It’s back! If you’ve stopped by Silvershell Beach in Marion recently, then you’ve probably seen the Christmas tree out on the block in the harbor. It’s a notable return for townies, but also somewhat of a mystery to many in regards to its origin. According to Dan Crete, “It’s sort of a cobbler’s-kids-have-no-shoes story.”
Dan and Kellie Crete of Marion began the tradition several years ago on a whim. Although Dan, the owner of Saltworks Marine in Marion, found time to serve his customers by hauling their boats out of the water throughout the fall, his family boat was always left for last.
“Years ago we decided to leave our boat, Courage, in through Christmas. Kel and I went back and forth about doing something fun with our kids to show some Christmas spirit. Maybe a big wreath on the boat?” said Crete. “No. How about a tree on the boat?
“Then we thought of putting one somewhere with the boat so everyone could see it,” Crete said. “Maybe Meadow Island? One of us thought of the Blockhouse. It seemed perfect. We checked in with the harbormaster, received his blessing, and here we are.”
It takes a village, or so they say. The Crete’s tree operation and its group have evolved over the years. There from the beginning is Crete’s friend, Larry Hall. The outing to place the tree, though, now includes several families from both Marion and Rochester, providing enough helpers this year for the two-boat mission.
“The group has grown to involve some of the nicest folks in town,” said Crete. “Kids, dogs, it’s so much fun. Each year is a bit different, but always special. What a great tradition it’s become. Great memories for all of us kids at heart, old and young.”
Crete is modest about his role in the tree’s undertaking, complete with lighting and requiring multiple check-ins and maintenance, given the elements out on the open water.
The tree – the ‘real’ tree – has often been donated by Steve Gonsalves of Marion. Crete’s Saltworks’ crew built an industrial tree stand which the crew ratchet straps to the block. He’s experimented with string lights, as well as solar-powered LED lights.
“This year we have shifted over to white spot lights set around the tree,” said Crete. He admitted he was planning to add a few more spotlights in order to be better viewed from the beach.
The tree has become an anticipated holiday fixture for Marion, and Crete’s affection for his town is apparent.
“We have such a great spirit in the community,” he said.
When asked why he thinks the residents of Marion love the tree, he shared that he felt it’s the kind of thing that transcends the social boundaries created these days.
“I think it’s a bit of an extension of the Christmas spirit that starts to build prior to the Christmas Stroll here in town,” said Crete. “The sight of the tree out there standing proud against the elements always brings a smile to my face. It’s good fun to hope that might be just a little bit infectious.”
And that it is.
By Shawn Sweet