Friday, December 17, 2010

Valley will be aglow with luminaries

Sales of candle lanterns support Hunger Coalition

Express Staff Writer

The annual Luminary Festival in Hailey is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 19. Photo by

For the sixth year, Lee Dabney will make Hailey glow as well as help out the nonprofit Hunger Coalition. Dabney is the woman behind the Northridge Luminary Festival, which is becoming a growing holiday tradition with a purpose.

"Six years ago, I strapped my youngest, Nate, who was 7 months, on my back and started knocking on my neighbors' doors selling luminaries at $1 each, with proceeds to be donated to the Hunger Coalition," she said. "My sister, who lived in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., did a similar event to raise funds for their local recreation complex. I thought that living in a place like the Wood River Valley, the idea would be successful here as well."

The idea has flourished. Six years later, the tradition of lining the streets of Northridge with luminaries has grown from selling 1,000 luminaries to last year selling 7,500. Dabney said that after expenses, $6,200 was made for the Hunger Coalition.

A luminary is a candle in a bag that glows for about eight hours and then is collected in the morning. The tradition was introduced to Mexican Indians by Spanish missionaries who lit paper lanterns for nine consecutive nights beginning Dec. 16. It was representational of lighting the way for Christ's birth and illumination of the spirit.

Hunger Coalition Executive Director Jeanne Liston said $6,200 buys 14,762 pounds of food, which is 12,400 meals feeding 35 families with two adults and two children three meals a day for one month.

Some of the areas that participate every year in the festival are Northridge, Deerfield, Della View, Old Hailey, Curtis, Foxmoor, Woodside, Northstar and Buttercup neighborhoods in Hailey. Dabney said that this year she's planning to sell luminaries in the Warm Springs area of Ketchum. There are luminaries for sale throughout the valley, from Bellevue to Ketchum. She said it's all done by volunteers who sell to friends and neighbors.

In addition, this year middle school students at The Sage School helped Dabney count out 6,000 bags and candles in increments of fives, tens and twenties, which sell the best. Buying in bulk helps make selling the bags easier. The students will help sell and distribute them as well. The luminaries are still $1 each.

"Our celebration takes place the Sunday before Christmas, this year the 19th at dusk," Dabney said.

She said the goal this year is to sell 8,000 luminaries and net over $7,000. For details, call 578-0861 or e-mail

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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