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Making spirits bright in Exeter

Making spirits bright in Exeter

Twenty-five years ago Howard Joyner was among a group of residents who transformed Powell Street into Exeter’s very own Candy Cane Lane.

This Saturday, Powell Street residents will turns the lights back on and invite the community to come and share in the holiday spirit.

“It was a pretty big deal, something we worked on year round,” said Joyner who lives in the 400 block of Powell Avenue. “It takes a lot of work but I think it’s nice they are trying to bring it back the way it was.”

Candy Cane Lane will be reborn this Saturday, Dec. 8 on Powell Street as nearly every home from Joyner to Filbert will light up the night with Christmas displays in their front yards and homes.

“It was something to see,” said Joyner, whose 85 years old. “There were lights going all the way across the street and cars coming through to look at it every night. People in town really looked forward to it.”

The effort to bring back Candy Cane Lane in Exeter is being spearheaded by Exeter Police Officer Mark Frick. What began as an idea to inspire neighborhoods to come together has grown to become a community-wide effort to revitalize a small town tradition lost sometime in the last two decades. Frick said Orange Belt Supply Company donated the whitewash for the trees and volunteers wrapped them with ribbons last week. They will also have signs asking people to tune their radio to 98.9 FM for Christmas music and barrels along the street for food donations.

“We wanted to tie in with the Open House in downtown on Thursday nights,” Frick said.

A new twist on the tradition is closing off the streets to traffic. Frick said Powell will be closed off on Thursday, Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 from 6-9 p.m. for the event. He said those interested will park at Faith Tabernacle on Filbert and walk up and back from Joyner along the five-block Candy Cane Lane. The Thursday nights will also feature the Exeter Union High School Jazz Band, the EUHS Choir, local businesses serving coffee, etc.

“There was not enough time to get the living Nativity going this year but we are already working on it for next year,” Frick said.

Jim and Sara Tyler just moved to Powell Street this summer and had only heard vaguely about the Candy Cane Lane history in Exeter. Sara said she and her 17-year-old daughter Holly came up with some creative ideas to decorate their yard as a gingerbread house, such as paper plate as peppermints and pool noodles as lollipops. Sara said Jim cut the gingerbread men and star from plywood and then they all got together to have a family painting day in the garage. They even converted some Halloween decorations for use in their Christmas displays.

“We bought some things but repurposed a lot of things,” Sara said. “We had a lot of family members who donated decorations they don’t use anymore.”

Sara said just moving to the street didn’t give her a lot of time to prepare for this year’s event, but hopes the event will continue to grow and bring her neighborhood closer together.

“I know back in the day the whole street used to have a block party where they prepared all the decorations,” Sara said regarding the original Candy Cane Lane. “I think that would be great to do next year.”

Stan Copeland never saw the original Candy Cane Lane but said he decorates his front yard every year in the 500 block of Powell Avenue. He said he is happy the rest of the street has decided to bring back a tradition that brings a smile to his face.

“I think it’s really neat,” Copeland said. “I’m excited to be a part of something for the whole community.”

Copeland has even found some decorations in his garage that he is giving to others on the street to use on their homes. He said he has accumulated quite a collection of Christmas lights and décor over the years and is volunteering to help some of the older residents who can’t decorate themselves.

“I love putting up Christmas lights and decorations,” Copeland said. “It’s a lot of fun to spread Christmas cheer.”

Frick said he is hoping to print pamphlets letting people know Candy Cane Lane is completely private donation funded, and hopes people will donate to offset the costs of the homeowners putting the event together. Frick said he hopes in the future businesses may sponsor a yard to help with the cost.

“We are hoping to set up a non-profit for the event to be able to accept tax deductible donations,” Frick said. “But more important than money right now are displays, lights, anything we can use to decorate a few houses.”

Anyone wanting to donate displays can contact Officer Mark Frick at frick806@gmail.com.

“It’s going to take a couple of years to get it back the way it was,” Joyner said. “It’s harder now with both parents working, but if someone is going to head it up all it takes is manpower.”

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