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12/02/2022 12:56 PM

Channeling Support for Harbor Lights in Branford

The 4th annual Harbor Lights in Branford is set for Saturday, Dec. 17. Organizers are hoping to channel plenty of support from community members, who still have time to purchase luminary kits, sign up to help set up the bags, or simply make a donation. All proceeds will once again benefit non-profit Community Dining Room. Shown here, a view of some of the thousands of luminaries involved in Harbor Lights 2021. Photo courtesy Rob Kovi.

Volunteer organizers of the 4th annual Harbor Lights in Branford are hoping to channel plenty of support from community members, who still have time to purchase luminary kits, sign up to help set up the bags, or simply make a donation. All proceeds from this year’s Harbor Lights event, set for Saturday, Dec. 17, will once again benefit non-profit Community Dining Room (CDR).

Last year, nearly 5,000 luminaries lit up a shoreline section of Branford -- and beyond -- during the 3rd annual Harbor Lights, raising $5,000 for CDR along the way. This year, the hope is to have Harbor Lights add a new location, lighting luminaries on the Branford green.

As darkness falls on Dec. 17, thousands of lit candles in sand-filled bags are anticipated to glow along an extended path beginning with Harbor Light’s point of origin – the seawall running along the shoreline side of Parker Memorial Park at Branford Point. The Branford High School Merry Makers will be singing during event, as will the Blue Fire Stage Company, caroling at Parker Memorial Park and along Harbor Street. Viewers can park at Parker Park, 4 Harbor St.

The extensive path of lit luminaries will once again continue along Harbor Street and into area neighborhoods, running past sidewalks and outside homes on streets including Goodsell Point Road, where Branford Yacht Club will be lit up and welcoming guests to an open house at the club (parking available). As with last year, the luminaries are expected to also light up on Maple Street at the Anchor Reef condominium, as well as several other locations around town, including the new seawall on Limewood Avenue (Route 146), thanks to a group of area neighbors committed to purchasing and placing luminaries.

Organizer Rob Kovi told Zip06/The Sound that this year's effort to sell luminary kits has been underway since November, but now it’s crunch-time, and the hope is that sales will really start to take off. The event’s fundraising goal is to raise at least another $5,000 for CDR in 2022.

"We’ve been doing our usual sales, but they’ve been a little bit slower-paced this year,” said Kovi. “There seems to be a lot of energy and a lot of buzz among people looking forward to our luminary event this year, but we’re still a little bit behind on our luminary sales.”

Each luminary kit is sold for $15 and includes 10 white paper bags, 10 cups, and 10 votive candles. Buyers are responsible for their own sand. The group has set up easy ordering via a new Shopify page, as well as at the group’s Facebook page, HarborLightsBranfordCT. The Facebook page also lists in-person luminary kit sales dates, which are held at Parker Park on Saturdays and Sundays. Upcoming sales dates are Saturday, Dec. 4 and Sunday, Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. - noon. and Saturday, Dec. 10 and Sunday, Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. - noon. Cash or checks welcome, payable to Branford Harbor Lights LLC. Interested parties can also email for more information. Luminaries will be available to purchase online through Dec. 12, 2022.

Kovi has also added a sign-up form at and at HarborLightsBranfordCT on Facebook, to gather those who are available to volunteer with filling, placing and lighting bags on Dec. 17, especially at the Branford green.

“As it grows, it does take a lot of time to fill all those bags and put them out,” said Kovi.

Kovi, a past Person of the Week, was a relatively new resident of the Branford Point area when he originated Harbor Lights in 2019. He created the event as a way to build community while also raising money for a good cause. The first Harbor Lights got off the ground with help from his neighbor Sally Esborn and several others, who all continue to man the annual event; including Rob’s wife and right-hand luminary assistant, Lori.

“I just thought it was a nice thing for the community and the neighborhood,” Kovi said of his idea. “You hear stories from people who lived in other places who did the same thing, and you see the potential for how big it could be. We had just under 5,000 luminaries last year, but then you hear stories of places that had 10,000 or 15,000 or 40,000 luminaries.”

Among the neighbors who have been assisting Kovi and Esborn since the beginning are Chuck and Kathy O’Connor, who live on Harbor Street. Each year, the O’Connor’s hold an open house for neighbors to join in helping to fold down the tops of some 1,100 bags of luminaries that will line the seawall at Branford Point. The O’Connors were also among the first to embrace Kovi and Esborn’s idea of furthering the sense of community, by setting up a firepit outside their home as a place for passerby to warm up on the night of Harbor Lights. Other neighbors have since joined in with their own firepits to offer.

“The timing for this event has been just perfect,” said Chuck O’Connor. “The first year it took off, and the next year it doubled, and the next year, it went up by at least 50 percent, and that takes us to where we are now. We’ll probably have in excess of 3,000 luminaries in our neighborhood alone. It’s growing through osmosis.”

O’Connor, who is also an active member of Branford Rotary Club, said this annual event is a shining example of the best of Branford.

“It demonstrates how a community like Branford can just come together, to some degree spontaneously, with just a couple of people and an idea. This started as nothing more than Sally and Rob talking to each other and asking, ‘What if?’” said O’Connor. “Each year, it evolves, and I think that was the idea. To have it grow, on its own, over time; to take root, gather some monies for local charity, and bring the community together.”

Harbor Lights Branford, a drive/stroll event, is set for Saturday, Dec. 17 at dark. Raindate: Saturday, January 7, 2023.