Volunteers decorate Cecil County Holly Tree
— Spread out on the grass near the Cecil County Holly Tree on Jackson Station Road, volunteers spent hours Saturday untangling hundreds of yards of ornaments.
“I’ve probably been working on this strand for 40 minutes,” said Tina Dawson from Havre de Grace.
Fans of the holly tree tradition, joined by students from Perryville High School and the Tome School along with representatives from Heartland Landscaping and Tree Services and Exelon carefully worked through the tangled strings not only to straighten them out but also to check for damage.
Taylor Demasi and Adrianna Giuliani got a strand cleared and set about replacing broken halves of the ornaments. Only a zip tie and a small nylon screw hold the two halves together regardless of the size of the orb.
Kimberly Gallaher, another volunteer, pointed to a large cardboard box full of plastic halves waiting for their assignments.
“Since they’re only two halves they sometimes get water in them,” Gallaher said adding that pulls on the entire strand and the tree.
Michael Morgan, president of the Cecil County Holly Tree Committee and owner of Heartland Landscaping, said the main holly tree will have a half mile of lights and ornaments adorn its branches. More lights were hung on the three adjoining trees.
Originally dubbed The Traveler’s Tree in 1947, the Jackson Station Road Holly Tree was lit every year throughout December until the 1970s. Engineers for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad would wear the leaves and berries from the tree on their lapels. Trains would stop so its riders could enjoy the stately tree.
After almost a decade of darkness, the tree was lit again in 1985 and has been decked out and celebrated every year since.
Admission to view the tree is free but donations are accepted.
Morgan said the original tree has been replaced with thriving saplings from its own roots.
“It’s very vigorous right now,” Morgan said Sunday. He’s not sure if the new growth came from the trunk or the berries of that original tree.
It will be at least 50 years before the new holly trees reach full growth, he added. In another 10 to 20 years, the committee will have to watch the trees to make sure they are free of the disease that struck that original tree.
Regardless of how high the trees grow, Miller said the pole topped with a star would remain.
“The lights and ornaments are too heavy. They were breaking the tree,” Morgan said. “The top of the pole is 60 feet. That’s how high the original tree was.”
The stainless steel star has been a part of the tree since the 1950s, Morgan said.
So while technically the tree is not decorated entirely branch by branch, the sight of the towering lights is still memorable.
“I will be back to see it lit,” Giuliani said.
The first lighting comes Dec. 3. While the celebration begins at 4, Morgan said the lights would be turned on at nightfall for the full effect.
With only four active volunteers on the committee Morgan is looking for more people to help operate the Holly Tree Park each evening from Dec. 4 until the new year. Individuals and groups are welcome. Call Morgan at 410-287-9328 for details.
Anna Martin from Havre de Grace and Julie Swoboda and Lauren Panozzo from North East tackle a mess of stringed ornaments that will eventually be hung on the Cecil County Holly Tree on Jackson Station Road near Perryville.