The Hippo


May 29, 2020








Lights on the Hill

Where: Candia Congregational Church (1 South Road) and select buildings starting at the corner of High Street and South Road.
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 8 p.m. 
Cost: Free admission 
Get involved: Volunteer opportunities may still be available. Call the church office at 483-0506 to find out how you can contribute. 

It takes a village
All hands on deck for Lights on the Hill

By Angie Sykeny

 With 12 activity sites, eight buildings and more than a mile of road as its campus, putting together Candia’s Lights on the Hill is a community effort. 

The annual Christmas celebration will return for its 20th year on Saturday, Dec. 10, and will feature musical performances, food and drinks, a live nativity scene, crafts and cookie decorating, a campfire and more, all connected by the event’s trademark luminary-lit path. 
Lights on the Hill is organized by Candia Congregational Church but enlists the help of about 50 community volunteers before the event and 150 to 175 on the day of. Volunteers have come from other churches, schools, community organizations, businesses and youth clubs like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Candia 4-H. 
Deb Puderbaugh leads the core five-person planning team in delegating tasks and coordinating each step of the preparation process. 
“Our goal is to have an involved community and have other people help so that it’s not just the church,” she said. “We’ve been meeting to get ready for that [process] and get things scheduled. I make sure all the pieces come together, but it’s really a group effort.” 
Naturally, the decorations and luminaries are one of the largest undertakings. A crew completed the buildings’ outdoor decor earlier this month, taking inventory of the piles of icicle, bush and Christmas tree lights and testing each one before stringing them up. Indoor decorating, which includes strung lights, window candle lights, Christmas trees and other festive embellishments, will take place the Saturday before the event. 
As for the luminaries that will light the way to each activity, a volunteer group from Jesse Remington High School started work on them last week. The assembly process usually takes up to two weeks to complete.
“We do approximately 700 luminaries,” Puderbaugh said. “Basically, [the assemblers] take these white bakery bags, fill them up partially with sand and put candles inside, then transport them to strategic areas of the campus so there’s easy access to them on that day.” 
The morning of the event, another group will collect the assembled luminaries and set them up along the road. When it starts to get dark, another group will go around and light them. There are even people tasked with keeping watch over the luminaries during the event, making sure that they remain lit and aren’t blown away by the wind. 
A number of volunteers are baking and cooking food for the event’s bakery, coffee house and cafe, which will have prepared baked goods available for purchase as well as sit-down meals like chili, corn chowder, meatball subs and hot dogs. 
Groups like the Concord Coachmen Chorus, Granite State Cloggers, Moore School of Music and Jesse Remington High School choir have their own preparing to do; they’ll be performing in the church sanctuary at various times during the event. 
Of course, not all of the preparations are as exciting as decorating and baking treats; Puderbaugh and her team also have to take care of the less glamorous logistics that are essential to the success of the event. These include working with the town and area businesses to arrange for event parking, requesting police presence to ensure safety, hiring shuttle drivers for attendees who can’t or don’t want to walk, and having a snowblowing and plow crew on call in the case of a snowfall. 
“You never know what the weather will be like, so we have to be prepared for that, and we also have to think about the number of guests and make sure we have what we need for them, because there were a thousand people last year,” Puderbaugh said. “Right now is the final countdown of solidifying all those details.”  
The purpose of Lights on the Hill, she said, has always been to provide a respite from the “hustle and bustle” of the holidays and give people an opportunity to focus on what matters: community, family and friends. Although the planning is a lot of work and can be overwhelming, the anticipation of seeing people smile and knowing that it’s a family tradition for many is what keeps Puderbaugh and her team motivated to put on the best event possible. 
“When families are getting their pictures by the tree, we often hear stories of how it’s a tradition and they have pictures from every year showing how they’ve grown and changed,” she said. “Well, now the children of those families are adults and are bringing their own children. That just gives me goosebumps to think about.” 

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