StarShine 2021 pulls out all the stops!

Rob Maeske
The Penn Yan Theatre Company presented "An Evening of Music and Lights" at the Sampson Theatre for StarShine.
Miss Penn Yan 2022 Alexa Smith adorned with crown, sash, and flowers.

PENN YAN -- After the popular local tradition was called off last year due to the COVID pandemic, Penn Yan's StarShine returned to Main Street on Dec. 4, offering winter and holiday festivities for attendees. The winter event's return marked the 36th year StarShine has been held in Penn Yan by the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.

Patrons at the Keuka Candy Emporium during Star Shine.

StarShine traditionally offers a variety of treats and activities including concessions, sales from local merchants, holiday-themed activities for kids and adults and a visit from Santa Claus before culminating in the annual crowning of Miss Penn Yan, with the honor this year going to Alexa Smith.

For its return, StarShine pulled out all the stops, offering the largest variety of festivities in recent years. Some of this year's attractions included a petting zoo, a magician, food trucks, tastings, traditional horse-drawn wagon rides and the whole of downtown Main Street lined with stalls from local sellers and organizations. 

Santa Claus sang and played the banjo for the enjoyment of all at StarShine 2021.

StarShine began with the lighting of the village's Christmas tree in the town square at 4 p.m., followed by the arrival of Santa Claus (played by local musician David Boyd), this year sporting a banjo and regaling attendees with folksy Christmas carols before settling into his seat at Community Bank on Main Street to hear Christmas wishes and take photos with local children. Community Bank also hosted local charity The Living Well and the Penn Yan Rotary Club for their giveaways of hats, mittens and children's books.

Miss Penn Yan

MSPY2594 The 2019 Ms. PY royalty with the four 2021 Ms. Penn Yan contestants. From left, Natalie Yonts, Alexa Smith, Emily Stork, and MaKenna Hansen.
The Miss Penn Yan court with the previous year’s winners as Emily Stork was giving her speech.

The main event for many attendees is the crowning of Miss Penn Yan. The crowning event was held on the main stage at 6:30 p.m. The Miss Penn Yan Contest is held by the Yates County Women's organization, with this year's contest presided over by organization President Mary Ellen Morgan. There were four contestants vying for this year's title, including MaKenna Hansen - sponsored by PYTCo, Alexa Smith - sponsored by the Penn Yan Elks Lodge, Emily Stork - sponsored by Catholic Daughters/St. Michael Court and Natalie Yonts - sponsored by the Penn Yan FFA. Before the winner was announced, each contestant gave a brief speech, which included the theme of what they would do if they were in charge of Penn Yan for a day. Alexa Smith was named Miss Penn Yan 2021. 

The four Miss Penn Yan contestants,  Natalie Yonts, Alexa Smith, MaKenna Hansen, and Emily Stork.
Alexa Smith giving her speech.
MaKenna Hansen giving her speech.
Natalie Yonts giving her speech.
Alexa Smith reacts to being named Miss Penn Yan as she is being crowned.

As they've done for several years in the past, students from Keuka College set up shop in the Penn Yan Firehouse, hosting an Elf School for children that included games, face painting, holiday crafts such as making snowflakes and reindeer hats, a gift card raffle sponsored by local businesses and a bake sale by local Girl Scout Troop 61087. The event was coordinated by Keuka College Chaplain Eric Detar of the Center for Interfaith Engagement and operated by Keuka organizations such as the Phi Theta Epsilon (PTE) honor society and girls' field hockey team as well as individual students.

At the Sampson Theater on Elm St., local theater company PYTCo put on "An Evening of Music and Lights," featuring traditional carols and songs performed by local singers from the Penn Yan schools and PYTCo itself. Performers included Fiona Marino, Zoe Comstock, Jayden Hollister, Cady Brady, Ray Willis, Emma Eichenofer, sisters Cami and Addy Webber, Rachel Joyce Dillion, Jason Riley, Kristin Hamilton, Renee Heitman and the cast of PYTCo production "Yes, Virginia" before ending with a group sing-along of the holiday classic "White Christmas." PYTCo used the event both to entertain StarShine attendees as well as showcasing the work that has been completed in their renovation of the historic Sampson Theater as well as future plans for the site. PYTCo reported that the event had brought in over $3,000 in donations to the company's efforts toward the theater.

Audiences enjoyed the light show at the Sampson Theatre for StarShine.

 Also for entertainment, the event's main stage near the intersection of Main and Elm Streets hosted several acts including a poem reading by local resident Deb Clancy, a performance from the Penn Yan Community Chorus, a class in American Sign Language given by Judy Hilyard and performances by the St. Michael School Singers and the Keuka College Dance Team.

The Keuka College dance team putting on a demonstration prior to the crowning of  Miss Penn Yan.

 In the area of food and drink, the event offered a wide variety of concessions with bars and restaurants packed along both Main and Elm, food truck offerings by Juju's BBQ and free tastings of wine and spirits at the Keuka Candy Emporium and Hoban's Spirits. Miles Wine Cellars set up a tasting booth in the Candy Emporium (located in the old Lown's Building) featuring a variety of their wines, including their signature wine simply called Ghost, named for the legend of a haunting at the winery's property in Himrod. Miles Cellars is owned and operated by Doug Miles and Suzy Hayes and has been producing wines for the last 43 years. At Hoban's Spirits, there were tastings of spirits from the area and abroad with booths set up by Antler Run Distilling from Keuka Park, McKenzie Whiskey, which hails from just north of Watkins Glen and Empire Merchants, who had a variety of offerings from several national brands.

Vendors for StarShine 2021 included Juju’s BBQ Food Truck, Emmanuel Baptist Church & Academy, Color Street Nails, Usborne Books, Dundee/Penn Yan Area Bible, Finger Lakes Premier Properties, Girl Scout Troop #60187, Katie Campbell Crafts, Keuka Comfort Care Home, Little Bear Designs, Rainbow Junction Childcare Center, Penn Yan Bible Church, Penn Yan FFA, Refine It, Girl Scout Troop #60201, Silverbird Woodfired, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, United Way of Yates County, Yates County Community Center, Penn Yan Elks Lodge, Spellcraft Woodworks, Wellspring Fellowship, and My Little Farm, who hosted a petting zoo in front of Pinckney Hardware.

Event sponsors for StarShine 2021 included Lyons National Bank, Greenidge Generation, Village Drug, Marble's Automotive, Bow & Wow K9 B&B, Water Street Pharmacy, Inc., the Yates Community Center, Howard Hanna Lake Group, Penn Yan Plumbing & Heating Inc., Keuka College, Finger Lakes Radon Removal, and Bank of the Finger Lakes.