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Charlestown Bonfire

Last night we made our way over to Ningret Park to check out the annual Charlestown bonfire, scheduled to start about 4:30 p.m. You don’t really hear about bonfires happening these days, so we were excited to check out the sparks.

As we parked and made our way over the the abandoned airstrip, we came upon hundreds of people standing around a most magnificent structure of wood 2 or more stories high. I’m not sure what I was expecting ~ perhaps a bigger than usual pile of wood burning logs? Yet the structure about to be ignited was a sophisticated composition of varying sizes and lengths of wood – part pyramid, part mini cottage in fact.

The event which lasted about 1 hour was awe inspiring, in fact a jaw dropping vision to behold and experience! Here are 7 things to know about the New Years Charlestown Bonfire:

  1. The organizer of the bonfire is Frank Glista, whose nickname is “Frankie Pallets”. He works tirelessly starting in November to build the structure. For safety reason, it is built to serious code, with screws that hold the structure together as it incinerates. Days after the bonfire, Frankie Pallets returns to gather all the screws from the ashes. Here’s a quote from Glista from The Westerly Sun where he describes his motivation to create this event:

    I’ve always remembered, even as a kid, there was a big hoopla about New Year’s Eve, but the kids don’t really know what’s going on. This is great for those kids. It gives them something to do that’s early and quick, and then the parents can still attend their own festivities later.

  2. The Charlestown Fire Department supervises the event, monitoring the wind and flame direction, and keeping the crowd safe. Before the fire is lit, all the fire trucks sound their horns to bid farewell to the year that has passed, and hello to the enthusiastic holiday crowd.
  3. Arrive right on time at 4:30 to enjoy donuts and hot cocoa provided by Dunkin Donuts.
  4. The Charlestown Department of Parks and Recreation organizes the event. If you attend next year, I suggest that the best online source for up to date information will be found on their website.
  5. Glista uses pallets and scrap wood donated by Arnold Lumber to design the amazing structure. Each year he does a new design, adding to the intrigue.
  6. Weather can play a significant role on the type of fire you will witness. Last night it was windy, which swirled a sea of orange and red star sparks up into the nighttime sky. Also, to my eye, I swear I saw mini flame tornados whirling on the edge of the fire – I held my breath as they looked like they were going to dance into the crowd.
  7. The fireman of the Town of Charlestown were amazing; they surrounded the burning structure in clusters, blending into the crowd to both protect the families that gathered, and join in at marveling at the sight before us.

The Charlestown Bonfire at Ningret Park is a wonderful way to celebrate New Years Eve. Thank you to the the town of Charlestown, RI for this fantastic & awesome event.

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