The laws of mathematics go up the chimney in Stone Ridge during the Annual Candlelight Tour. It is only then, in the magical spirit of Christmas, that 2,600 actually equal 1,100.
“Last year, we raised $1,100 for the East Greenwich Department of Human Services Holiday Food Basket Program by the added donations from Stone Ridge residents on top of the purchase amount of the (lantern) kits,” said resident Donna Fleming. “Our neighborhood was lighted by more than 2,600 paper lanterns placed along the curbs and walkways and the wonderful holiday lighting displays of the homes. It was a beautiful sight!”
The Stone Ridge Neighborhood Association in East Greenwich will be holding its annual Luminaria on Saturday Dec. 18, from 5-9 p.m. (with a rain date of Sunday Dec. 19).
This is a long-standing neighborhood tradition spanning more than 25 years. The neighborhood provides an outdoor display for the holidays which includes their traditional holiday decorations and thousands of paper bag lanterns decorating curbs, driveways and walkways.
People from all over Rhode Island come to slowly drive through the neighborhood with headlights dimmed.
Resident and participant Cindy Kelly joined the neighborhood (and the display) more than 20 years ago.
“I loved the first or second year we were here (1989 or 1990) with the bell ringers in Santa hats at the entrance to the neighborhood and the carolers singing on Stone Ridge Drive,” said Kelly.
She added that even though it takes work to get all the bags ready and set up for one night, (“And it’s usually cold and windy…”), the impressive display gives the neighborhood, “A sense of doing something for the community, first through creating the display, and then through the donations to the EG Holiday Food Basket Program.”
Kelly said that each family creates their own display to cover their curbs and walkways. “It probably takes about two hours to fold 50 bags and another hour to place then and get the candles lit,” she added.
After the sighs and hot ciders, comes the removal. “Then, (it takes) another hour to clean everything up the next day, unless we have a big snowstorm (like last year) and they get plowed in. Then, you might be cleaning them up in April!
“It takes about an hour to clean them up from the curb, and then separate the candles, sand and bags from each other,” said Kelly. “Bags can be put in the recycle bin, sand goes back into the sand pit, and whatever is left of the candles can go in the trash.”
This is a true neighborhood effort entirely, added Kelly.
“Some people get the information out, some pick up the bags and candles; someone needs to keep the money and orders straight. Street representatives take the candle orders from the people on their street and get the orders distributed, and every house that participates works hard to get their outside lights and decorations out and set up their bags and candles. The first year we moved here and saw this, my family was amazed by the amount of effort that all the participating households went to just to make a beautiful event for other people to enjoy.”
And unlike many places in America, some depicted in various Christmas movies, where rival houses try to outdo each other with outrageous, over-the-top lighting displays, Stone Ridge residents work together, with no one trying to “outshine” the next.
“There are no Luminaria drama queens here,” said Kelly. “Although, there may be some bickering in the households over who needs to chip in and fold the darn bags.”
But she suspects that Santa himself may favor her neighborhood because of the simple lanterns in bags, lighting his way.
“Whoever is looking down from the heavens has to smile on Stone Ridge!” said Kelly.
Directions - Follow Middle Road west of Route 2 to second right (Stone