Holiday Celebrations: Spread joy and cheer throughout Northern New York

A float for the Lost Navigator bar in Clayton makes its way down Riverside Drive during the Clayton Christmas Parade in 2016.

BY: Norah Machia
There is a myriad of traditional events that will be celebrated by north country residents during the upcoming holiday season, and several will benefit their communities as well. These will include numerous holiday parades, displays and performances throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

     It’s not unusual for organizers to spend months in the planning stages creating a special way for both children and adults to celebrate the holidays. The north country has many events organized by businesses, and others, by volunteers, who donate their time to make the season brighter for so many people.

    While some of these traditional events are free, others have a charge or request donations. Most are well-known by residents who anticipate and look forward to the annual holiday celebrations that have become established traditions in their communities. 

A North Country Festival of Trees, Watertown

       This event is a major fund-raiser for the Samaritan Medical Center and the Watertown Family YMCA. It raised close to $128,000 for children’s services and programs last year, said Michelle Nickles, community relations coordinator, Samaritan Medical Center Foundation.

     This year’s festival theme will be “The Stories of Christmas” and it will be held from Dec. 1 to 3 at the Dulles State Office Building. Numerous businesses and organizations will decorate trees for the event, or in some cases, donate trees to be decorated by volunteers.

     More than 50 trees and wreaths are expected to be on display this year. The trees will be judged and offered for sale at the end of the event to raise funds to benefit local children. The proceeds will support Samaritan’s pediatric healthcare services and programs, along with the YMCA’s Scholarship for Kids Programs.

     In the past, some trees have also been purchased and then donated to organizations such as the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County, the Watertown Urban Mission and the Credo Community Center, to display at their offices or residential facilities.

     “We’re so fortunate each year to have such strong support from the community,” Ms. Nickles said.

     The three-day event includes an opening night gala, and musical performances throughout the weekend by local schools, dance studios and choral groups. There is also a traditional father/daughter dance, called the Sugarplum Ball, which has attracted hundreds of participants in the past.

     A donation bin will also be set up for new or gently used pajamas to be given to families in need. For more information, visit.

Lights on the River, Lisbon Beach, Ogdensburg

     The “Lights on the River” holiday event not only provides numerous eye- popping Christmas light displays, but it also serves as a collection site for donated items that are distributed to 15 food pantries throughout St. Lawrence County, said president Jon Santamoor.

    The holiday lights will be displayed from Dec. 15 to 23 along a one-mile stretch against the backdrop of the St. Lawrence River on the Lisbon Beach Camping Grounds in Ogdensburg. The holiday-themed light displays have been designed by members of the community for the past seven years, and have attracted visitors from throughout the north country and Canada.

   Admission to the display is free, but donations are encouraged. A variety of items will be accepted, including food, personal care items, cleaning supplies, baby care items and cash donations, which can be dropped off at the light display. Many businesses also provide monetary donations in advance.

   The north country event was modeled after “Lights on the Lake” in Onondaga County, and was started by a group of community members looking to stage a similar holiday light display, and at the same time, benefit the community, Mr. Santamoor said.

     More than $100,000 has been raised for local food pantries since the event was started. Donations have been made to food pantries in Canton, Gouverneur, Heuvelton, Lisbon, Massena, Norwood, Ogdensburg, Potsdam, Richville and Waddington.

    For more information, visit

BCA Architects & Engineers Children’s Gift & Fund Drive, Watertown

   This annual event is hosted by BCA Architects & Engineers, along with the Paul G. and Kathleen E. Carr Foundation. The 23rd Annual Children’s Gift and Fund Drive will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the Paddock Club, inside the Paddock Arcade, Watertown.

     Those attending the event are asked to bring two donated gifts (unwrapped), one for a boy and one for a girl. Organizers request no stuffed animals be donated.      Monetary donations in lieu of toys are also welcome. Those who cannot attend the event may drop off donations at the BCA office at 327 Mullin Street.

     Last year’s event raised approximately $14,000 in contributions, and more than 550 toys were donated, said Kelly E. Reinhardt, director of business development for BCA Architects & Engineers.

     There were 38 nonprofit agencies that benefited from the event last year. After the gifts were donated, they were delivered to these agencies, which distributed them to hundreds of children in Jefferson County. Monetary donations were used to buy additional gifts, and food for families to prepare a holiday meal.

    Admission to the party, which will feature drinks and hors d’oeuvres, is just the two unwrapped toys. There is no invitation required. For more information, contact

Home for the Holidays Festival, Lowville

     This is a signature event of the Lewis County Historical Society, which attracts more than 1,000 visitors each year, said Jerry Perrin, office manager.

     The festival will start Nov. 16th through Nov. 19th at the historical society, 7552 South State Street, Lowville. It will feature a large Lionel Train display, a Christmas village, decorated trees and wreaths, and gingerbread houses. There will also be raffles and silent auction items, along with a gift shop featuring Lewis County gifts.

     The event will continue from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 24, with a visit by a gift-giving Santa starting at 7 p.m. It will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 25, featuring a theater production of “A Christmas Carol” by members of the Adirondack Community Chorus starting at 7:30 p.m. A free will offering will be taken.

     This is the 15th year of the festival, and all events are free to the public, Mr. Perrin said. The nonprofit organization even hosts school classes at the start of the event to view the displays of decorated trees and gingerbread houses.  

    The money raised from the festival will be used for the maintenance of the Lowville Temple (formerly the Masonic Temple) building, and the General Walter Martin Mansion in Martinsburg, a stone mansion built in 1805 which is currently under restoration.

     For more information, visit

Christmas in Croghan

      The “Christmas in Croghan” event is very family-oriented, and is free to the public, said organizer Carol Schneeberger.

     “The idea was first brought forth from a conversation between two business owners reminiscing about the ‘good ole days’  and  how nice it would be to have a Christmas celebration where friends and neighbors could come downtown just to visit and wish each other a Merry Christmas,” she said.

    It was also thought the event could give children an opportunity to “sit on Santa’s lap,” she added. The Croghan Improvement Association (consisting of downtown businesses owners) was formed, and sponsored the first “Christmas in Croghan” event in 1998.

     This year’s event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on December 8, and is for both adults and children, said Mrs. Schneeberger.

    “People of all ages seem to just love this event – it is sort a step back in time with folks having conversations, horse drawn wagon rides for all, Santa, and carolers on the streets,” she said.

     The St. Stephen’s Church Carillion Bells will be playing, and the church’s youth group will be selling hot dogs (which many people seem to enjoy while waiting in line for the free horse drawn wagon rides, Mrs. Schneeberger added).

     There will also be the opportunity to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Croghan Fire Hall, and the Railway Historical Society on Main Street also will be open to visitors, offering free treats such as popcorn, cookies and hot chocolate.

      The downtown businesses on Main Street in Croghan will extend their hours from 6 to 8 p.m. to give people an opportunity for additional holiday shopping, and Beaver River Central School students will be singing Christmas Chorales.

     “There are normally hundreds of people on the Main Street just visiting with folks as they make their way to each open business, with some even choosing to do Christmas shopping,” she added.

     For more information, visit