And with a cannon’s boom, the cove illuminates.
It’s a Bowen tradition – the first Saturday of December (the night before the massive Community School Association craft fair), Christmas lights adorning Bowen’s commercial district flicker to life and usher in the holiday season.
Light Up Bowen has evolved over its twenty-plus years of existence. Rondy Dike, the Union Steamship Company Marina staff and Cates Hill Chapel began the annual event. Back when it began, it was called Light Up the Cove. The lights only went up as far as the Bowen Pub (the old one) as Village Square didn’t yet exist.
The cannon is Dike’s – he either sets it off from the USSC tower or the middle of Trunk Road.
“The lights were never on until he set off the cannon,” says Basia Lieske, who has organized the event for the past ten years. “It was all dark.”
The event always included a live nativity (there was a time when it included live animals,) put on by Cates Hill Chapel and some years ago a children-led lantern parade was added along with Family Place’s Festival of Trees.
This year’s Light Up Bowen starts in Village Square, where stores, including the Soup Fairy, pet shop, Phoenix and the Ruddy Potato, will have open houses. Men on the Rock, Bowen’s all-male choir will sing and some special guests – the Snow Queen and Snow King among them – will make an appearance.
Basia says that this year’s mascot costumes have received some special attention in the form of a professional costume designer from Los Angeles. Liz Nankin and her husband moved to Bowen in the past month or so and Liz quickly volunteered to help out fixing up the garb. The Snow Queen and King were her ideas.
After the Village Square festivities, a Lantern Parade will proceed down the path behind the pub to Davies Orchard.
With more sponsors than ever before, Basia bought a lot of lights (which she still needs help stringing up Thursday and Friday if anyone is interested in volunteering) which will be strung up along the path. Lit reindeer, dogs and giant candy canes are among the decorative additions this year.
“It’s kind of like a travelling show,” explains Basia.
With a stop at Out of the Blue, the live nativity, organized by Karen Cowper, will tell the Christmas story. Cowper will have extra angel and shepherd costumes for any children in the audience who want to participate in the play. All children are welcome says Basia.
The procession will end on the USSC lawn and Santa will arrive, not by sleigh but by tugboat. A party at Doc Morgan’s concludes the evening’s festivities.
This year, for the first time, Basia put together a small team to help her coordinate the event, which, when all’s said and done, she’ll have put more than 200 hours into organizing.
Though the work is demanding, Basia says that she does it because she loves Christmas and how Light Up Bowen brings the community together.
“Everybody loves it. I can’t let them down,” she says. “Santa Claus has to come to town.”
Basia asks that people bring a non-perishable item for the food bank to Village Square and dress for the weather (rubber boots for the muck are a good idea she says.)
Light Up Bowen starts in Village Square at 6 p.m. Dec. 1.