The wind blows hard as Mark Crossland and his crew assemble the last of 18 Christmas trees in Ocean Park. Mr. Crossland and Alisson Brasil tie a rope in a knot at the end of a pole, mount the pole in the ground, cable the rope down, and start wrapping Christmas lights around the six-foot tree.
The guys zip-tie the string to the ropes, and splice each light to prevent burn-out. It takes the crew about a week to fill Ocean Park with the trees, which for now look a bit naked in the sunlight.
But at night?
“You can only imagine,” said Mr. Crossland. “We’re going to have reindeer, too. Rudolph and his little red nose. And a fountain that’s colored,” But he won’t tell the color. It’s a surprise.
Mr. Crossland gets pretty excited talking about Christmas, which is why he and his crew at Crossland Landscape spend two weeks this time of year decorating the town of Oak Bluffs with lights in Ocean Park, at the fire station, the harbor and Sunset Lake.
While the town provides the lights, Mr. Crossland does the majority of the work for free.
“I already maintain parks in the town for lawn maintenance, irrigation and flowers,” he said. “I thought, why not do something for Christmastime?”
His wife Bernadette Crossland, who joined him at Ocean Park, butted in.
“You’ve got to know, Mark is a Christmas person,” said Mrs. Crossland. “Like second level down from Santa Claus. He gets excited just like a little kid. He’ll tell me, ‘Don’t spend too much money this year.’ But then I’ll bring presents home and he’ll say ‘Oh that’s not enough! I’ll go out and buy more.’”
Same goes for the decorations, as Mr. Crossland keeps adding something new every year.
The decorations started nine years ago with just a few colored trees in the whiskey tubs on the harbor.
But today the Crossland crew is heading down to Sunset Lake to start setting up the floating Christmas tree, which was added to the list four years ago.
“The idea just popped into my head,” said Mr. Crossland. He paused. “Or wait, was it in your head?” he asked his wife.
“Well, I did mention it,” she said modestly. “The reason is, down at the Coast Guard station in Woods Hole, every year they have a tiny buoy with a little tree on it. I said, wouldn’t it be neat to do that?”
“But I had to start with a 20-foot tree, not a 2-foot tree,” said Mr. Crossland.
Mr. Crossland first sets up a base metal stand on a raft, which is donated by the harbor master. In goes the tree, and out goes the crew, rowing the raft into the lake. Jardin Mahoney donated the tree.
“You can’t imagine how long it takes me to find the exact spot to put the tree so you can see it at every angle,” said Mr. Crossland. “It’s got to look good. That’s where the landscape design comes in.”
Like hanging a frame on the wall (a little to the left, back to the right again) the crew drifts back and forth on the raft until anchoring it at the perfect spot.
Crossland Landscape also helps decorate Circuit avenue, along with Haggerty Tree Service, hanging sparkly white lights in the 12 Bradford pear trees. The big red bows on the street lampposts are tied tightly by the Friends of Oak Bluffs. The rest of the town is lit by the highway department, including the 20-foot Christmas tree in Post Office square, also donated by Jardin Mahoney.
Mrs. Crossland, who was born and raised in Oak Bluffs, remembers as a kid the bulky Christmas lights along Circuit
avenue and the mechanical Santa inside the window at Phillips Hardware.
“I always looked forward to it,” she said. “But there was never anything like this.”
By next Wednesday, all the lights will be ready to shine for the annual Christmas tree lighting at Post Office square.
“It’s magical,” said Mrs. Crossland. “It’s a small place here, you know.”
“But it’s a major production to get it all done,” added Mr. Crossland.
“It’s time-consuming,” said Mrs. Crossland. “But I love the town and Mark has been here so long, he loves the town, too. We just do it because we love living here, and there’s nothing like taking pride in your hometown.”
The Oak Bluffs Tree Lighting takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 28, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Post Office Square. The Vineyard Haven Band leads the caroling and afterward everyone heads to Dreamland for hot chocolate and some face time with Santa.