‘Pretty much sums up 2020’: Wrangell makes do with anonymous holiday tree installation

Wrangell’s 2020 tree, from the back. (Sage Smiley/KSTK)

After Wrangell’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony was cancelled last week, some anonymous Wrangellites took it upon themselves to replace it … kind of.

Wrangell Municipal Light & Power usually oversees the installation of the town’s public Christmas Tree. But with storms knocking down tree after tree, pole after pole, and power line after power line last week, the crew just didn’t have the time to get a tree into its usual place of honor between the Elks Lodge and the gas station. 

Then something happened.

It’s not quite a Christmas miracle: In place of the typical towering conifer, a few bare branches stick out of the metal tree-holder. Four safety cones adorn it, three sticking haphazardly out of the sides.

For comparison, a previous year’s tree. (Laura Helgeson/KSTK)

“I definitely got a little chuckle out of it,” Wrangell’s public works director Tom Wetor said. “Especially after I saw somebody comment underneath that: ‘Well, pretty much sums up 2020,’ and I thought ‘Yup, that sounds about right.’”

He doesn’t know who’s responsible for its construction, he said. But despite its desultory appearance, the tree has sparked joy.

Andrew Scambler assisted Light & Power with some of last week’s outages. He said he stopped Sunday morning to take a photo — which eventually ended up on Facebook — and send it to the exhausted municipal power crew. 

Scambler said he texted the crew, laughing: “I said: ‘Take the day off, guys, it’s all taken care of.’”

And that may be true: The Wrangell Chamber of Commerce hasn’t yet rescheduled its official tree-lighting ceremony. 

Chamber director Stephanie Cook said she’s as mystified as anyone when it comes to who might be responsible for the well-meaning prank.

“I heard several people joking about it, but I don’t think that any of them did it,” Cook said Monday evening.

For now, as Wetor said, Wrangell’s holiday tree seems a bit poetic in a year like 2020. It’s small and it’s strange, but with a disposable blue mask and one large, red ball ornament as understated decorations, it’s brought a little light to its small island town. 

Get in touch with KSTK at news@kstk.org or (907) 874-2345.

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