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Thanksgiving kicks off an abundance of holiday family fun and entertainment

Santa’s Magical Express
Photo courtesy of Santa's Magical Express/Yankee Trails
Santa’s Magical Express

For entertainment, Thanksgiving Weekend is the official start of the Christmas holiday season. However, with COVID still being an influence, things are different this year. For one thing, most venues have policies that demand you show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test for entry. Also, at many places you need to wear a mask inside.

Unfortunately, one loss is Melodies of Christmas at Proctors. In the past the WRGB- sponsored event hosted multiple performances every year. It’s been a beloved holiday tradition for 40 years and will be missed by many.

As compensation, the Empire State Youth Orchestra, usually a mainstay of Melodies along with its jazz orchestra, offer its own holiday spectacular “Sleigh Ride.” It’s at Proctors on December 19.

Some other events will still happen, but in a new format. In the case of Troy’s Victorian Stroll and Saratoga Springs’ Victorian Streetwalk they are no longer one day events. Previously, you could dress in vintage clothes and enjoy several dozen events scattered throughout the city.

Troy is now having a “Stroll Season” and inviting people downtown throughout the entire shopping season. They will have pop-up events on December 5, 11 and 18.

Saratoga is lengthening their Walk to a weekend December 2-5. It, too, is a less structured event, with entertainment presented more randomly than in the past. The changes are commercially oriented rather than COVID related.

Capital Holiday Lights in the Park is still at Washington Park in Albany this year. Because its popularity has been the cause of vehicle congestion and other minor problems in downtown it has to move to another location next year. Reserved time periods will be in effect this year, along with other minor regulations being imposed. Check their website before heading out. It closes January 2, and as of yet, no new site has been announced for the future.

There are changes for Santa’s Magical Express, as well. The event which is celebrating its 10th season is, this year, is a split event. There is 45-minute show at its Rennselaer facility and everyone boards a 45-minute bus quest to save Christmas by recovering Santa’s magical hat which was stolen by Jack Frost.

This year it has the same cast of characters such as Mrs. Claus, Winky, Ebenezer Scrooge, Frosty and, of course, Santa and his elves. There are multiple shows a day Thursdays-Sundays through December 23.

Indoor venues still are happening. One of my favorite’s the Holiday Greens Show at the Hart-Cluett Museum on 2nd Street downtown in Troy. Many of the freshly made wreaths are for sale. It features 12 rooms decorated in Victorian splendor inside a Gilded Age townhouse. It runs December 2-5.

In Albany you get a similar experience at the Ten Broeck Mansion. They are offering timed tours on Saturdays and Sundays. The historic mansion has been uniquely decorated inside and out for the holidays. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Another treat is the Albany Pro Musica’s annual holiday show at the Troy Music Hall. This year it is titled “The Many Moods of Christmas.” It’s always a special afternoon.

The Albany Symphony Orchestra is doing its share to bring holiday cheer to the community. On December 5 it presents its annual family show “The Magic of Christmas” and new this year on December 11, they are offering a musical salute to “The Nutcracker.”

Speaking of “Nutcrackers,” the family-friendly ballet is plentiful this season. The Egg in Albany offers several. Albany Berkshire Ballet offers 3 productions on the weekend of December 11-12. Saratoga City Ballet presents two on December 18. Proctors in Schenectady has its annual presentation of Northeast Ballet’s “Nutcracker” December 22-23.

Proctors is also presenting “It’s a Jazzy Christmas” which features the area’s best jazz musicians performing the music of Vince Guaraldi, who became famous for composing the music of the Peanuts holiday specials. As a bonus, the following day it plays at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga, December 18.

There’s a touch of Ireland in the area this Christmas. “Lunasa: A Christmas From Ireland” is at Proctors on December 4. “Cherish the Ladies’ Celtic Christmas” is at Troy Music Hall on December 7 and “The McKrell’s Holiday Concert” is at the Egg on December 18. McKrell is also offering the concert "A Saratoga Christmas" for Home Made Theater in Saratoga on December 15.

Missing this season is Ebenezer Scrooge, as no major theater company is offering a production of "A Christmas Carol." Indeed, the only holiday themed play is at Russell Sage College in Troy. They are staging a production of "It's a Wonderful Life" as if it were a radio play. It's offered December 3-5.

It’s going to be an active holiday season. Be sure to check all venues for COVID protocol before going. And, be patient with any inconveniences. You can be both jolly and safe while enjoying the holiday.