80 Foot Tall Christmas Display Destroyed When It Sails Down River

Posted at 10:39 PM, Feb 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-26 05:20:56-05

SAUGATUCK, Mich. – Wanted, one used eight story tall radio tower or equivalent to be used in a tradition nearly three decades old.

For 28 years a group of volunteers have been putting together a Christmas display in the marina at the end of Butler Street in downtown Saugatuck.

One of those volunteers, Bill Miller says it started as a modest venture, “A basketball hoop with a configuration of a star on it.”

From there, Miller said the tradition started growing, “It went to 50 feet and then all of the sudden it was 60 feet.”

It finally came together around an 80 foot tall radio tower positioned on a barge in the middle of the harbor.

More than 3,200 lights are used to transform the tower into a Christmas tree that volunteers make sure can be seen from all over town.

“You got to see it from Park Street,” said Miller.  “You got to see it from the bridge.  And you have to see if from Butler.”

Miller and another volunteer, Dan Van Scheltema said this display means a lot to the community but it also means a lot to the people who create it year after year.

“We finally got it to where it was down pat,” said Van Scheltema. “The darn thing broke loose and got caught in the trees and it’s all whacked out of shape.”

When the tower isn’t on display it’s kept upright, on a barge in the harbor.  A recent ice jam separated the barge from the dock and sent it down river and eventually crashing into the shore.

“By the time we retrieved it, it was toast,” said Miller.

The volunteers still have the lights, the man power, and everything else needed to keep the tradition going, they just need a new tower.

Van Scheltema said he has been contacted by a woman in Holland who says she’s been trying to get rid of a tower that she owns and figures it might work out for everyone’s benefit.

He’s confident that a new tower will be found by next Christmas and the tradition will continue.