November 9, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: New life in the old stroll
By Jeff Rapsis

Hey, you got Art Walk in my Holiday Stroll! No, you got Holiday Stroll in my Art Walk!

Ah, just like in the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials of yore, two great things can sometimes combine to produce something even better.

That’s the hope behind scheduling the next Nashua Art Walk to coincide with the city’s annual post-Thanksgiving holiday stroll. Both events are set to take place in and around Main Street on Saturday, Nov. 25.

This year, in addition to enjoying the stroll and its amazingly varied choice of entertainment in downtown venues (past Holiday Stroll lineups have featured everything from Bavarian oompah bands to barbershop harmony), you can now also feast your eyes on what’s displayed in the city’s growing roster of art galleries.

This time around, the art walk will begin on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. and continue into the stroll, which usually starts around dusk. A total of 22 venues are joining in the Art Walk, including a cluster of 10 separate studios in the Picker Building out in the millyard.

Where’s the Picker Building? It’s at 99 Factory Street Extension, an address that confuses the heck out of everyone; just think of it as the building on the far end of Clocktower Place and you’ll find it. It’s only a short walk from Main Street.

Among the new stops here: Renaissance Glassworks, which decamped to the millyard earlier this year after a long run on Main Street’s Library Hill.

All this is incredible when you consider that the stroll started back in the 1990s as just a small, informal way to attract people downtown during the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush.

In recent years, the stroll has grown into such a huge event (attracting tens of thousands of people and involving just as many hours of volunteer coordination), I couldn’t help feeling that it had somehow peaked, as these things often do.

You know

And I have to say, the way the Holiday Stroll has grown in size and scope, my thinking in recent years was that it was almost too much to be manageable.

The floodlit onion ring vendors parked on side streets, their generators roaring away, hardly contribute to the candlelit retro-Victorian atmosphere originally envisioned as integral to the stroll.

Then there’s the human factor. You know how these things go—a good event grows to the point where the original volunteers, though well-intentioned, can’t help but burn out. And then there’s no one as committed to the event as they were, so it begins to fade and drift. That’s what happened to First Night celebrations in many New Hampshire communities.

But with the addition of the Art Walk to the mix, Nashua’s Holiday Stroll just keeps getting better and more varied. A new generation of retailers and businesspeople are taking interest in the event, so it shows signs of longevity.

And all that’s good, because Nashua’s stroll sure beats Manchester’s annual Christmas parade.