Annual Mt. Battie tradition gets underway

Mt. Battie’s bright, shining star again to rise over Penobscot Bay

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 12:30pm

    A dedicated crew set out under sunny skies Saturday morning, Nov. 19, to once again erect the Mt. Battie Star over Penobscot Bay. It is an annual tradition in its 50th year now, and the star gently illuminates the beauty of the holiday season for miles around — from cars driving east along Route 90 in Warren to ships sailing up the bay, the star is a both a beacon drawing folks home for the holidays, and it is a ray of light in the darkest of days.

    The lighting of the star will take place, as usual, at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day atop Mt. Battie, but in order for that to happen, the large assembly of steel rods and heavy frame must be attached to the historic stone tower, which itself just received a structural and cosmetic overhaul.

    On Saturday, a group of local men, under the leadership of Tom Jackson, took tools, heavy equipment, a strong sense of balance, and lots of enthusiasm to the 1,000-foot summit of Mt. Battie to put the star in place. The group included Pete Rollins, Randy Stearns, Simon Derico, Mike Sabatini, Jamie Weymouth and Jamie Slade, Jonathan Ward, David Walck and Bud Summers.

    It is a tradition that harkens back to the 1960s, when the Lions Club took the star that Bill Brawn had affixed to the side of French and Brawn in downtown Camden and moved it up the hill, way up the hill. At that time, the star that Brawn had built was 12 feet high, with 100 -25-watt bulbs.

    Brawn's star was 12-feet-high wooden frame and glowed with 100 25-watt bulbs.

    The Camden Lions Club move the star to Mt. Battie, and eventually Raymond Drinkwater built a larger steel star. That star was replaced in the 1990s by another steel star, on which another 100 light bulb sockets were strung. That star has remained in use today, with some replacement parts and spray paint added, but little design modification.

    It is stored at Rockport Steel, tended to by Rob and Jill Glover, who make any necessary repairs. Then, come the weekend before Thanksgiving, it is hauled up Route 1 seven miles to the Camden Hills State Park entrance, and transported up the mountain.

    The pieces are color-coded for ease of assembly, and the wood beams are the essential infrastructure. During assembly, each piece of steel is delivered to the top of the tower by a lift and bolted into place.

    Until 2013, organization of volunteers and installation of the star was done under the direction of Bob Oxton, a member of the Lions Club and former Camden Fire Chief. For many years, Oxton was the only one doing the daily lighting, a task and responsibility he enjoyed, most times. In 2012, Tom Jackson, owner of Jackson's Landscape Services in Camden, began to take over Oxton's role.

    The star will be lighted Thanksgiving afternoon, when families and friends hike up the mountain and share in a special ceremony. The gas that runs the generator that lights the star from dusk to dawn is donated every year, as is the manpower to keep it shining through all the late autumn and early winter weather that Mother Nature produces.