Santa’s elves are hard at work on Tilghman Island in Talbot County, Maryland, building a giant Christmas tree made entirely with crab pots. The wiry 42-foot tree will anchor the community’s holiday celebration that is scheduled to take place on December 14.
A ubiquitous symbol of the waterman’s life, crab pots are plentiful this time of year with crabbing season at an end and oyster season well under way.
“A crab pot is a 2-ft. by 2-ft. wire mesh square with a bait box in the middle and funnels on two sides that sits on the bottom of the Bay,” explains Kelley Cox, executive director of the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, the organization spearheading the celebration. “Crab pots sit on the bottom of the Bay, waiting for crabs to crawl in and get the bait. That’s one of the ways we catch the crabs here on Tilghman.”
The idea of a crab pot tree is not exactly original, but it’s a project that seems well suited for Tilghman Islanders. “We have lots of crab pots not being used in the off season,” Cox says. “We decided to stack them together, hang lights on them, and build a Christmas tree.”
Phillips Wharf Environmental Center has a lot to celebrate this year. A capital campaign resulted in the group’s purchase of Harrison’s Oyster House, a property that sits on Knapps Narrows just across the Tilghman drawbridge. The Oyster House will someday be the center’s new home. It’s also the site of the holiday celebration.
Though environmental education and conservation is the group’s mission, they also hope to help unify the Tilghman community. “We wanted to join the other non-profits on Tilghman and work on something together,” Cox explains. “The idea of a holiday celebration seemed to really capture people’s imaginations.”
Everyone in the community is pitching in. Choptank Utilities provided a light pole to anchor the tree. Fluharty’s Electric donated a bucket truck to span the heights and worked to get electricity to the tree. Supporters of the Waterman’s Museum are lending manpower, and students at Tilghman Elementary have banded together to help make the tree’s ornaments. Tilghman Island Inn is donating $10 for each person who attends their December wine dinner and mentions Phillips Wharf.
Festivities begin on December 14 at 5 pm with a pre-lighting gathering at Mike and Eric’s Bay Hundred Restaurant. When the fire truck arrives with Santa aboard, residents and guests will follow it across the drawbridge and gather around the tree. After the tree is lighted at 7 pm, guests will be treated to hot chocolate and cookies.
The evening culminates with by a lighted boat parade that will start at Tilghman Island Marina, travel though Knapps Narrows, and end at Harrison’s Chesapeake House with the presentation of awards. The celebration continues on Sunday with a holiday brunch from 10 am-2 pm at Two If By Sea.
“Tilghman Island is one of the last fishing villages in state of Maryland,” Cox notes. “This tree is symbolic of our seafood industry and a tribute to the men and women who work on the water. I can’t think of any better way to celebrate the holidays.”
In addition to PWEC, sponsors include Tilghman Watermen’s Museum, Tilghman Island Fire Department and Auxiliary, Tilghman Area Youth Association, Tilghman Methodist Church, Tilghman Elementary PTO, the Merchants of Tilghman Island, Bay Hundred Elves, and the Talbot County Office of Tourism.
For more information, contact Kelley Cox at (410) 866-2643 or firstname.lastname@example.org.