Capital Region communities adjust Christmas celebrations amid COVID-19

Schenectady parade route.

Schenectady parade route.

Just as businesses have adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic, local communities continue to change how they celebrate their Christmas spirit during the holiday season.

Schenectady mayor Gary McCarthy announced the first-ever First Responders Holiday Parade 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The event will replace this year’s canceled Schenectady annual holiday parade traditionally held before Thanksgiving.

“We had this idea when news came that the Schenectady Holiday Parade was canceled because of the pandemic,” said Assistant Fire Chief Don Mareno in a press release. “That parade is typically held in late November and believed to be the largest nighttime holiday parade in the Northeast.

“It would have been the 52nd year of the parade. With all the stresses of everything happening because of COVID, we thought it would be nice to bring the parade to the community.”

Tuesday’s parade is a cooperative effort of the City of Schenectady’s Fire and Police departments, the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department, the City’s Department of General Services, and the Mohawk Ambulance Company.

The parade will consist of first responder vehicles decorated to celebrate the holiday season and will feature holiday music as Santa Claus greets residents along the route.

The parade will kick-off at 6 p.m. Tuesday and make its way through every neighborhood in the City of Schenectady.

Locally owned transportation management system, Transfinder, has developed a map of the parade route where residents will be able to track the progress of the parade online at

“Everyone loves the parade and having our first responders visiting every neighborhood is very special,” Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said in the release. “I know our community will appreciate this special event.”

The public is asked to participate safely by wearing a mask and maintaining proper distance from others, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health.

Drive-thru events have become more common during the pandemic as replacements for the usual way of celebrating the holidays. The Sacandaga Bible Conference hosted its first-ever nativity drive-thru Friday evening on Lakeview Road in Broadalbin.

“Normally we have a Christmas Cantata, a concert where a choir does a program, but are unable to do that this year,” Abbie Samples, administrative assistant for the Sacandaga Bible Conference said. “We planned this as a replacement for what we normally do.”

Beginning in August the organization decided to switch to a no-cost drive-thru live nativity event.

“We started watching different ones and decided that it would be a really neat thing to do to just involve our community in a Christmas event,” Samples said.

Sacandaga Bible Conference set up seven different scenes or stations for cars to drive up to.

Actors and animals were situated at each station, Samples said, and each car received its own individual performance.

The scenes included stories from the wise men at the first station and several involving Mary and Joseph as they began their journey. An angel appeared to help narrate the couple’s journey and guide the shepherds in the field with their sheep.

In the final scene with the manger, Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, an explanation of the meaning of Christmas was recited.

Sample said that people were excited to participate in a safe Christmas season event and that interested was high.

The week before, on Dec. 5, a celebration called A December to Remember was held as a drive-thru activity at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds.

Committee chairwoman Anna Marie Collins, a former teacher at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School estimated that more than 1,000 cars drove through the Schoharie County holiday event.

“There were 25 floats, we had everybody, Santa Clause, service wagons, Clydesdale horses and a living nativity scene,” Collins said. “All the priests and reverends from the area built a 30-foot manger, we had shepherds, an angel on top singing and playing the violin, Baby Jesus and then they brought every animal in captivity.”

The December to Remember replaced the traditional holiday parade that goes through central Cobleskill.

“The health department said no parades, nothing,” Collins said. “Flippantly they said to me in May, but if you put people in cars…I thought to myself, put people in cars? And that’s what we did.”

The turnout exceeded her expectations.

“I expected 250 cars, but you could look out on the hill and it was like from the Field of Dreams movie, cars just lined up,” she said. “People just needed to go out.

“You could see a car go by with children, old ladies and little sweet people that never would have been out that time at night. It was magical.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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