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Lighting Up Oakwood - A Conversation with Carol Collins

The City of Oakwood and the Oakwood Beautification Committee are “lighting up” Oakwood on Sunday, December 11th beginning at 6:00 p.m. Luminarias, made of white paper bags weighted down with sand and illuminated from within by a lit candle, will line the boulevards on Far Hills Avenue and Shafor Boulevard as well as the City Building, Community Center, Smith Gardens, Huffman, Shafor, Orchardly and Fairridge Parks and other areas around the city. Each year, luminarias for this community event are available for purchase at the Oakwood Community Center. The price ($6.00 per dozen) includes the white bags, sand and 10-hour burning candles.

Although luminarias originated as a religious tradition, today they are widely regarded as a secular display of pretty lights to enjoy during the holidays. Since Oakwood's luminaria night is an inclusive and community-building event, exemplifying the spirit the Oakwood Inclusion Coalition wishes to foster, OIC Communications Committee Co-Chair Healy Jackson interviewed Carol Collins, Director of Leisure Services in Oakwood, to learn more about how the night started and what it takes to make it happen.

Q: Why does the City sponsor Lighting Up Oakwood night?

A: City officials believe the night gives Oakwood residents a chance to celebrate the holiday season in a magical way. There is no limit to the number of people that can participate, and there

are levels of involvement to accommodate everyone's energy level. Go-getters can join the

volunteers placing the bags along public boulevards, individual homeowners can either decorate

their own house fronts or light up their entire block, and strollers absolutely add to the night's

ambiance by walking the lighted streets. Everyone's efforts contribute to creating the community environment that makes Oakwood a desirable place to live. 

Q: Residents are always curious about how our traditions originated. How did Lighting Up Oakwood start?

A: It started organically about 30 or 32 years ago. At that time, Oakwood's Four Season Garden

Club sold luminaria kits as a fundraiser. A member of Oakwood's City Environmental

Committee, Dr. Darrell Apt, decided he wanted to organize a few volunteers to place luminarias

on his home block. Volunteers gathered at Apt’s garage, and within a short time, the luminaria

display extended to a few blocks along Shafor Boulevard. In response to residents' positive

comments, City leaders asked members of the Environmental Committee, now the Oakwood

Beautification Committee, to lead and execute the project. 

Q: The project is undoubtedly highly labor-intensive. What does it take to make the night happen?

A: Most of our volunteers would answer, "Nice weather"! Wind and rain have played havoc on

the night more than I care to remember. More seriously, the 16 citizen members of the City's

Beautification Committee make it happen. They recruit their family members and the Oakwood

Rotary Club members to help. Gathering at the City's public works department at 9:00 a.m., volunteers load 2500 bags with sand and a candle. The City provides a flatbed truck to haul the bags, and volunteers place the last bag of the day on city property around 2:00 p.m. Just before dusk, volunteers return to light the 2500 candles. Coupled with the 6,000-8,000 candles residents purchase, the evening is in full glow by 6:00 p.m.

The night is possible only because dedicated volunteers make it happen. Most communities love

the concept but lack the citizen involvement that Oakwood has to execute such an undertaking.

Katy Dalrymple, Chair of the Beautification Committee, will tell you that watching residents

enjoy the night is very gratifying, and that is what motivates committee members to reassemble

and relight each year.

Q: What more can you share about the night?

A: Besides the candles glowing this night, individual citizens have proven to be bright lights. I

think of how Charlie Campbell organized his neighbors on Oakwood Avenue for many years. He

made the lighting of luminarias into a winter block party. Luminarias lined the inclined slope of

Oakwood Avenue, ascending from Far Hills Avenue to Park Avenue, in a stunning display that made Oakwood Avenue extraordinary. Oak Knoll neighbors also take full advantage of their street's topography, creating a real wow effect. One Lonsdale Avenue couple gifts their neighbors with all the needed luminaria supplies. Another Lonsdale neighbor surprises residents with a clean-up before 6:00 a.m. There are so many stories. I encourage residents to participate in the evening and share the moment with their neighbors. I'll also add that residents can view the luminarias from the horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides originating at Shafor Park and traveling through the streets of our neighborhoods as part of the Holiday of Lights program. This night is truly magical.


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