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Annual holiday parade, craft fair well-attended

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Despite the cold weather on Sunday, hundreds of spectators lined Washington Street to watch the annual Watertown Holiday Parade, which started at 1 p.m. at Watertown High School.

More than 20 groups and businesses participated in the parade, including the city police and fire departments, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Watertown Correctional Facility at Dry Hill, Boy Scout troops 23 and 496, Dance World, 4-H, the Miss Thousand Islands Pageant program, Benchmark Family Services, the Donegal Beard Contest, Miss Italia, the Jefferson County Dairy Princess and Guilfoyle Ambulance.

Cheney Tire, Davidson Nissan and Caskinette Ford represented the local business community, and Santa Claus himself was sponsored by the Downtown Business Association.

The Thousand Islands Privateers marched in the parade for the first time this year, with team members flanking Watertown Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham as they swaggered down the street in the wake of an impressive pirate ship. The ship had a cannon that discharged some fairly long-range smoke rings.

The major goal of the parade is to provide food for the needy; entrants and attendees were asked to donate goods. “We hope to fill one or both pickups up for (non)perishable food for Community Action Planning Council,” parade organizer Stanley E. Zaremba said, indicating two large pickup trucks provided by Cheney Tire.

Among other donors, Laurie R. Hudson, a representative of the Watertown Teachers Association, helped friends load wagons full of canned goods into the pickup trucks after the parade ended.

In years to come, the parade may move from its customary afternoon time slot to a weekend evening to attract a larger crowd and more donations.

“In conversation with the city manager and myself, we’re going to try maybe in the future to move it to Sunday night. Either that or maybe a Saturday night,” Mr. Zaremba said.

During the festivities, parade-goers could take a break from the cold to stop in at the Holiday Craft Fair and Market on the first and second floors of the Dulles State Office Building.

More than 600 visitors attended the fair, which benefited the Watertown Urban Mission.

This year, 55 vendors filled 60 spaces, an increase of more than 25 percent over last year’s 43 vendors, according to Andrew G. Mangione, director of development for the Watertown Urban Mission.

“That’s largely because of the success we had last year of bringing people in,” Mr. Mangione said.

The fair generates money by requiring vendors to pay an entry fee and charging admission of $2 at the door.

“With that $2 admission, you’re eligible for door prizes and you also receive a coupon for the Impossible Dream Thrift Store,” Mr. Mangione said.

The money goes to the mission’s general fund, which helps to meet the increasing need for assistance during the winter.

“With heating prices becoming an issue, we see an increase of people coming in need, especially in our other programs such as Critical Needs and our Hearth program, which helps with homelessness,” Mr. Mangione said. “The money raised here will help us help the people in need.”

“It also raises awareness, because we want people who need help to know we’re here and we want people who want to help to know how to give to the Watertown Urban Mission,” he said.

The Critical Needs program seeks to help people with everything from obtaining clothing for a new job to meeting the cost of purchasing prescription drugs, Mr. Mangione said.

“We’re so happy to have so many generous donors in this community,” he said. “As need rises, the beautiful thing about this community is that people’s giving rises with the need. We see new people coming in.

Two of those new people are George F. and Trudy A. Bishop, Heuvelton, who opened up their booth, Cedar Designs, for the first time this year.

Mr. Bishop, who recently retired from Riverview Correctional Facility in Ogdensburg, where he was a vocational printing instructor, builds furniture from cedar logs he cuts on his farm, which has been in his family for 75 years. Mr. and Mrs. Bishop discovered the fair online.

One of the busier booths at the fair belonged to vendors Robin G. and Timothy J. Hannon, Rodman. They have been coming to the fair for at least seven years.

The booth, which the couple has dubbed “Timmy Cracked Corn Produce and More,” features crafts and baked goods. The Hannons found out about the fair through their participation in the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce’s Farm and Craft Market and through their “crafting friends.”

The fair means good business for the Hannons.

“We do very well. With the pepper jams and other jams and jellies, it’s a good venue for us,” Mrs. Hannon said.

When asked whether the parade helps bring people to the craft fair, Mr. Mangione said the fair sees a boost in visitors before and after the parade.

Heidi and V. Throi Vilchez, California, came to the fair after the parade to escape the cold.

Mr. Vilchez is stationed at Fort Drum. His wife heard about the parade from a co-worker who marched with her son and his Boy Scout troop.

It was the first time the couple had experienced the parade and craft fair. When asked what she thought of the fair, Mrs. Vilchez said, “It seems pretty awesome. I like it.”

The parade, the cold weather and the enthusiasm of newcomers helped to break attendance records for the craft fair.

“We’ve already hit last year’s numbers of people,” Mr. Mangione said. “To do better this year than last year is just a tremendous accomplishment, and we’re very grateful for all the support in the community.”







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