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Holiday Bonfire Unites Community, Creates Memories

It was the largest gathering of spectators in the past five years as the community celebrated the holiday season with a giant bonfire.

Hundreds viewed the lighting of the 27th Annual Holiday Bonfire late Sunday evening at the Rye Recreation Center. The event brought together firefighters, the Hand to Mouth Players and the community.

After a magic show, young children and their families gathered on the bleachers overlooking the baseball field. In the center was a large pile of wood pallet crates stacked approximately 10-feet tall.

Kristen Goodman of Rye brought her whole family including her sister, Gia Thornburg, from Thailand.

“I think it is great so far. We really wanted to see the bonfire,” said Goodman.

Rye’s Khalid Azim brought his younger son, Naved, 8, to the bonfire after not going for some time.

“I used to take my older son to this yearly,” he said. “Seeing the bonfire [is a sign] of the holiday spirit.”

The event, sponsored in part by TD Bank and coordinated by the Rye Recreation Department, is one of director Matt Trainor’s favorites.

“This is important for the community, especially this year with a lot of economic downturns," he said. "If anything, we do this for the community because the holiday event brings goodwill back to Rye. It can make them feel better for at least one night.”

Trainor enjoys seeing all of the people he interacts with through other programs.

“From young kids to adults, it is nice to see them all in one place,” he said.

Nine-year-old Andrew Leisengang came with his 4-year-old brother Alexander and mom Helen because he hadn’t seen a bonfire before.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said.

Once lit, the bonfire generated a significant amount of heat. One child took off his shirt with of glee and surprise after feeling just how hot the fire made the air.

A suited-up firefighter stood watch over the bonfire as it broke apart and exhausted its wood-fuel in about 10 minutes.

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