Of lights and lobster traps
One pleasure of the holiday season that even COVID-19 couldn't stop is the tradition of taking a drive in the early darkness of a wintry night to see houses and front yards decked with Christmas lights.
There are the celestial ones — white fairy lights, windowsill candles, spotlight on an angel choir — and the North Pole ones — Santa, sleigh, reindeer, candy canes, lots of beaming red and green — and the indescribably original, one-of-a-kind ones. All are fun to see.
This year, though, something big and new is twinkling in the night. For the first and we hope not the last time, southeastern Connecticut has a lobster trap Christmas tree. Thank you, Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, for the 25-foot-tall "tree" on the Stonington Town Dock, made of 330 lobster traps, thousands of multicolored lights, and 330 handpainted buoys. You could say it is a hollow tree, with an interior open space that allows a person to walk inside, look up and marvel.
As an idea, it was intriguingly cool. As a reality, it's a moonshot. A primary mission of a Chamber of Commerce is to market its area, local businesses and attractions. The Town Dock tree is putting the easternmost shoreline town in Connecticut on more people's GPS and grins on their faces.
The trap-and-buoy tree pays its respects to the town's heritage as the home of the state's enduring commercial fishing fleet and gives several dozen artists a place to showcase their talents. Some of the buoys are tributes, painted in memory or in honor of local folks. Like a heartfelt Christmas wish, the tree is not only personal but universal.
Stonington's is not the first; there have been other lobster pot trees in other commercial fishing towns like Gloucester, Mass., where Chamber President Lisa Konicki saw one and decided, shortly before the pandemic started, to try it here. Her timing could not have been better for people needing a way to be outside with others after last winter's enforced isolation.
The tree was first lit up a month ago and will remain through January. It has, as expected, attracted a steady crowd both day and night, with a daylight visit, anytime after dawn, providing the best view of the buoy artistry. The lights twinkle from dusk to 9:45 p.m. daily. In mid-December the BBC posted its photo gallery of "Amazing Christmas trees around the world," beginning with London and New York and culminating in — you guessed it — Stonington.
To all the volunteers and businesses that worked on the lobster trap tree and helped raise $36,000 to erect it, thanks. We needed that.
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