SARATOGA SPRINGS – When kids make their way up to Santa’s Cottage on Broadway during the Victorian Streetwalk on Thursday, they’ll see Mr. and Mrs. Claus in their spruced-up home.
Decked with white trim and arched features, the red and green house has been part of the Saratoga Springs celebration for the last 30 years. It recently received some much-needed repairs, including a new coat of paint and wiring work, all done by Bonacio Construction Inc.
“They painted it up beautifully inside. They did such a nice job,” said Bobby Giordano, who along with his wife Michele Erceg, helped to design and build the cottage that’s become a quintessential part of the Streetwalk.
The design is inspired by the playhouse Erceg’s father built for her when she was a child. Erceg, who owns Best Dressed Windows in Town, helped bring together members of the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association to build the cottage a little over three decades ago.
“Ed Sakos was a member of the DBA at the time and we decided to build it together. We literally started right after Labor Day and worked out on his farm part of every day from Labor Day to Thanksgiving. That’s when it was picked up and brought downtown for the very first time. We got all the building materials donated by a lot of companies in town,” Erceg said.
“That’s the good thing about Saratoga,” Giordano said. “People ask me ‘how big is the town?’ I say, ‘it’s a town of maybe 30,000. Small enough where people can get involved with anything if they want to and a lot of people want to.’”
Since the cottage was built, the couple has always made sure that Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus make an appearance there during the Victorian Streetwalk. Giordano also collects the letters that children drop off at the cottage throughout the season.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the cottage, which is situated in front of Putnam Market, tonight to kick off the Victorian Streetwalk, which starts with a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony from 6-9 p.m.
“Kids are welcome in. The DBA is thankful to people that come and visit Saratoga and live here. So they can take whatever photographs they want. There’s no charges for it. We spend as much time as we can with the kids. Santa Claus doesn’t toss them out the door,” Giordano said.
“When we are outside helping at about 9 p.m. at night, most of the parents have taken the children home, but there’s still a line to get into the cottage and talk to Santa Claus. And most of the ‘children’ standing in line to visit with Santa at this point in life have grey hair. So children of all ages still come to see Santa. Is there a cut-off age? No, there’s no cutoff age,” Erceg said.
American Idol finalist Madison VanDenburg will also perform during the tree lighting ceremony and there will be carolers, ballerinas, musicians, jugglers and more. Broadway will be closed from Spring Street to Lake Avenue for the event.
The Streetwalk, which is organized by the DBA, has previously been a single-day event, however, during the pandemic, the DBA expanded it to a weekend of festivities.
“It’s very weather dependent when you do it one day,” said DBA Board President Deann Devitt. “We wanted to try to do something that brought business for an entire weekend.”
On Friday and Saturday, it’ll run from 5-8 p.m. with live music, entertainment and strolling performers throughout the downtown area. Performers include Sonny & Perley Duo, John Kribs, Stephen Crouth, Burnt Hills/ Ballston Lake High School Choir, Racing City Chorus Acappella Group and Road Soda Pop Acoustic Trio. The Saratoga Rowing Association will have a rowing machine contest set up in front of iRun Local and Sparkles the Juggler will also be performing.
On Sunday, the Streetwalk runs from noon to 4 p.m. with live performances by Sparkles The Juggler, Jeanine Ouderkirk Duo, John Kribs and Stephen Crouth.
“The goal of the Streetwalk is just to remind people of the magic that is community,” said Christine O’Donnell, membership and administrative coordinator for the DBA. “Everybody is coming together just to make things happen for the people who live here and attend it and to pass on this gift of the good feeling of Christmas time from one generation to the next generation. The goal is just to keep the spirit of the holidays alive in our local community.”
“This has been completely funded for by the community,” she added. “Everything that is happening is only because the local businesses pitched in to make it happen.”
For more information visit saratogaspringsdowntown.com.