By Sarah Morrison
With hot cocoa in hand and neon apparel glowing, my fiancé and I arrived at the Depot Street entry kiosk ready to celebrate “Neon Night” in Pondicherry Park the Saturday before Halloween. As we entered the Magic Lantern parking lot, a feeling of excitement enveloped us. At fifteen minutes to seven, the parking lot was packed, a huge crowd – about 200 adults and children – gathered at the kiosk, and more residents were streaming in. All around us families and their children were decorated in neon tiaras, necklaces, earrings, eye glasses, bracelets, rings, and glow-inthe- dark balloons. As the minutes counted down to the start of the walk, more and more neon was passed around casting a rainbow of greens, yellows, reds and blues on the faces of this energized group. As the numbers grew, it became apparent, that we would in fact be able to light up the park that night.
Just prior to the start of the walk, Peter Lowell, LEA’s executive director, gave a quick introduction to the evening’s festivities, saying, “This celebration of Pondicherry Park is to remind residents of Bridgton that the park is being offered as a gift to the Town on voting day, November 8.” And with a toss of a few more glow sticks out to the crowed, Peter lead the pack out from under the glow of parking lot lights, up and over the Bob Dunning Bridge, and into the dark Pondicherry Loop Trail.
The effect of the neon crowd on such a dark night was phenomenal. All throughout the woods, you could see a line of bobbing, figures casting their colors on the trees around them. Friends and families chatted along the way, comfortable in the light resonating from their own apparel, as kids wove in and out of the line helping to lead the way, and attempting to scare their buddies.
Being smack dab in the middle of the line gave the effect of being a part of a never-ending train zipping along in the dark. As this glowing train reached the deck of the old Cook camp foundation, Lowell gathered a large group for a moment of neon silence. After enjoying the quite of the woods for a complete minute, the crowd took to hooting and hollering again, the rest of the way back to the parking lot.
Neon night was a complete success. Not only was the celebration of Pondicherry Park unique and unforgettable, but it had the sort of energy that emanates from holidays like the 4th of July. Everyone who joined in the fun that Friday night went home with smiles on their faces.