The Interviews ~ Jeanne Fleming

Let’s Meet for Coffee!

Our roving morning reporter, Kathy Chaneles, catches up with local residents around town.

Interview 11/11/10 Samuel’s ~ Jeanne Fleming the founder and coordinator of Rhinebeck’s own Sinterklaas, as well as of the Halloween Parade in New York City, the Opening Celebration of the Walkway Over the Hudson, and many more.

Approaching Samuel’s this morning, to interview Jeanne Fleming,  I notice that the tiny twinkly lights that yearly bedeck our holiday village streets are not yet on and that I am longing for them. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already I am anticipating the exciting air of December, lovely snowflakes, cozy holiday times with family and friends, and Sinterklaas! Looking forward to grumpusses cavorting in the streets, wild women getting their yayas out, the teen-powered papier-mâché dragon of Crew (Krewe de Crew, if we were talking Mardi Gras), the Whale Watch spaghetti dinner I hope, and, above all, the Parade of Us, tramping through the night with stars held aloft!

Samuel’s is the perfect setting for this interview, as Samuel’s and Sinterklaas are inextricably linked in my experience. From the moment Ira, owner of our local jewel of a sweet shop on East Market Street, was approached about holding the first Sinterklaas Teddy Bear Contest, he was on board and supporting all things Sinterklaas! The chocolate Sinterklaas pops he sells, the buckets of teeny foil-wrapped holiday sweets he has donated for Teddy Bear contestant prizes, the contest itself, which crowds his doorstep with red-cheeked teddy-owners every year, all prove Samuel’s a prime Sinterklaas destination! And then, as the magical night goes on and on…we find revelers of all ages there, sipping sweet hot chocolate.

K- Thank you for joining me this morning at Samuel’s. I am so happy to have this opportunity to interview you, over this delicious coffee (mine: vanilla-hazelnut, hers: cappuccino), for Rhinebeck Community Forum, and to get to know you better myself!

Our community knows you, Jeanne, primarily through your work. We’ve come to love Sinterklaas, with its wintry magic, fun, beauty, and pageantry. Your creative expression is the festival itself, but many people wouldn’t know who you are, as you run around through the snow, in your wonderful long coat, making sure everything is going right! Rhinebeck Community Forum would like to give readers a chance to know you. Where did you grow up and when did you come to the Hudson Valley?

J- I came here when I was 17 years old, as the faculty wife of an English professor at Bard College.

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