Rain doesn't stop Bristol's Grand Illumination
Huddled beneath awnings and umbrellas, hoping to keep dry, the few dozen residents who gathered in front of the Burnside Building waited for the call.
The rain was pouring down, creating rushing streams alongside Court and State streets.
Still, no rain delay. The 26th Annual Bristol Christmas Festival's Grand Illumination went on as scheduled Sunday night.
"We've got to make the most of it," said Town Administrator Tony Teixeira.
Workers from the Department of Public Works rushed to set up a small tent over the stage, which provided shelter for the choral singers from Mt. Hope High School, and Guiteras and Rockwell elementary schools.
Hope Street wasn't closed off to traffic until 5:30 p.m. There weren't enough people, one officer had said.
In years past, the turnout for the Bristol Christmas Festival would be in the thousands, Mr. Teixeira said.
"We've never canceled on account of the weather," said Tanya Kiernan, chairperson of the Bristol Christmas Festival committee. "We want to get this done. All the man hours to put up the lights, and to put this together; we're hearty folks, I think we can do it."
Shortly before the event kicked off at 4:15 p.m., a light, drizzling rain began to fall. Within the hour, a deluge struck, but that didn't deter the members of Rhythm Quest Percussion, a community-based youth percussion group, from performing.
As Tom Westgate rapped his bass drum with the drumsticks, water splashed up into his face.
"I think we did well, despite the fact we were swimming," joked group member Brendan Abrahamson.
It was after their performance that the tent went up.
Extensions School of Dance instructor/owner Michelle Spina kept her thoughts positive. Her students were scheduled to perform, and rain or shine, Ms. Spina said the show must go on.
"We didn't put in all this work to not have this go on," she said. "We've got to think positive. The forecast said after 5, nothing."
As it turned out, the forecast was correct. Not a drop of rain fell during the dancers' performance, or when second-graders Kali Rocha and Aiden Enes flipped the switch at 6 p.m., turning on the town's Christmas lights.
"It was a fun, family tradition," said Ms. Kiernan. "It was a great night out, like a Norman Rockwell painting setting."
DPW workers started stringing 55 trees along Hope Street with lights around Nov. 1, amounting to 180,000 bulbs. The main tree in front of the Burnside Building is lit with more than 49,000 bulbs.
Each year, the department spends about $4,800 on Christmas lights because the weather deteriorates them, and new ones are needed each season.
Alfred Brazil, owner of Alfred's Gifts and Antiques, was honored as this year's Spirit of Christmas Award recipient. Mr. Brazil was chosen by the committee because of his longstanding dedication to the town and love of Christmas, said Ms. Kiernan.
"When you drive by his home and business, your face is just, wow," she said. "He's unbelievably creative with his decorations.
"He's also very generous to everyone and organizations in town."