Saturday 10 December provided brisk but clear weather for the third annual iteration of the Holiday Hoopla, a free winter carnival sponsored by the town of New Paltz and the Ulster Prevention Council. The brainchild of Phoenix Kawamoto, Director of the City Office of Community Wellness, and Jim Tinger, Director of the Paltz New Youth Program (NPYP), Holiday Hoopla was first conceived as a socially distant way to help the community celebrate the arrival of Yuletide holidays during the first year of the COVID pandemic.
It started as a parade of fire trucks and other vehicles that made a circuit through the New Paltz neighborhoods, played seasonal music and filled with young volunteers dubbed the Candy Cane Crew. Its name originated from the featured entertainment: Hula Hoopers for Humanity, who would jump and spin at each of the stops on the parade route. Buddy the Bear (Kawamoto dressed as a full-body polar bear) was waving to the onlookers, and Santa Claus himself (tinger, bearded and padded).
This year, things were very different, as the crowd gathered face to face in a festive atmosphere in Hasbrouck Park, after the parade march followed the traditional parade route from New Paltz Middle School on Main Street and up Plattekill Avenue. The show itself is getting more elaborate, featuring live horses from John Fazio, Black Crow Mustangs, and some race cars that Calvin Halstead of the New Paltz Police Department battles with help from Absolutely Automotive, Nicky D’s, Tom’s Repair Shop, and Beck’s Hardware.
“Year one was just reaching out to people,” Kawamoto noted, whose mission is to support mental health and prevent substance abuse by providing fun, alcohol-free activities for young people — especially during the holidays, with such family friendly celebrations as New Paltz Eve . “It’s great to be with people.”
Live music in the park was provided by the David Chapman Band, students from the New Paltz Middle School Band, Resistance Choir and Master Touch Choir, and ended up with a karaoke session. In between, DJ Jay Smooth, CJ McIntyre, and The Wolf Radio kept the danceable sounds going, and young kids flocked by the dozens to try their hips hula-hooping in time to the music.
A variety of community service organizations set up booths, offering information and activities for children. Three young volunteers, 8th grader Brianna White and 9th grader Dalia Haselton and Eliana Milesis, sat at a table drawing little faces for free, Spider-Man being the most requested design of the day.
In the pavilion at the west end of the park, Santa was too busy posing with the kids for family photos and bruising fists. “It was a steady flow,” Tinger said. “We must have taken a few hundred pictures.” Nearby, a bouncy house provided by NPYP kept the active little ones moving. Anyone feeling cooler can head to St. Joseph’s Church, which served as the official warming station, offering hot cocoa, coffee, and tea, as well as live performances by a magician.
For the hungry, three food trucks are lined up in the park: Mark’s Dogs, the Mexican Deli Taco Truck, and the Forget Me Not Cupcakes Truck. The latter was run out of a refurbished school bus by Pat Rosa, a Milton resident with a mission of her own that aligns well with that of the event organizers: Since retiring in 2010 from a 26-year career as activities manager at a nursing home, she’s been selling gourmet cakes to the fundraiser. Funds to organizations such as the Council on Addiction Prevention and Education.
“I lost my son Christopher in 2007 to a substance use disorder. I wanted a way to give back to the community,” Rosa explained. “I couldn’t save my son, but now I can help and direct others to the help they need.” She donates a portion of her profits from cupcake sales to help matchmaking. between young people and recovery coaches and directing them to rehabilitation facilities.” I met four of them two months ago at a candlelight vigil. They are clean and sober now. We are all connected.”
In the process, Roza honed her baking skills to the point where she won K104’s Cupcake Wars competition in 2013, and went on to become a judge in subsequent years. Her most popular cupcake on that cold Holiday Hoopla day? “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” she said. “It’s mixed with hot fudge.” Seems like a sweet and cozy way to spend a fun and warm day.