Without fanfare or official decree, a Christmas tree recently materialized as if out of thin air in the middle of the brand new roundabout at Ocean Boulevard and East Beach Causeway on St. Simons Island.
The spontaneity of its appearance there created an outbreak of smiles and warm-and-fuzzy feelings, just in time to kick off the holidays. But every good Christmas story must have its Scrooge or Grinch, it seems, and the tale of the island’s Christmas roundabout tree is no exception.
Some local moms and kids quietly put the 6-foot tree up sometime around Saturday, Nov. 23, festooning it with red-and-white garlands, colorful baubles and even a reindeer around its base. But by late this week, the wholesome holiday symbol had fallen in with a bad crowd. Hi-jacked, is more like it.
The band of yuletide yahoos struck on Thanksgiving night, leaving behind a fallen reindeer, a toppled santa, a disheveled dirt pile and other decorative detritus. The only holiday Turkey these hoodlums entertained was Wild, poured from a bottle. They proceeded to take the kidnapped Christmas tree out honky-tonking, hitting some of the more familiar nightspots on the island and the mainland.
We know this because these merry pranksters formed their own Facebook page, posting pictures and comments of their wild night out with the tree. “The Original O.G. Roundabout Tree” page on Facebook chronicled their tour of several island hotspots. After eggs and bacon Friday morning at a local diner (“This will put lead in your needles.” Get it? Ha ha.), it was back to more hair of the previous night’s dog bite.
The posts devolved into sophomoric jokes and hijinks from various drinking establishments and, yes, even a stop at the Red Carpet Lounge in downtown Brunswick. One posted photo went so far as to suggest the hapless Christmas tree even stooped to toilet-papering a larger roadside tree.
The Christmas tree kidnappers later returned the frazzled fir, tossing it back into the roundabout like some boozy bum in a Bourbon Street back alley.
Meanwhile, when the good folks of the island awoke to discover the clatter, they quickly concluded this was no laughing matter. While bemoaning the lack of decent Christmas cheer, they vowed their own good spirits would not disappear.
Islander Petra Hartlova quickly started a gofundme page, which in short order raised $150 toward a bigger and formidable roundabout tree. A certain island realtor, we are told, matched the amount in “Secret Santa” fashion.
That was enough to purchase a dazzling 22-foot red cedar tree from Days of Creation’s Christmas tree farm out in Jesup. We are told another good Samaritan, who works at the Ace Hardware in Jesup, saw to its transportation to the roundabout on Saturday. Braced by a sturdy stand constructed of 2-by-4s and with its stump sitting in a 5-gallon bucket of water, the new roundabout Christmas tree rose with much Christmas cheer. A throng of neighbors and friends turned out to trim the tree.
Among those on hand was Karen Latham and her family. “It brought the community together, which is awesome to see,” Latham said. “They might have stolen our tree, but they just brought people together when they did that.”
In fact, wind had toppled the tree around noon Monday. But forces of good were already rallying that afternoon to stand it back upright and further reinforce its sturdy stand.
“People have donated decorations and donated their time for this,” Latham said. “We’re not going to let a little wind or a little Scrooge ruin our spirits. I hope this becomes an island Christmas tradition.”