BAR HARBOR, Maine — Despite recent rancor over the removal of a Christmas tree veterans’ display from a local park, another downtown veterans’ memorial has been spruced up and will be ceremonially rededicated next month.
Also, Santa Claus still plans to make a seasonal appearance at the Village Green, as he has done each December for more than a decade.
Bar Harbor has come under fire after the Town Council decided in September to have a Christmas tree display removed from Agamont Park, overlooking the local harbor. Wreaths Across America, a nonprofit group closely associated with Harrington-based wreath manufacturer Worcester Wreath Co., signed a two-year agreement with the town in July 2011 to have the makeshift display set up in the park as a memorial for veterans.
The memorial consisted of a live, planted fir tree wrapped with Christmas lights and a plaque dedicating the display to “those men and women who in service to our country, were separated from loved ones during the holiday season.”
Last month, the Town Council voted 4-2 to not allow it to continue and have the group remove the plaque, with the council majority saying they did not believe the display was a good fit for the town. The decision has rankled some people who believe the lights and plaque were an appropriate and nondiscriminatory way to honor veterans.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and his staff even jumped into the fray, sending a correspondent to Bar Harbor this month to question councilors about their decision and calling them “anti-Christmas.”
Wreaths Across America moved the tree display to another site in Columbia Falls, about 60 miles away, on Oct. 13.
Local officials have been eager to move on from the controversy and declined this week to comment on it. But they did emphasize that they are moving ahead with plans they have had since before the furor erupted to honor veterans and to celebrate Christmas.
Deborah Dyer, curator of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, said Tuesday that a rededication ceremony for the town’s refurbished veterans memorial at the Village Green has been scheduled for 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 10. She said the historical society and the local Village Improvement Association decided in August 2012 that the granite memorial, which has been there for decades, needed to be spruced up.
A worn plaque that was hard to read has been replaced with a new one and six emblems listing the armed forces — the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines — have been added, Dyer said. She said the refurbishment cost $5,060, which has been split evenly between the historical society and the Village Improvement Association.
Dyer added that the town has two permanent veterans’ memorials in the downtown village made of carved stone. Aside from the refurbished one on the Village Green, there is a Civil War veterans’ monument in the Village Burial Ground on Mount Desert Street.
“We’re doing it in honor of veterans,” Dyer said, adding that she has two brothers who served in the military. “This [project] started over a year ago. This is not something that happens overnight.”
The Village Green also will be the location of a Christmas celebration on Friday, Dec. 6, according to Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. For the 13th year in a row, a Christmas tree will be erected temporarily in the park’s gazebo and Santa Claus will make an appearance at the Chamber’s annual Midnight Madness sale, Fogg said Tuesday.
“He’ll be there,” Fogg said of Santa.