Birthplace of Memorial Day offers festival and small town charm

Back in 1865, Henry C. Wells, a druggist in Waterloo, New York thought that honoring all American soldiers who died in a war was a fitting gesture. The following year, Waterloo threw the first Memorial Day celebration on May 5. The holiday caught on, and in 1966 Lyndon Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation declaring Waterloo the “Birthplace of Memorial Day,” something the town takes quite seriously.

Instead of focusing only on Monday, the town includes the entire weekend for festivities. Located in between Cayuga and Seneca Lakes in the Finger Lakes region of New York, this would be a place to head to for a mix of the outdoors and history. Unlike Ithaca that wants you to stay away for Memorial Day festivities because of Cornell’s graduation that adds plenty of people to Ithaca’s streets, Waterloo wants you.

As a person who is a festival hound, Waterloo looks like the perfect way to kick-off the summer season of festival hopping. All the trimmings are there and most activities are free, or budget friendly. Events start this weekend and finish up on May 30, the official date of Memorial Day.

Activities are family friendly and include a breakfast buffet, 5-K run, car show, bike rally, a concert stage with multiple concerts and acts, an arts and crafts show, plus a Memorial Day Commemoration by Waterloo veterans. Of course there’s the parade that anyone can join in and fireworks. For the schedule, click here.

There are also special events for the younger crowd. At the Kids’ Korner there are games, crafts, goodie bags, animals, a clown and a juggler, depending upon the time you’re there.

One item in particular caught my eye. Bubblemania, a one-person performance by Casey Carle will be on the Layfette Stage. According to the info on the festival Website, Carle has been performing in India on a 16-day tour. I’m always curious to find out how performers from various countries end up performing where they do, whether they are from the U.S. and end up overseas or groups from other countries that end up here, particularly on a small town stage. If you see him, ask him.

If you head to Waterloo, also check out the National Memorial Day Museum, and the American Civil War Memorial and take a ride on the Finger Lakes Scenic Railway.

New York City’s holiday magic

New York City during the holidays is magical. This video captures several of the highlights such as the department store window displays, the ice-skating and tree at Rockefeller Center, and the train at the Botanical Garden.

The sounds are the natural background noises of people talking and the hum of city life. The viewer, in essence, is invited into the scenery.

One of my favorite holiday things to do in the city is to pop into St. Patrick’s Cathedral across from Rockefeller Center. There’s a quietness that’s a pleasant contrast to the bustling crowds, although I love those too.

Next year, I plan to take my son to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular. Sure, we could have seen the traveling show, but there’s nothing like seeing the Rockettes in the theater that made them famous. I just checked. There are still tickets available. The show goes through December 30.

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

This charming video showcases the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show currently on view through January 11 in The Bronx section of New York City. Last week, I had the wonderful experience of visiting Paul Busse, the creator of the display, at his workshop in Kentucky. I’ve been a fan of Busse’s work for years. This particular masterpiece takes five 8-hour days and several people to complete.

If you ever get the chance to see Busse’s work where all but the trains and the tracks are mostly made out of natural elements, do. You’ll be enthralled. In the meantime, enjoy some of the magic here.

This clip is from a larger PBS documentary. It can be purchased at the Botanical Garden’s gift shop.

National Hanukkah Menorah and where to find other public displays

Yesterday the National Hanukkah Menorah in Washington, D.C. was lit to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah the Jewish holiday that commemorates the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over the Syrians who had oppressed them. In a miracle, the oil that was only enough to burn for light for one day lasted for eight.

Although the main lighting of the National Hanukkah Menorah festivities happened yesterday, the menorah, located at the Ellipse near the White House grounds, will be lit each night during Hanukkah.

There are many other public menorahs on display around the world. Here’s a link to the page on that features many of them. Last year, when I came across this link, I was impressed by the scope of where these menorahs are located.

For the largest menorah in the world, head to New York City. It’s on 59th St. and 5th Ave. I don’t think you can miss it. It’s a 32 feet-tall candelabra.