Luminaries burn bright up and down Market Street

PARKERSBURG – Luminaries placed along Market Street from Fourth to 19th streets lit the way for residents and church-goers on Tuesday evening, marking Christmas Eve.

A total of 2,000 luminaries were arranged on the sidewalks of Market Street, said Pastor Rich McClure with First Baptist Church in downtown Parkersburg.

The luminaries were placed every three feet along the sidewalks in front of businesses and residences that purchased them, said McClure. They left enough space between strings of luminaries for vehicles to enter parking lots and turn down side roads. The luminaries were lit at 6 p.m. and were expected to burn out around midnight, he said.

First Baptist Church, located at Ninth and Market streets, led the project and invited the businesses and private residents along Market Street to purchase luminary kits, said McClure. He went door-to-door to issue the invitations and mailed invitations out too, he said.

In total, 35 Market Street businesses, 10 private homes, and six churches purchased luminary kits, said McClure.

“In fact, many of them purchased more than one kit so they could cover all of the real estate outside of their businesses,” he said.

The kits, which offered 10 luminaries for $8, provided businesses and residents with the luminary bag, the sand to weigh it down, the glass votive holder and the votive candle, said McClure. The kits were assembled by volunteers at First Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon, then set up and lit by volunteers Tuesday evening.

“Many of the businesses were closed during the ceremony, but several of the owners and employees came back on Tuesday evening just to see the luminaries all lit up,” said McClure.

First Baptist Church aimed to make the luminaries affordable to everyone, said McClure. A total of 1,200 luminaries were purchased, which included several businesses which offered extra money with instructions to fill in the gaps between businesses that chose not to participate, he said.

McClure made the decision to set up the unpurchased luminaries along the route to fill in the remaining gaps and complete the mile-long route.

“The response from the community was simply overwhelming,” said McClure. “The community’s cooperation with the project really impressed me.”

The luminaries are a Christmas tradition that originated from Mexico. Their purpose is to light the way for the Christ child on Christmas Eve.

“I think they are just lovely,” said Wanda Tatman, who was on her way to First Baptist Church for a Tuesday evening service.

She was on Market Street to view the luminaries as they were being lit.

A dozen volunteers set up the luminaries along Market Street between 4-5:30 p.m. and then returned to light each candle at 6 p.m. The luminaries were to be collected for disposal this morning.

“I just thought the luminaries were a fantastic idea,” said volunteer luminary lighter Jim Sallie. “Market Street is such a beautiful street and it’s historic for our town. When you see it lined with luminaries, the light of Christ, on Christmas Eve while you are coming into Christmas Day, it’s just exciting,” he said.

Those attending the Christmas Eve services at First Baptist Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church were treated to the luminaries before and after services. Those driving along Market Street were able to view the luminaries until after midnight.

“We are hoping to turn this into an area tradition,” said McClure. “In coming years, we hope to expand the luminary project beyond Market Street to include other sections of town,” he said.