story and photos by James P. Hughes
What better place to “Sparkle” at Christmas than in the Crystal City?
As Christmas approaches, Market Street in Corning’s Gaffer District is a bustling place any day of the week. Spirited folks wander about, shopping, dining, absorbing the crisp air and seasonal glow of the “Crystal City.”
Yet by mid-afternoon on the first Saturday in December, the district atmosphere begins to shuffle a bit. Cars parked along Market Street exit the area. Pitched vendor booths soon line the thoroughfare. Barriers create a five-block pedestrian mall. People take to the street, strolling beneath the Crystal City Christmas banner that waves above tree branches draped with cheerful lighting.
It’s time for Sparkle, a crown jewel of seasonal Gaffer District events that continue to make Corning a “must” place to visit year-round. Sparkle’s glorious tradition began in 1974, and now annually draws thousands from late afternoon well into the evening. Interrupted in 2020, the celebration returns for its 46th visit on December 4, 2021, an anticipated and welcome restoration of seasonal normalcy.
Crystal City Christmas annually kicks off with its festive Parade of Lights, delivering Santa by horse and carriage to his “Crystal House” at Centerway Square. That spot, with its towering Christmas tree, remains the hub of Corning’s holiday season and the focal point of Sparkle’s cheery activities.
Strolling past the exquisite window displays of Market Street’s historical architecture is a treat in itself. Specialty businesses welcome visitors throughout the evening with distinctive offerings. At Centerway Square, pay a visit to Santa and enjoy spirited choral groups offering the music of the season. There are horse-drawn carriage rides, an arrays of arts and crafts, street performers, children’s activities and even live animals on display. And, of course, food is plentiful in Corning’s wide variety of eateries and pubs, as well as from street vendors of every stripe scattered along the way.
In short, Sparkle is a lively, festive occasion worth visiting year after year – a memorable time for families and folks of all ages to brighten Christmas spirits and celebrate the season.