continued Prior to the parade, there are arts and crafts stations, vendors selling gifts, a play performed at the bandstand and a festival of trees. Local businesses also stay open late to accommodate shoppers.
Around 4 p.m. children are given lanterns to follow St. Nicolaas into town, while the Piets walk around with treats. The chief Piet accompanies Sinterklaas in the parade carrying the golden book, which contains the names of good and bad children.
“It’s a fun day for the family,” said Roberts.
To fund the festival, the chamber turns to another holiday tradition of the Netherlands.
For the past five years, the town has sold large chocolate letters as a fundraiser. The letters are usually given out at Sinterklaas parties on St. Nicolaas Eve. The tradition began when the first letter of a person’s name was baked out of bread and used to identify each person’s gifts. The tradition was later switched to chocolate when it became more readily available.
Locally, Schuyler Sweets creates the letters for the fundraiser since they are hard to find outside the Netherlands.
Shop owner Bob Stickle said finding the molds stateside was difficult.
“The town originally ordered the first bunch from a place in Michigan and we were finally able to track more down, since they're normally only sold in Europe,” he said. “We also use our own chocolate,” instead of ordering is from the Netherlands.
The letters are increasing in popularity with each passing year, according to Stickle. Nearly 270 were ordered for last year’s event and the number is expected to grow this year.
“Next year, we’re thinking of taking orders through the Chamber’s website,” said Roberts.
Each letter is 3-by-4 inches and all weigh about the same, even the “I’s.” Stickle said his shop uses about 75 pounds of chocolate on the letters annually.