PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
A pile of Christmas trees burns at Riverhead Beach in Marblehead.
By BETHANY DOANE
MARBLEHEAD — A pillar of smoke rose above the water as more than 300 people young and old gathered for Marblehead’s Feast of the Epiphany Christmas tree burning at Riverhead Beach.
Fire Chief Jason Gilliand estimated that about 400 trees made up the massive blazing mountain at Friday night’s event.
“The Marblehead Environment Conservation, Fire Department, Tree Department, Highway Department and Parks and Recreation Department all teamed together to make the evening a great success that will continue for years to come,” said Gilliand.
The annual event was halted in 2008 because of construction on the causeway. Last year was the first time since that the tree burning was brought back to life.
Marblehead’s Department of Public Works collected trees from the roadside after Christmas, but some residents took a more hands-on approach, passing their trees to members of the fire department just moments before the burning commenced.
What Gilliand likes most about the event is that “it’s a fantastic family and community event for winter, and everyone has an awesome time.”
William Stevenson, who has lived in Marblehead for 12 years, likes the tree burning even more than the town’s Independence Day fireworks, he said.
“This is a nice, neighborly thing. You see everyone you know and have a sense of nostalgia and small-town ambiance,” Stevenson said.
Left and right, friends greeted one another, giving the sense that the small town is one big family. Parents with their young children, groups of teenagers and lifelong friends spread a sense of togetherness and cheer.
“This is a great tradition to be back in Marblehead,” said Selectman Jim Nye, who attended the event with daughter, Ashley, and childhood friend Jack Attridge.
“Everyone in Marblehead is a childhood friend,” Attridge said. “That’s the best part about the town.”
Growing up, Nye and Attridge attended the Christmas tree burning every year with their families and are thrilled to see the tradition continue for new generations.
From the happy faces in the crowd, the group effort from all the parties involved made the 12th night of Christmas one that residents will not soon forget.