Benefit Stroll Returns

Neighborhood group reignites enthusiasm for treasured event

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After taking a hiatus the last few years, the popular Benefit Street Stroll will make a return this December, though admittedly in a somewhat reduced fashion. However, Benefit Street resident Roz Rustigian, one of the organizers of the project, assures us the street will still deliver plenty of holiday spirit. The stroll itself will be held on Saturday, December 7 from noon to 5pm.

The original Benefit Street Stroll started about 20 years ago. With the help of the Providence Preservation Society and energized residents, Benefit Street was festooned from one end to the other with special holiday door wreaths and lamppost garlands, and soon became one of the City’s “must-do” annual holiday experiences. At its height, in addition to the beautifully adorned houses themselves, the street was crowded with costumed carolers, hay wagon rides, bell ringers, street musicians, and the like, with hot chocolate and warm apple cider served in the old Armory midway down the block to top things off. The highlight of the stroll would be the lighting of a Christmas tree by the Mayor at the north end of the street, a tradition started by Buddy Cianci but continued by each of his successors, which was then followed by enthusiastic choruses of holiday favorites. But, more recently, the festival has disappeared.

Enter the Mile of History Association (MOHA), a new neighborhood association of Benefit Street residents that was formed two years ago to advocate for and protect the historic elements of the street. Under their leadership, the street has begun to regain some of its old swagger. So, this year, they have taken on the challenge of reigniting some of that old holiday spirit as well. “Admittedly we are not going to replicate the full-blown holiday festival of old in our first year,” Roz concedes, “but we want to invite people to come take a leisurely stroll down the street, exchange holiday greetings, maybe sing a carol, and see what makes Benefit Street such a special part of our City.” Toward that end, MOHA is helping houses up and down the street with their decorations this year. Then add in strolling carolers, some hot drinks perhaps, and other surprises to spice up the afternoon, and you have the makings of those old Currier & Ives moments from days of yore. Yule enjoy it.