BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — There is a story behind the Christmas tree in Lappin Park that stands so tall and looks so beautiful.
It is a majestic balsam, one of two that John Hayes planted about 25 years ago along the driveway of his home in North Salem. Over the years, the trees grew and grew until his wife, Sally, noticed that they appeared to be headed toward the moon.
“They were good, healthy, beautiful trees,” John said. “They were just too big.”
So the Hayeses called the city and generously offered one of their trees for the annual Christmas tree in Lappin Park. The city happily accepted and sent a crew to cut down one of the trees. Unfortunately, during installation, it snapped in half.
No problem. The Hayeses invited the city to come back for the second tree.
This time, all went well. Well, almost all went well. The top of the tree broke off, which meant there was no place for the little star that goes on top.
No problem. Florist Dave Eng agreed to make a large, round sphere out of branches to replace the star. It turned out to be a pretty big sphere, but everyone agrees it looks beautiful and fits perfectly.
Eng also got the ornaments and made the 300 red-ribbon bows that adorn the branches.
The red and white lights were donated by Delande Lighting, all 765 feet of them. That’s enough lights to stretch the length of two football fields with a lot left over. And they’re energy-efficient LED lights, which means the whole tree uses only 170 watts.
That may not mean anything to you, so let’s put it another way. The old lights would have used 25 times more electricity.
A lot of other folks deserve credit for the Christmas tree in Lappin Park. Gary Gill, a volunteer with Salem Main Streets, coordinated the effort, and several businesses made donations.
“It really was a community effort this year,” said Main Streets Manager Jennifer Bell.
Even if a few limbs had to be sacrificed along the way.
Lappin Park is home to more than a Christmas tree this month. For the first time, at least in recent memory, it also has a menorah to mark Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.
The menorah was donated by Chabad of the North Shore. Many local Jews plan to gather tomorrow at 7 p.m. to light the menorah on the final night of Hanukkah.
So there you have it. A Christmas tree and menorah side by side in a little park that is home to a statue commemorating a TV show about a witch.
Welcome to Salem.
Speaking of Lappin Park, Cafe Polonia, a Polish restaurant on the edge of the postage-stamp park, plans to close after more than two years.
Owner Darek Barcikowski is going before the Licensing Board next week to transfer the liquor license to a new owner.
Barcikowski said his parents plan to retire in the not-too-distant future and move back to Poland. Although the move isn’t imminent — they are still running a cafe and deli in South Boston — he said the family decided to put the Salem restaurant on the market.
“With everything else going on, I can’t run the restaurant on my own,” Barcikowski said.
In addition to the restaurant, Darek is the publisher of The White Eagle, a Polish-language newspaper with editions in Florida, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
For the meantime, Cafe Polonia is open for business. If all goes well, it will take a few weeks for the transition to take place.
CinemaSalem has raised more than $55,000 on the Kickstarter website and is fast approaching its goal of $60,000.
Not bad, considering it launched the drive last week to raise funds to convert the theater to digital movie projection.
North Shore folks sure love their buttered popcorn.
Club Richelieu, a French-speaking club that reminds us of our city roots, reached deep into its pockets to help another local institution with a storied history.
The club donated $3,000 to the Boys & Girls Club at its annual holiday gathering.
Merci beaucoup, Club Richelieu. And Joyeux Noel.
The new and improved Bentley School is holding an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
And it’s not just flapjacks. There are eggs, sausages, crepes, coffee, juice and fruit. Tickets are only $3 for adults and $2 for children. All the money goes to Bentley, so go on over and support a good cause.
Did we mention there’s a crafts fair, raffles for a bike and Christmas tree, and a visit from Santa?
What’s not to like?
And, if you see her, tell School Committee member Debbie Amaral to stop hogging the maple syrup.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.