City Of Saugatuck Leaders Are Spearheading Effort To Bring Back Beloved Christmas Tree Barge
The City of Saugatuck wants to reintroduce what was previously a 20-year icon: the huge, lighted Christmas tree barge at the end of Butler Street.
Officials Monday night put a call out to community members for support in that endeavor.
“Ken Trester and Bill Hess are spearheading a working group to see about re-instating the Christmas tree because it was quite a draw for tourists,” said Saugatuck Mayor Chris Peterson, referring to her colleagues on council.
Situated on a barge in Kalamazoo harbor, the “tree” consisted of an 80-foot metal tower skirted with strands of lights - more than 3,000 of them - and topped off with three 8-foot high stars.
“The tree must have stood four to five stories high,” said Peterson.
The barge broke loose during a storm in the beginning of 2013 when water pulled it downriver and the tower got tangled with trees, causing irreparable damage to it, though no damage to the barge.
A new tower was never built following that incident and the Christmas tree that was once such a prominent feature against the Saugatuck skyline during the holiday season, especially from the vantage point of the Blue Star Highway Bridge, ceased to be.
That is until now, of course.
The Saugatuck leaders seek volunteers and answers to who could build a new structure and how it could it be done (i.e. repurposing an old radio antenna, etc.)
They are also determined to find funding to help in the upkeep and maintenance of the structure.
Throughout the tree’s 20-year stint, it was volunteers who helped put it up and decorate it each year.
On December 15, 2012, during the same winter season right before the storm and subsequent damage to the tree tower, Saugatuck dedicated a newly rebuilt, lighted holiday star atop Mount Baldhead tower.
Volunteers rebuilt the 24-foot star, which was falling apart and had been vandalized. The star has also become an iconic feature of the area that can be seen from miles away in Saugatuck and Douglas.
That rebuilding project was spearheaded by Brent Birkholz, owner of Harbor Ducks Tours in Saugatuck.
The wooden star was replaced with a new aluminum structure, with the welding work done by Saugatuck High School workshop students.