Winter Fest brings residents to Main Street


Recorder News Staff

It was the third annual Winter Fest, Downtown Mixer in downtown Amsterdam Saturday evening and the kids couldn't wait for Santa Claus to arrive.

Family upon family strolled the Main Street strip beginning around 4 p.m. for a brisk evening out.

Around them were Christmas light-covered street lamps.

The parking lot was filled and the lights in many of the stores were on, sporting special Winter Fest hours and deals.

And even the vacant store fronts housed temporary vendors selling cupcakes, popcorn, jewelry, and more.

At 6:30 p.m., Santa Claus came riding down Main Street in an Amsterdam Fire Department truck and the kids yelled and waved as he got out to greet them and here their Christmas wishes.

"I love seeing the people come downtown. I love seeing the kids do things," said Winter Fest volunteer coordinator Donna Dickerson. "I mean look at all the cars downtown. It reminds me of when I was growing up."

Dickerson said it brought her back to the times when people were constantly utilizing downtown Amsterdam, eating at Emmy Lou's diner, and spending time walking the street.

Down by Church Street at the night's indoor vendor market, Amsterdam native Joann Jablonski, creator of Cakes by Joann stood selling homemade cupcakes in a variety of colors and flavors.

Kids and parents walked by and bought the delicacies for $1 a piece.

"I started it on the side just as a hobby. I worked at Price Chopper for five years decorating cakes," she said. "I just quit there in June and I'm working on opening a bakery."

Jablonski hopes to secure a spot on Church Street, she said, and for now, markets like the Winter Fest are giving her the chance to get her name out there and build support before the business opens.

"It's great to get out there and meet people in the community," she said. "You get to actually meet some of your customers, some of your potential customers, and see what they think and what they're interested in so that way I can build my business around what they like."

Feeling the same was 18-year-old Shelby Sharp, who had her own booth at the downtown mixer selling homemade hats made to resemble different animals.

What started as just a gift for a friend, has now turned in to a new hobby and business for her, she said.

The mixer was her third event selling and she sells many hats on Facebook and eBay.

"I've had a couple people come by and say, 'I saw this hat on Facebook.' And (they bought) them," she said. "So that was pretty cool."

Across the street, kids had the opportunity to make crafts with a Michael's representative.

And a few doors down they were able to go into the newly renovated Sharp Shooters Billiards and Sports Bar and shoot pool for free.

There was even karaoke set up at a few locations.

The Book Hound had artwork displayed and caricatures being painted inside, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame stayed open into the evening to let new and returning visitors come through.

Anthony Vellano, president of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, said they've been open since 2005 and are open on weekends, but they open for special occasions, like the Winter Fest and the Spring Fling.

"It's community. Everybody around here knows what's down here, but they just get together because it that time of the season, they like the camaraderie, and it gives them a chance for people to see people," he said.

In the future, Vellano said he would like to see more restaurants, retail and high-end apartments in the downtown area.

"I'd rather see it be active here than nothing."

Fernando Valls, strolling Main Street with his family, said he was happy to go downtown for the evening.

"There need to be more events like this just to get the community, get everybody out," he said. "It's good to have events like this for kids, activities to keep them focused on positive stuff rather than negative."

Like Dickerson, Valls brought up the booming downtown of years past when he moved to Amsterdam, and hopes that will come back.

Valls said events like the mixer will help.

"It's good for small businesses," he said. "I've seen things that I've never seen before."

"It opens my eyes to things."

Dickerson said she just wants Amsterdam to "come back."

"I would like to see Amsterdam do this every month or every other month, something different for the kids," she said. "Businesses are doing business and that's what matters. We need the downtown."