Authentic Victorian Streetwalkers Add Pizzazz to Saratoga Tradition
By Cecily Bapp
Published November 27th, 2016
SARATOGA — The addition of actual streetwalkers — Victorian-era prostitutes — has added a “dash of life” to the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season here in ritualistic, odd and incomprehensible Saratoga Springs.
The ‘Victorian Streetwalk’ is a venerated tradition in the Spa City, where each year Broadway, the main thoroughfare, is closed to all but foot traffic as Saratoga residents stroll and stumble in a slightly alcoholic haze through the brisk winter evening.
Broadway shops are open for business. Out on the street, residents, visitors and charming Victorian-era garbed singers meander from shop to lit-up shop, shivering in the frigid November evening, whilst impromptu performances of yuletide carols sung by Victorian-garbed warblers warm the very cockles of Saratoga residents’ hearts.
Now, this year, town fathers have voted unanimously to add actual streetwalkers to the annual street walk. And in keeping with the Saratoga community’s fantasy that it is, indeed, as charming, attractive and aristocratic as the cast of Downton Abbey, the Victorian-era clad prostitutes will add a note of authenticity to this year’s event by actually mingling with the crowd and peddling their wares.
“Ma’lord, may I warm my hands in your pockets?”
“Are you lonely tonight, Sir?”
“Want to date?”
Such are the type of charming entreaties that might be heard called out this year on a dark November eve, brightening the hearts of Saratoga gentlemen, and bringing light and life to holiday shopping here.
Still, not everyone is pleased with the introduction of town-sponsored prostitution in downtown Saratoga —despite it being restricted to the Christmas season only.
Longtime resident Margaret Gravel said she isn’t bothered by the combination of Yuletide and commerce as much as she is by the possible besmirching of the Spa City’s venerated dignity.
Airing her complaints at a city forum, Gravel said: “This city’s motto is ‘Health, History and Horses,’ not ‘Health, History and well, you know.’”