Community tree lighting has special meaning

By Pauline Liu
It wasn’t the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but the lighting of Margaretville’s second Christmas tree last Saturday, generating some of the same wonder and excitement. For some members of the crowd, consisting of about 100 area residents, the lighting ceremony represented something more.

“It was a very sweet event and it was meant to be symbolic and show what we’ve been through,” said Jill Cline of the Catskill Mountain Artisans Guild.

Organizers asked Dorothy Maffei of Home Goods of Margaretville to perform the actual tree lighting to honor her extensive work in coordinating relief efforts for all of Middletown, since the town was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene on August 28.

“It was a smashing success and everyone came away with a very good feeling about the village,” said Marc Levenshus of Foothills Shoe. “Many were impressed about how the village seems to have come back and this was our way of giving back,” he added. The event was organized by Shopmargaretville, which is a merchants group.

Weighing nearly a ton, the more than 20-foot-tall Blue Spruce was donated by Denise Norris of Andes. It was erected a week ago in the Freshtown parking lot on Bridge Street. “I felt pride and joy that I was able to contribute my small part,” said Norris, who was not able to attend the ceremony.

“If I hadn’t stepped up, someone else would have produced a tree. I did the easy part by saying, ‘Here, take the tree.’ Jorge Jacinto cut the tree down and Bruce Sanford took the tree away and put it up.”

The tree is supported against a light post, which hangs over the top of it like a propeller, but some attendees felt that simply added to the charm of the event. Berna VanBenschoten of Margaretville stepped carefully over some flood debris still left in the parking lot and excitedly took pictures with her new digital camera “I thought it was excellent”” she said. “It made the village look so nice for visitors. It was a little chilly and I didn’t expect to see so many people there! I really have to give that woman from Andes a lot of credit for donating that tree.”

Decorating the tree was a community-wide undertaking. Residents donated all of the decorations and many of the ornaments were handmade by artists from the Longyear Gallery and the Artisans Guild. Shopmargaretville was also instrumental in getting most of the village decorated with holiday lights. “There are more than 30,000 lights—actual bulbs—and I know this because I wound up buying a lot of them with donations as well as my own contributions,” laughed Levenshus. While he explained that it’s hard to determine just how much the holiday events contributed to the village’s economy, but he believes they have made a difference. “The flip side is where would we be today, if we hadn’t done all of this?” he said.

Plans are in the works to make the tree lighting in the Freshtown parking lot an annual event. The ceremony was the second tree lighting for Maragretville. The village’s Christmas tree on Main Street was lit a week earlier with much fanfare. Meanwhile, Shopmargaretville is planning more activities as it counts down to the holidays. A Christmas party has been scheduled for the Commons Building on Main Street in Margaretville on Ssaturday, Deceomber 10th at 1pm. “Enter our Third Annual Cookie Contest, enjoy a special Holiday reading from the Open Eye Theater, Caroling with Patti Dell and Kent Brown and the Longyear Christmas Party,” wrote Cline in an email. Registration for the cookie contest is from 10am-12noon on the second floor on Saturday. Guests are also being asked to bring a wrapped gift for a child, who is a flood victim. 

For more information call: 845-586-3443.