Photos and text by Daniel Krieger
Wednesday, December 21, was the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, during which the sun shone on New York City for only nine hours and fifteen minutes. To celebrate winter’s official arrival, the Lincoln Square BID hosted its first “WinteRamble,” a one-hour evening procession that meandered around the West 60s, featuring illuminated frost giant puppets and icicle lanterns as a highlight of its Lights Up on Lincoln Square holiday programming.
As the group of about 100 slowly made its way up and down Broadway, silently but for the strains of the accompanying kalimbascopes (African thumb pianos), the six humongous puppets were each controlled by three operators with poles who breathed life into their movements, creating the appearance that the puppets were out for a stroll. This moving spectacle, which looked like some ancient seasonal rite, was so striking that it stopped locals in their tracks, compelling onlookers to pull out their phones to capture it and ask questions.
“Who are you?” one woman asked, addressing the procession.
“Wow, look at that!” said a woman to her toddler in a stroller.
“This is so cool!” said a teenage boy who posed the question on many people’s minds: “What is this?”
Monica Blum, the president of Lincoln Square Bid, explained before the kickoff at 1886 Broadway that when BID leaders were discussing what to do for this year’s Lights Up holiday program, they reached out to the Processional Arts Workshop, which agreed to bring their giant puppets and also hosted a workshop before the procession for locals to make mini icicle lanterns at TD Bank across the street, attended by many families who later joined the procession.
“Everything we do is to make this huge urban space in New York City feel like a small town,” she said. “The idea is that people will look out of their windows and say, “What’s happening?’”