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Morning Sun
  • Pittsburg residents continue tradition of lighting luminaries

  • For 19 years, the residents of Winwood Drive and Olive Street in southwest Pittsburg have been trying to give something back to the community.

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  • For 19 years, the residents of Winwood Drive and Olive Street in southwest Pittsburg have been trying to give something back to the community.
    Their way of doing that is by lighting luminaries up and down both streets each Christmas Eve night.
    Friday, they continued the tradition, braving cold and wet temperatures to do so.
    Mary Ann Wilson, a 21-year resident of the neighborhood, started the annual tradition two years after moving to her home with her husband Jim.
    “When we moved here, I thought we just had the perfect area for that,” Mary Ann said.
    Winwood Drive is separated by an island from Olive Street past College. That made for the perfect spot to start the lighting process. Twenty years ago, that is where it all started ... on that single strip of Winwood.
    Now, the process has grown to include all of Winwood Drive and Olive from Quincy to just past Winwood. Mary Ann Wilson said that the neighborhood will have just over 700 luminaries.
    “We have it down to a science now and it takes us about an hour to light them all,” Mary Ann said. “But, we have some really good help.”
    That help comes from residents of both Winwood and Olive who all come out at once to light the luminaries.
    “It’s awesome,” said Olive Street resident Carol Puckett. “They do things during the summer too and its just a nice, connected neighborhood.”
    The neighborhood has only missed lighting the luminaries two years since its inception. Both instances — including last Christmas Eve — were canceled because of weather conditions.
    “We were mad and disappointed,” Mary Ann Wilson said. “I think that’s why everyone was so anxious to do it this year.”
    Despite cold and wet conditions on Friday, residents braved the elements to light the candles placed on sand in bags.
    “I really think it is just about neighborhood pride,” said Winwood Drive resident Jim Sours. “It’s something special that we can do for the entire town.”
    When the luminaries are lit, this normally quiet neighborhood comes alive with traffic that can be bumper-to-bumper at times.
    “There are times when the lights will stay on for a long time,” Mary Ann Wilson said. “You can get up at 2 a.m. and all the lights are still on ... it is a very pretty sight.”
    Just as quickly as the neighborhood lights the luminaries, they are taken down. Mary Ann Wilson said that the group will come out on Christmas morning and pack everything back up for next year.
    “We’ll have people tell us how pretty it is,” Mary Ann said. “It makes us all feel good because we can give something back.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Matthew Clark can be reached at matthew.clark@morningsun.net or at 620-231-2600, Ext. 140
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