Winter Holiday Stroll enlivens Nashua
NASHUA - People filled the streets of Nashua on Saturday night for the Winter Holiday Stroll, an annual event the drew tens of thousands to the downtown area.
The stroll began with a candlelight procession, centered around Santa Claus atop an antique Nashua fire engine. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau led the countdown to the lighting of the 35-foot Christmas tree before a sea of people.
Eight-year-old Giavanna Rutstein was in the crowd. She said it wasn't her first time to the Holiday Stroll.
"I've been here a lot of times," Rutstein said, accompanied by her brother, dad, and grandma, who reminded her that it was her seventh straight Stroll. "My favorite part would probably be watching the Christmas tree get lit up."
With Santa just up the street, Rutstein wasn't shy about what she wants for Christmas.
"Most of all an American Girl doll, pretty much, and an iPod," she said.
The stroll included an array artists performing at 24 different venues in the Main Street vicinity. Classical guitarist Joe Hartnett played a rendition of Bach's Chachonne in D minor. On the corner of Main and West Pearl, The Dancing Corner drew a crowd as they did their routines, while Trash Talk, a "recycled percussion" ensemble, made beats across the street, on the steps of Nashua Bank.
"This is something I would never miss," said Bernie Del Llano, a Nashua disk jockey. "For three reasons: the city of Nashua, the community, and it's just a great time, it really is. "
The New Hampshire Gay Men's Choir sang at the Unitarian Universalist Church, while the Grace Fellowship Band, Baza, The Minor Seconds and Baahgoostyx were among more than a dozen bands at the Stroll.
Hudson's Vincenzo Marsden was strutting the cold streets with a grin on his face, happy to see Main Street come alive.
"I think it's wonderful that the whole community comes out and helps boost local businesses," Marsden said. "It's great for the local economy, and I think it helps boost the spirit in this cold winter, you know? It brings a lot of warmth to the East Coast, especially on a freezing night like tonight."
Local nonprofit Positive Street Art occupied an old dry cleaner building on Main Street, claiming it for the night as a gallery space. The group, which gives workshops at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, decided to give the kids a chance to shine. Twenty-eight-foot long square panels adorned the wall, each of them done by a workshop participant between the ages of 9 and 16.
"It was to get the kids to collaborate and get them to do things outside of what they normally do," said Manny Ramirez, one of the founders of the organization. "When they come to our workshops they draw, they paint different things, they work on their lettering, but this was an effort between all of them put together."
Cofounder Cecilia Ulibarri said it was the first time the kids got to showcase their work through Positive Street Art. "We're trying to show them that they can outlet their work outside of the Boys & Girls Club, outside of school, be able to show their friends and their family."
The panels were painted in a silvers and blues and blacks and whites, depicting geometrical shapes sectioned off with painter's tape. Three of the artists - Kelmy Anziani, Jahquei Pagan and Hector Collazo - came to see their work, smiling as they pointed it out to each other.
"They were so excited," Ulibarri said. "We gave them little flyers so they could give their parents to let them know that we'd be here at this spot."
Across the street, under the lights of City Hall, ice sculptors sawed away at massive frozen blocks.
The stroll is a fundraiser for Great American Downtowns, which organizes it each year, raising as much as $40,000.
Nashua resident Bob Keating said he would never miss the stroll. "It's a wonderful event," said Keating. "I look forward every year, that's for sure. And we've got our youngest granddaughter with us and it's the first time she's been here. She loves seeing Santa."
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