ALTAMONT This holiday season will see the quaint village of Altamont transformed into a Victorian-era-themed holiday celebration that would leave Charles Dickens himself impressed.
The village of Altamont in Guilderland turns 125 this year. To celebrate, Altamont’s yearly Victorian Holiday Wintermarket, which takes place on Sunday, Dec. 13 from noon to 5 p.m., will be bigger than any year previous.
The festival finds the town decorated head to toe in Victorian holiday fashion, with six indoor markets, activities for children and “free hot chocolate and cider in just about every shop you walk by,” said Laura Shore, a member of the event’s planning committee.
Altamont Community Tradition (ACT), an organization that works to preserve the historic nature of the town, holds the event again this year for the 14th time. This year the organization is expanding its offerings with an emphasis on young people, with new venues and activities added.
What began as a celebration of the numerous historical houses in town as well as the Victorian-era train station, which was renovated just two years ago, has expanded to become a large, community-wide event. In recent years, residents from all over the Capital District have flocked to Altamont for the celebration.
The Victorian Holiday Market’s traditional house tours will feature five homes, including some village Victorians and several in the new Bozenkill addition. Tours are $10 and draw crowds of 300 to 500 people who come to explore the centuries-old homes.
Children under 10 are free. In past years, profits from the tours have been donated to the town’s local museum.
In addition to the house tours, the village will host a festival of trees, wreath auction, a living nativity and pet costume contests, one for cats and one for dogs, which include pet photos with Santa. Contests start at noon and are held at Agway at 106 Prospect Terrace.
As a small town, events such as this have always been a way for the community of Altamont to come together. As such, most of the businesses in town and many community groups are involved
Outdoor activities include crafts for kids in multiple locations, storytelling with Santa at 11 a.m. at Hungerford Market at 106 Maple Ave., a treasure hunt, and games, crafts and music at several locations. Additionally, two author readings will be held at Altamont Free Library’s 179 Main St. location.
All events are in walking distance from one another, but the local Boy Scout troop will set up fire pits in Orsini Park for those who choose to venture out into the cold. The park will also house a petting zoo and hayrides, a new addition for $3 a go.
Visitors are encouraged to start their trip at the Masonic Hall at 138 Maple Ave. There they can purchase tickets to the house tours, vote for their favorite tree decorations in the Festival of Trees, bid on wreaths in a silent auction and see children’s gingerbread houses on display.
A short distance away at the Altamont Reformed Church at 129 Lincoln Ave., a living nativity begins at 4:15 p.m.
For the culminating event, Santa arrives at the library on a decorated train, donated for special use each year by SMS Rail Lines, with gifts and photo opportunities for the kids. Arrival time is set for 5 p.m. sharp, at which time the holiday tree will be lit as well.
The Victorian-aged train station was renovated and moved to its 179 Main St. location to become a library.
“It’s one of the most important pieces of history and why the village was established in 1860,” said Rue, amidst a long stream of historical facts concerning the town and the train station that she easily rattles off. Commercial use of the station ended in 1960, though some freight trains still pass through occasionally. “So many of us know these facts, they just roll off tongue,” said Rue modestly.
Though Rue is not a native, she came to embrace the town’s strong historical ties when she moved to Altamont five years ago after the death of her husband. The welcome she has received from the town has been “just fantastic,” so giving back with the Victorian Holidays festival, “It’s like me giving a Christmas party for the community