NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Education Foundation is hoping to spread holiday cheer this season with a town-wide holiday decorating contest and luminary event.
Light Up NK, the first annual event by the group founded earlier this year, consists of a home decorating contest from Dec. 11 through Christmas Eve, as well as a luminary event on Dec. 23 and 24 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Patrons to the contest will be provided with a map and list of house numbers of participating houses to do a tour around town and vote for their favorite to receive Best in Show, with the winner receiving a $100 cash prize. On the commercial side, the best participating Business Storefront Display will receive a pizza party for up to 10 employees.
For co-founders Robyn Albuquerqe and Dawn Masterson, the group’s president and vice president, respectively, the idea to put on Light Up NK came from the success of their Halloween drive-thru event, Spook Out NK.
“During the Spook Out NK event, families had three nights to drive around North Kingstown and check out all the creative, spooky, and fun Halloween displays safely from their cars and vote on their favorites,” Albuquerqe said. “The event had 60 participating houses, over 400 votes, top 3 winners and raised a little over $700. The reaction to this event was overwhelmingly positive and we received several suggestions and inquiries about whether we were going to host a similar event for the winter holiday season. Due to the desire for another event and to have something positive to look forward to during the pandemic, we felt a strong eagerness to help unify our town with a joyful season event.”
The luminary event takes inspiration from Albuquerqe and Masterson’s childhoods when they would gather with their fellow students and neighbors to light up the night with lights and luminary bags, which can be purchased for $20 on the group’s website and feature 10 candles with a fire retardant bag.
“We wanted to bring that peaceful and simplified way to enjoy the magic of the holidays back to North Kingstown,” Masterson said. “The light is a sign of hope, and during this challenging time we are all in need of a little bit of hope that things will get better.”
Registration for the home decorating contest is $25 and includes a luminary bag kit. Apart from Best in Show, there are four other categories for homeowners: Deck The Halls, which is for the best of the more traditional designs, including such things as live greenery, window candles, wreaths and lights; Best Light Display; Best Use of Technology, including animation, music and projectors; and the White Christmas Award for the best snow-themed white light collection. Prizes for these categories are to be determined according to the NKEF and people will be able to vote on their favorites for each category, with voting running through Dec. 26 and the winners to be announced via email and social media on Dec. 29.
With the ability to travel by car from house to house, Albuquerqe and Masterson see the display as a good way to spread holiday cheer while still keeping cautious of COVID-19.
“The NKEF wanted to provide an opportunity to spread the joy and spirit of the holiday in a safe and fun way,” Albuquerqe said.
So far, they both say, the feedback and interest have been very positive.
“We have received quite a bit of positive feedback from sources that include social media and direct communication by email,” Masterson said. “We have sold 53 luminary kits so far and we really love how some neighborhoods are deciding to participate together. The house decorating contest registrations are still coming in. We are expecting people to shift their focus to the holiday season, immediately following Thanksgiving. We hope people take advantage of the nice weather and feel inspired to decorate early so that they can enjoy the season longer.”
As for businesses and groups, they note that the Town Hall, North Kingstown Free Library, Flowers by Bert & Peg and the Living Hope Christian Church have already signed up.
“We are hoping for lots more locations to register and make a map full of exciting sights and sounds of the holidays,” Albuquerqe said, adding that she hopes to make the event North Kingstown’s own version of some of the more popular regional light displays, such as at Attleboro’s La Salette Shrine and East Grenwich’s Stone Ridge Luminaria.
“We are calling for other businesses, the Spook out NK participants, as well as anyone who believes they are the next Clark Griswold and (can) out-decorate their neighbors to register,” Albuquerqe said. “Inflatables, blinking lights and a sleigh with 8 tiny reindeers and more are welcomed.”
Registration for the contest runs through Dec. 4 and those interested can register at the group’s website, nkefoundation.org, where luminary bag kits can also be purchased.