By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
The Grinch struck the Big Horn Basin last week, un-decorating the town Christmas tree in the center of Lovell.
“The weekend before Thanksgiving, we have a Christmas tree lighting,” explained Lovell Parks Manager Gary Emmett. “Santa comes to town, and we have the Christmas tree lighting, and all the little kids come in and throw their happy glitter on the tree as it lights up – it’s the magic of Christmas. And then over the weekend, so the Tuesday or Wednesday night right before Thanksgiving, we’re assuming kids came in and took all of the ornaments.”
Emmett explained that the tree is from 25 and 30 feet tall and all the ornaments below a height of about 8 feet were forcibly removed.
“We have these large, various sizes of ornaments that decorate the tree,” he said. “And everything that’s below, say, between 7- and 8-foot high – so, reaching height – is ripped off the tree.”
Emmett said that the ornaments, which are commercial grade and shatter resistant, are about 12 inches in diameter, and are secured on the tree with heavy duty zip ties and wire.
“But when they got ripped off, you know, they left the ornament toppers,” he said. “They just grabbed all of the ornaments and left all those toppers still dangling on the tree.”
Both Emmett and the Town Administrator Jed Nebel said they believe that the vandalism is the work of kids.
“My suspicions are that it’s a young group of kids, just kind of messing with them or breaking them or whatnot,” Nebel said. “But I don’t think this is a rash of stealing, or that anything else is going to happen.”
“If it was an adult or somebody who was trying to take some for their own home, a little more caution would be taken,” Emmett said.
Emmett estimates that replacing the ornaments would cost around $500, but added the city won’t be able to order anything until after the first of the year. So members of the community have stepped up with some ideas of their own.
“There’s been citizens that had seen it, and stopped me at church or in the store and say, ‘Hey, what can we do, is there any way that we can help?’” Emmett said. “I have one family who said they would even make paper chains, the old-fashioned kind, just something to decorate the tree so that it doesn’t look half empty, you know?”
Lovell is a relatively safe community, according to both town staff and local shopkeepers.
Maci Lucht, the owner of Valley Flowers in downtown Lovell, said acts like this are rare.
“I haven’t noticed anything this year,” Lucht said. “I haven’t had any problems in my store, as far as I know. Lovell seems to be a pretty honest community.”
“This is my tenth year of decorating the tree,” Emmett said. “And I’ve never we’ve never had this happen before.”
Emmett is hopeful that the tree won’t remain bare this Christmas season.
“Every year there’s always extra ornaments added to the tree,” he said. “A family will come in and put little handmade bows or such on the trees, just by themselves – and that’s the neat thing about having a community tree.”
The incident occurred just a few days before someone stole Christmas trees being sold by a Powell Boy Scout troop. The troop lost about $1,100 in trees, but residents have since made donations to compensate the troop, visiting the troop’s sale lot to buy “invisible” trees.
UPDATE: On Friday morning, a Park County resident brought in a box of ornaments that he had found tossed on the side of the road. He and his granddaughter had picked up the ornaments, not knowing about the vandalism until the Lovell Chronicle reported on the incident.
“There are good people out there,” Emmett said.