.
Hamburgh Holidays, with a nod to tradition in its moniker, has been held in Hamburg since the 1960s. Since its inception, the annual event has welcomed thousands of people to celebrate the holiday season.
In anticipation of this year’s festivities, committee co-chairs Chris Snyder and Paul Gaughan are out drumming up support and manpower. “While everyone takes these traditions for granted, we are experiencing a lack of volunteers,” Gaughan said. “Some of these traditions could be in peril, if people do not raise their hands and get involved.”
While Snyder stressed that the committee members are very “proud of what we do,” she added that they could use a lot more help, in their preparations. “We have had the same leadership for years,” Gaughan said. “So many things happen every year and people don’t know what’s behind [them].”
Hamburgh Holidays will kick off the Christmas season on Nov. 30, with a Santa Claus parade. During that event, Santa’s Workshop will be brought through the streets and set up in the Hamburg Village Square Plaza, for the duration of the holiday season.
Local metal artisan Justin Takas designed a sleigh with wheels that is hand-pushed through the parade.
Santa will welcome community members to walk through his workshop every Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoon of the Christmas season. Kids can drop off their letters to Santa and everyone will get a personalized, hand-written letter from the North Pole.
“People volunteer to get this going, but Santa is also a volunteer,” Gaughan said. “He does a fantastic job,” Snyder agreed. “When you go to Santa’s workshop, you feel like you’re walking into a whole other world.”
On Dec. 1, local children will be invited to view a holiday movie at the Hamburg Palace Theatre, for free. “They have been amazing to us,” Snyder said, about the theater’s owners.
A lighting of the star event will be held in the municipal parking lot on Dec. 7. The star has been newly-refurbished with all-LED lighting and is more energy efficient, according to Snyder.
The 120-bulb star will be lit, throughout the holiday season. In addition, community members can host private lightings for birthdays, graduations, engagements, memorials and other events, throughout the year, by calling Dave Nyhart at Lind-hart Mini Ship at 648-0542.
The lighting of the star evening will also mark the opening of the winter castle, which Snyder described as “beautiful holiday decor that showcases children’s art.”
A breakfast with Santa will be held at the local American Legion Hall. Attendees will meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and hang out with Santa’s elves. The event will also include holiday music, face painting and crafts for the kids.
While the committees’s winter fundraiser has traditionally been a formal gala, committee member Chrisanne Gaughan is trying something new, this year: a Diamonds and Denim event at J.P. Fitzgerald’s on Dec. 7. “If goes well, we are thinking about alternating formal and informal events,” Snyder said.
The next day, a nativity scene will be dedicated at Memorial Park. A local church group will lead the singing of Christmas carols and hot chocolate and cookies will be served. The scene will remain up all season. “The pieces in that nativity are just priceless,” Paul Gaughan said.
During the middle of December, a storytelling hour will take place in the Hamburg Public Library.
Other holiday events include the Boies Lord Holiday Open House and the Rock the Roundabout on New Year’s Eve.
Gaughan said that, while the committee is experiencing a lack of volunteers, “the easiest thing would be to simplify and eliminate things. But we don’t want to do that. We want to be able to pass the baton to the new generation.”
According to Snyder, volunteers may assist with all of the listed traditions.
She said that the committee is seeking to expand and enhance the annual Santa Claus parade, including additional participating businesses and neighborhood floats. “This is a great way to get families’ coming together in a fun way, for the good of the community,” she said.
The committee is also looking for artistic individuals to refurbish large holiday cutouts that decorate the village and to touch up the winter castle. In addition, Snyder said that the committee is in need of a person who can facilitate the local artwork displays.
Local individuals Denise Fenton and Jeannie Heckmiller are banding together to revive merchants’ night, a holiday tradition from the past, in which local businesses stay open later on the evening of the star-lighting. Area residents are needed to participate on a committee to restore that event.
Helpers are also requested to open and close Santa’s Workshop and assist at the location, during its open hours.
Gaughan said that the Hamburgh Holidays Committee is sanctioned by the village, but receives a very small portion of its funding from the municipality. The committee holds several fundraisers throughout the season, such as its live evergreen wreath sales, and donations are received from the local community.
“The monies raised go toward decorations,” Snyder said. “That’s a huge goal for Hamburgh Happenings.”
Snyder said that the committee members are hoping to complete decorating the final section of the central business district, including the section of Buffalo Street between the Prospect Avenue roundabout and the Legion and Clark area, this year. “That’s the only section without decorations,” she said.
“Traditions are a very important part of who we are,” Gaughan said. “This all happens in coordination with the village, recreation department and department of public works. This wouldn’t take place without the cooperation of the municipalities.”
The committee will meet at least once per month, through January, to discuss plans for Hamburgh Happenings, and the members have invited the local public to participate in this endeavor. “Just pick something that interests you and give us a call,” Snyder said. “It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. One small contribution could help.
“We so appreciate the support we’ve received from people supporting our fundraisers and making donations,” Snyder said. “Hamburgh Happenings really makes Christmas magical again.”
To participate in the Hamburgh Happenings Committee’s endeavors, call the Hamburg Village Hall at 649-0200 and ask for Snyder or Gaughan. Monetary donations may be dropped at the village hall or sent to 100 Main St., Hamburg, NY 14075.