Ginny Barham, president of the Conimicut Village Association, led the countdown.
“Ten,” she said into the microphone to the gathering at George Donovan Park in the village center at the intersection of Beach Avenue and West Shore Road Friday night. The group didn’t need any prompting. It was cold.
“Nine, eight, seven…” chanted the group. Seconds later, the white lights shone brightly on the park pine tree that now reaches up at least 30 feet. City crews had used a bucket truck to string the lights.
While the tree glowed, the windows of Woodbury Union Church across the street were dark, boarded up after the Thanksgiving eve fire that raced through the church roof, toppling the metal spire to the steeple. Tradition has been for the tree lighting to be followed by carols in the church sanctuary and refreshments with a visit with Santa in the church basement. That wasn’t possible this year, but the lighting hosted by the church and coordinated with the association would carry on.
Barham said the spirit of the season doesn’t live in the church or the place but in all of us. Woodbury Pastor T.J. DeMarco spoke briefly of the community outpouring in the wake of the fire. St. Benedict Church opened its doors to the Woodbury congregation. Groups that once met at Woodbury such as the Boy and Girl Scouts now meet at St. Benedict. Woodbury Sunday services are held at St. Benedict.
That support continued at Friday’s tree lighting, with Barham presenting DeMarco $1,000 to the church rebuilding fund on behalf of the village association. Friends Way, the nonprofit that provides counseling services for children who have lost a family member, likewise lent its support. Although not large enough to host the Winman Middle School chorus to sing carols – that was done in the park – there was ample space for members of the Woodbury congregation to serve mulled cider and baked goodies.
And, oh yes, Santa had a room to himself downstairs to meet with his admirers.
Visit the Beacon’s website or Facebook page to see a video of the tree lighting.