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Luminaria to Light
The Way Saturday

By Jeanne Sager
SULLIVAN COUNTY — December 20, 2005 – The fight for political correctness hasn’t dimmed the spirit for everyone this year.
The Luminaria that have lined roads across Sullivan County each Christmas Eve for some 20 years will shine brightly Saturday night, lighting the way for Santa, the elves or the figure of your holiday fantasies.
The little jugs, filled with sand and a long-lasting candle, owe a debt of gratitude to an impromptu holiday display set up in the Town of Fremont back in 1982.
Charlie and Jill Pinder lined the front of their property with sandwich baggies to protect their little lights on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
Neighbors passing by on their way to midnight mass saw the lights of holiday cheer and decided to copy the idea, eventually determining empty milk jugs would better protect the candles and last until midnight, at least.
George and Barbara Hahn, steadfast community volunteers in the Jeffersonville area, took the Fremont neighborhood project to their town, and soon fires were sparking across the county.
These days communities in Monticello, Forestburgh, Cochecton, Callicoon and others spend the chilly afternoon of Christmas Eve painstakingly setting up jugs along their roadways, lighting their candles and moving on down the line.
Joy and Earl Bertsch learned the secrets of the lights from son-in-law Brian Brustman.
A member of one of the Town of Fremont’s oldest families, Brustman had long been setting out Luminaria along the roads in Obernburg.
His mother- and father-in-law decided it would be a good way to bring the holiday spirit to their corner of the county.
With the help of the Annunziata and Sauer-Jones families, the Bertsches have been lighting up Cochecton for four years now.
“We save gallon jugs all year long so that the area we cover grows each year,” Joy explained. “This year we hope to cover all of Cross Road.
“Earl's job is to cut the jug, then fill them with sand and place the candle inside,” she continued. “The candles are long burning and come from the metropolitan New York area.”
Like most families, the Bertsches get out early, before guests begin arriving for Christmas Eve traditions and dinners.
They load up the truck around 3 p.m. and set out on the road.
“My job is to drive the truck, and the fellows walk behind and place them along both sides of the roadway,” Joy explained. “The sight is just beautiful when we get done!”
Craig Johnson of Monticello said the people of his neighborhood owe it all to Mickey Mulvey, who got everyone moving four years ago.
He parceled out the area, Johnson said.
“You adopt this piece of road, you adopt that piece of road,” Johnson explained.
He and wife Stephanie got involved, Johnson said, because “it’s just a good thing to do.”
They like to share with their neighbors, their friends, and the people who just happen to be making their way down the road on Christmas Eve and may need a little pick-me-up.
“We do this as a means of giving something special to our neighbors,” said Joy Bertsch. “However, we get so much more out of it ourselves.
“To us the candle light signifies God's gift to each of us, his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Whatever the reason, lights will glow with holiday cheer in spots across the county this year.
Here’s a short list of some of the best spots to catch a glimpse of those holiday jugs:
• Members of the St. James Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church will be putting out a luminary display Christmas Eve in Callicoon.
It will run from the Methodist Church on Route 97 to a little beyond St. James on Route 17B.
The Methodist church barn has all the containers for luminaries. Anyone interested in decorating both Upper and Lower Main Street or either one in the town can meet the organizers at the church at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
• Lights will be set up by the Monticello volunteers along Cantrell Road, Cold Spring Road and Route 42 South from Sunset Drive to Schoolhouse Road. More lights will be set out by another group in Forestburgh proper.
• According to Sandy Bernstein, the neighbors of Hastings Drive and Hastings Court in Grahamsville will be out again to decorate their streets with candles on Christmas Eve.
“I can't remember what year this is. We have done it for many, it seems,” she said.
Hastings Drive is the only street (a dead end) between the blinking light on Route 55 and the Tri-Valley school. Hastings Court is a dead-end off Hastings Drive.
• The Bertsches and their neighbors will set up their display along Cross Road in the Town of Cochecton just off County Road 114 between Route 97 and Fosterdale corners.
• The popular Jeffersonville Area Chamber of Commerce Luminaria display will once again light up the roads around the village, creating a loop along the village’s Main Street, down the Jeff-North Branch Road (also known as County Route 128 or Hi Frank Hill), along the North Branch-Callicoon Center Road (County Route 122), up Hust Road to the Jeff-Callicoon Center Road (county routes 125 and 127) and back to Main Street.
There will also be a dogleg up onto Hemmer Road.
According to organizer Gene Diskin, the first time the Luminaria looped past his bed-and-breakfast on the Jeff-North Branch Road, he was struck by the beauty of the lights.
“It was just mind-boggling,” he said. “I called up immediately to see what I could do, and now, five years later, they have me attempting to run it!”
Interested volunteers can call Diskin at 482-5099.
* * *
Motorists are reminded to use caution – a lack of forethought can make this holiday tradition a holiday tragedy.
The Luminaria are not a substitute for headlights, which should remain in the “on” position at all times.

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