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Portsmouth Library Board Cancels Holiday Tree Lighting Over Lack of Volunteers

The tree's enormous size and a lack of volunteers has caused this year's tree lighting to be canceled, says library director Carolyn Magnus.

For the first time in 28 years, the holiday lights will not shine outside the . 

The library's Board of Trustees has decided to scrap the annual tree lighting ceremony after not being able to find volunteers to help, says library director Carolyn Magnus. 

"It's a lot of work," Magnus said. "It was a lot of work in the past. This year, they (the board) decided not to do it. There had been volunteers in the past." 

According to Magnus, a "cherry picker" or mechanical lift is required to string lights around the 15- to 20-foot-tall fir tree. Companies have volunteered in the past to help string these lights, Magnus said. This year, no volunteers came forward. 

"Back when he started this, the tree was much, much smaller," Magnus said. "Now, it's a bit of a production." 

"I used to use my pool pole to string lights, but that's not long enough anymore," said Board of Trustees President Mike W. Mello, who began the tradition 28 years ago. 

"Twenty-eight years ago, I attended the Tiverton lighting with my family. I thought it was a great family event and, as Portsmouth didn't do much during the holiday season, I proposed it to the library board," he said. "They thought it was a good idea, so for the next 27 years we lit the tree and had a planned program for the initial lighting."

Today, at age 70, Mello says he's just too old to continue the work. 

"For the first 15 to 20 years, my sons and I decorated the tree and took the lights down after the winter. The next years, my sons had moved on as they became adults and I was on my own.

"For 27 years, I have spent hours each year fixing the light strands, buying materials, taking lights down and storing them, etc. I really have not had anyone offering to take over the process. I have just gotten tired of the process." 

Mello says he has asked the board to find a replacement, but no one has come forward.

Last year, Mello says a local Lions Club member volunteered to help, but has not returned to remove the 2010 lights to this day. 

"Last year, a local Lions Club member convinced a 4H Club leader to borrow a bucket truck so we could put up the lights. They never returned to take them down!"

The holiday lights still remain on the tree, but Mello says he is not interested in finding out if they still work. 

"After a year of them being on the tree, I doubt they do (work)," he said. 

Mello says there may still be time to hold the ceremony if a volunteer comes forward, but he is doubtful.

He also says the town should help out with the lighting ceremony. 

"The town shows no interest in such a community event," Mello said. "All the communities around us have lightings and multiple events planned.

"Even poor little Warren, they light up their streets. Nothing in Portsmouth."

Dr. Misty Kosciusko November 30, 2011 at 07:10 PM
This is very sad. Have you tried to contact the Portsmouth Business Association to see if they could send a word out to local businesses to help? I am a member and I would be happy to help with an event like this.
Average Joe November 30, 2011 at 07:24 PM
I'm sure the boy scouts would help if asked.
Average Joe November 30, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Maybe noone volunteered because you called it a "Holiday Tree" instead of a "Christmas Tree". I'm sorry, it was too easy.
Evelyn November 30, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Yes it is a Christmas Tree; if they want to call it something else then ask them go cut down a crab like tree.
Jane Wolk Wheeler November 30, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Sorry about the tree, but I just want to say that Warren is a very nice community. I have many friends there who are proud to live and work there who probably would not appreciate being referred to as "poor little Warren"! "Even poor little Warren, they light up their streets. Nothing in Portsmouth."
Mike P. November 30, 2011 at 09:16 PM
ummmmm... what?
Michael W. Mello November 30, 2011 at 10:59 PM
It was never called anything but a Christmas Tree Lighting for all 27 years. I apologize for the poor little Warren comment. My son lives there. But they impress me with limited resources what they accomplish.
Robert Alexander December 01, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Have you heard about staff! Seriously! Light the entry - you don't need a cherry picker for that. Changing tradition is one thing, punting another.
TEELAM December 01, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Last time I read the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it read “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, of prohibiting free exercise thereof: …” . I understand that, in 1947, a group of white-haired judges in black robes contrived the words “separation of church and state”. But, what happened to no “prohibition of free exercise thereof” religion? A “Christmas Tree” is a not a “holiday tree” as much as a “Hanukkah menorah” is not a “holiday menorah” or a “Kwanzaa kinara” is not a “holiday candle holder”. Let us be allowed us to exercise or religion (or atheism) freely by erecting “Christmas trees” and other expressions of religion just like we allow any citizen to stand on a soap box on Smith Hill and express whatever vocal ideas they want.
East side December 01, 2011 at 04:18 PM
We have a fire dept. with this equipment. Go to the town hall and get on the council agenda. Ask for volunteers and the fire captain for assistance during the council meeting. This is called being to comfortable in the job they are in. As stated above, do something, entry way, etc...
Mike Callahan December 01, 2011 at 05:33 PM
The Portsmouth Library is one of the true town assets that we have. Each year they do more and more with less and less civic financial support. They are aggressive seekers and receivers of grants and they have a core of committed and dedicated staff and volunteers. I hope that Members of the Town Council, School Committee as well as the Town Organizations show their support for this asset. An open and free library is a true treasure.
Mike Callahan December 01, 2011 at 05:42 PM
I must agree with Mike Mello - I just recently moved back to Portsmouth from Warren, and they really do a magnificent job of creating a great holiday look and feel - with very little town assets being used.

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