Friday, November 27, 2009

Light-Up Night

Tonight was Light-Up Night in Beaver, Pennsyl-vania.

The display is nothing like what you see on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. But the fun here is inversely greater. On the Plaza, the lights come on in a formal ceremony featuring area celebrities, then everybody jumps in their cars and heads home; in Beaver, the lights come on when nobody in particular is paying attention and afterwards people hang around and enjoy the town and the cold weather and the start of the Christmas season.

I went with my friends Hannah* and Steve* and their kids Stevie* and Letty.* The line to see Santa in the park gazebo stretched all the way to the corner, so we fortified ourselves with the free hot chocolate and doughnuts with chocolate icing and red, green, and white jimmies and headed for the shops.

Light-Up Night is open house for the merchants in Beaver. Most of the stores on Third Street (the main thorough-fare), their windows and interiors decorated to the hilt, stay open for business and offer cookies and cider and other goodies. Christmas music, live and canned, sings out into the night air, and horse-drawn carriages, wheeled sleighs, and charabancs ply up and down the broad avenue, offering rides for free. People of all ages meander up and down and in and out, and I think it's extremely sporting for the proprietors of establishments crowded with pretty things to throw their doors open the festive crowd-- many of whom are not carrying money.

Having two elementary-school-aged kids along both enlivened and complicated things. They wanted to do everything at once and we adults didn't always know where or when or how. So we did the logical thing and threaded our way down one side of the street then back up the other.

Stopped into the new Japanese restaurant to pick up a menu; visited a shop full of decorative objects, including a lamp made out of a bottle adorned with a shirtless photo of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (lol); met up with friends on the street; got a bag of fresh hot popcorn in front of the Municipal Building; finally got to see the inside of the new kitchen store and was treated to a demo of a food mill of the sort I'll need next time I make quince butter; and back to the two-story toy store where we hung out with the kids warming up and playing with things till time for the fireworks.

For me, the high point of this perambu-lation was found up a narrow, oriental-carpeted stairway to a second-floor suite over one of the storefronts. It was a brand-new accountant's office, just opened today, and the decor was smashing. It looked like the sort of place they'd feature in one of those glossy decorating magazines that give everyone a bad case of the covets. Bare brick and Venetian plaster walls, antique furniture, graceful draperies and appointments; unless you were a houseblogger you'd never believe that when they first saw the space it had looked, in the words of someone in the know, "like a pigsty." The accountant and her friends had laid out a spread of pastries, dry sausage, and cheese, with an urn of hot cider, and more attractive to me than that, the project carpenter was there. And I got his card (I may need help remounting my trim!). And the accountant gave me the name of her plasterer! Not a bad night's work!

At 8:00 o'clock we stood in the street and watched the fireworks, then headed back to the park. Earlier we'd seen a little carriage drawn by a pair of Shetland ponies over there, and Hannah thought it'd be fun for the children to ride. But by then, the ponies were nowhere to be seen. Oh, well! The line to see Santa was quite short; in fact, Stevie and Letty were the last ones in.

We ended the evening with a ride in one of the charabancs, behind a fine pair of golden brown draft horses (Morgans?). This took us down the main street then round the long block into one of the narrow residential streets behind. Seeing the brick pavement and the historic houses with candles in the windows, I could almost visualize how it might have been over a hundred years ago, riding in a horse-drawn vehicle along that way as a matter of course.

Monday, I'll have to call that plasterer. Good chance he's way too expensive for me, but maybe he'll be nice enough to tell me where he gets his supplies.

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