GLOCESTER — The village of Harmony, in Glocester, is home to a rolling hills, country cottages, and ancient farms nestled within the boundaries of lichen-covered stonewalls. At the heart of this bucolic rural stop along the Putnam Pike is the Harmony Fire Department. Here, Chief Stuart Pearson and his merry band of firehouse elves kicked off the 2011 “season to be jolly” with a festive tradition that dates back to the 1950’s.
Since the days when “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” joined the hit parade, the Harmony Fire Chiefs and their crews have led Glocester and the surrounding villages in a yearly Christmas tree lighting and visit from Santa Claus. As carols are sung and hot cocoa is served, Santa trades in his sleigh and arrives in Harmony on a gleaming fire truck with roaring sirens and flashing red lights that accent the jolly old fellow’s crimson suit and snowy white beard.
Organized in 1924, the Harmony Fire District has been the center of public safety and the spirit of Christmas in this rural turnpike village for more than eighty years. Pvt. Bob Pierce, HFD volunteer since 1978 and member of a lifelong family here, cannot recall a time when the village did not gather at the Harmony Fire Department to light the holiday tree.
Milton Aldrich (HFD volunteer 1952-2011), whose brother, Charles, served as longtime chief and whose family has northwestern Rhode Island roots as wide and deep as the forests around the nearby Scituate Reservoir, recalls Christmas times under Chief Harrison Winsor in the 1950’s that welcomed the young and young at heart, from Snake Hill to Sawmill and on toward the village of Chepachet.
However, on a recent Sunday afternoon, a new generation welcomed Santa Claus once again at the Harmony Fire Department. Planning for the annual Christmas tree lighting and visit from Santa Claus began back in August. Chief Pearson and his committee met in late summer and through the fall to marshal community resources and to check on business contributions. Despite a dark economy, reports of generous support glimmered like the twinkling lights on the tree to be decorated on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Among those individual donors and corporate contributors who gave generously to bring Santa Claus, gifts, and refreshments to Harmony’s children and families, and who made the lights on the Station’s Christmas tree shimmer this season were the Pepsi Beverages Co., Dino’s Park n’ Shop, Benny’s, Yacht Club Bottling Works, Dunkin’ Donuts, Christine’s Cottage Florist, Towne House Flowers and the Chief and Mrs. Pearson.
At 4 o’clock sharp that Sunday, Chief Pearson’s elves were everywhere in the Harmony Fire Department garage. As Secretary Kim Barber, Lt. John Falco, and Private Bianca Mullen directed the final preparations, townsfolk flooded through the doors. Ruth Pearson and Heather Farrell delighted small children at a special craft station inside the garage, where little ones celebrated the season by decorating and signing Christmas cards to be delivered to residents of local health facilities in honor of their many holidays shared among families and friends.
Beneath the yellow protective gear and fire hats neatly arrayed, childhood holiday fashion was on parade as Kenzee Silva, soon to be six years old, was dressed to celebrate the season in a shirt bearing the image of a green-faced Grinch. Kenzee announced that she was “very excited” to be attending the party.
Skyla Cote, age 2-1/2 and a tiny Christmas vision from her curly top-knot to her dressy “Mary Janes,” claimed a bunny balloon crafted by a Shriner clown as one of her “favorite things” to be enjoyed as she waited for Santa to arrive. Members of the Rhode Island Shriners, who entertained and created their trademark balloon sculptures, were a highlight of the evening. Though dressed in brightly colored clown attire, the ever-festive Shriners experienced competition from the 1952 Ford Seagraves. State-of-the-art in its day, the truck is now a vintage classic, gleaming with seasonal lights proudly defining Harmony as a place where legacy matters.
As dusk fell and the lights illuminated the station’s outdoor tree, Santa arrived and hopped off Engine 21 as the siren wailed, children cheered, and the red lights flashed along Route 44. Frosty the Snowman smiled down on the celebration in the Harmony Fire Department garage as Santa made his way to his chair beside the classic fire truck. A young father dressed in a red and white Santa cap and football jersey cradled a baby who slept through the fun and who brought a tear to the eyes of elders looking on.
As the Harmony Christ-mas tree lighting and stationhouse celebration drew to a close, a long line of children snaked through the garage, waiting to hop on Santa’s lap to share a Christmas wish and receive a gift that was partially paid for through the generosity of the Harmony Child Care & Preschool.
Pvt. Eric Palmieri, president of the Harmony Fire Department & Improvement Association, pronounced the celebration, “…a family oriented event geared toward having a good time within the community…”
Indeed, Privates Kim and Paul Perreault and Private Andy Noonan and his wife, Linda, were kept busy in the station meeting room serving a feast of apple dumplings drenched in caramel sauce (Freedom National Bank), along with punch (RI Fruit & Syrup Co.), pizza (Domino’s & DePetrillo’s), and brownies (Palmieri’s Bakery). Gil and Sandy Barden from Barden’s Family Orchard on Elmdale Road supplied apples that gleamed like Santa’s rosy cheeks. Hot cocoa was served in red mugs emblazoned with the seal of the Harmony Fire Department. The mugs were provided through the generous community spirit of the Navigant Credit Union.
Close to 200 friends and neighbors gathered in the dusk of this unusually warm Sunday to enjoy the Mickey Mouse “Christmas Carol” movie and the spirited voices of the “Very Merry Dickens Carolers,” whose costumes evoked a vision of olden days and up country ways. Their voices blended in winter tones that warmed hearts and gave proof to the wisely chosen village name: Harmony.
The Harmony Fire Department and the village they serve light a Christmas tree remembered not only through the year, but also throughout the decades as each new generation of volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel, serve, protect, and celebrate. This year’s Harmony Fire Dept. Tree Lighting Committee included Chief Stuart Pearson, Ruth Pearson, Kim Barber, Mary Lee Partington, Lt. John Falco and Privates Bianca Mullen, Kim Perreault, Linda Ferragamo and Eric Palmieri. An enormous thank you also goes to our Special Helper, Captain David Plante.
The article and photo were submitted by Kim Barber, secretary/tax collector of the Harmony Fire District, and Lt. Kevin Farley.