The morning after Thanksgiving, a tradition continues

Sat, 11/28/2020 - 9:15am

CAMDEN — The Mt. Battie Christmas Star is back, lighting the Midcoast with its seasonal grace and joyful brilliance. The star was installed and maintained by a loyal group of local volunteers, who have kept this tradition intact for 58 years.

Earlier this year, when the pandemic settled a blanket of gray across the world, the star came out of storage and was even lit again through the raw, unsettling months of spring. It raised the spirits of the Midcoast with its untimely reappearance.

In April, Camden resident Tom Jackson, who has been involved with the star project for close to 30 years, said: “I have always felt the Mt. Battie Star to be a symbol of hope and community spirit. We could all get a boost from that symbolism right now.”

Now, the Star is again in place, installed this past week, on schedule for its Thanksgiving lighting. It will remain in place through the New Year, when the world will say goodbye to Year 2020 and infuse hope into Year 2021.

The tradition of the Mt. Battie Star originated with a lighted star on the Mechanic Street side of French and Brawn Market Place in downtown Camden. Bill Brawn put up that star and he was a member of the Lions Club at the time.

Brawn's star was 12-feet-high with a wooden frame. It glowed with 100 25-watt bulbs. Its location on Mechanic Street meant that only those driving south on Route 1 through downtown could see it, so the downtown merchants suggested the star be moved to the stone tower on Mt. Battie, according to town historian Barbara Dyer.

The Camden Lions Club eventually took over annual installation and daily operation of the star and Raymond Drinkwater built a much 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.

The steel frame, outfitted with 100+ LED bulbs, was assembled by its team, and when the power was turned on, light spread everywhere, and like the Star always does, it became beacon through fog and darkness, signaling a joyous start to the holidays.