The Story Behind Beacon's Bicycle Tree, Lit Every December Second Saturday (Sponsor Spotlight)

This year will mark the fifth year for the Bicycle Tree, which has grown in size and complexity. During its first year, the tree was smaller and stationary. Last year, visitors of all ages were delighted when they found they could interact with the tree by spinning wheels, using pedals, and climbing around its larger structure. Originally an initiative conceived by the artist Ed Benavente and sponsored by BeaconArts, the City of Beacon now also supports the event. Activities including a children's craft begin at 3:30 pm, Santa arrives at dusk, and the tree is lit at 5 pm. Bring a mug for hot chocolate.

Photo Credit: BeaconArts, by Ethan Harrison (@Wolfingtons)

The Bicycle Reindeer that brings Santa to the tree lighting each year.
Photo Credit: Katie Hellmuth Martin

The Second Saturday Tree Lighting happens at Polhill Park next to the Beacon Welcome Center. Last year, in 2015, a record 750 people attended and 200 children sang, according to Kelly Ellenwood, Vice President of BeaconArts. During the day of the tree lighting, the program includes singers and dancers from various local schools, traditional Christmas carols, free hot chocolate and of course, Santa Claus himself, who is delivered by a Bicycle Reindeer to the tree. The menagerie of bicycle constructions has also grown to include a Bicycle Menorah for Hanukkah, and now a New Year’s Ball made of bicycle wheel rims. The latter will be dropped in the last seconds of 2016 for the second time at Dogwood (on the East End of town just over the Fishkill Creek).

Ed's sculptures are all around town. Most notable may be the tall fork and spoon that went up outside Café Amarcord during a Beacon 3D summer outdoor show. You also may have seen Ed peddling around town on his Santa Cab/Bike, aka the Bicycle Reindeer. Ed's work can also be seen in Marion Royael Gallery (speaking of which, have you been in to see the Doors exhibit, "Mr. Yard Presents Knock Knock Underground Emoji" yet? Today is a good day to go). To learn more about the tree, we asked the artist to tell us about it in his own words. Here's what he had to say:

Why the Bicycle Tree? How did this become an annual symbol in Beacon?

"First of all, this project was conceived in 2011 to help give a focal point for all of the various holiday activities being supported by the city, local businesses and volunteer groups. As is often the case, money was the biggest obstacle to having a large, central holiday display. When it comes to making something out of nothing, ask an artist. I am an artist, and a local resident and sculptor, and I volunteered to create a town Christmas Tree as an art project.

"As an art piece, the tree is not perfect. It is ever-evolving just like the community we live in. That’s one reason I chose the bicycle as a symbolic component. Bicycles are powered by people. I feel very fortunate to live in a place that knows how to keep things rolling.

"Taking a half-dozen or so junk bicycles, I fashioned a tree-shaped display and installed it on the empty lot at the corner of Main and Cross Streets (between River Winds Gallery and Hudson Beach Glass) under the sponsorship of the Beacon Arts Community Association (BACA). The location has since moved to Polhill Park."

How did it go? This bicycle tree? How was it received?

"It’s one of those things you just don’t know what people will do or how they will react. I was overwhelmed by the positive responses from people walking by as I was setting this thing up. It made them happy."

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The Bicycle Menorah
Photo Credit: Ed Benavente

This tree lighting is an annual tradition, and Ed's work and BeaconArts' organization and promotion of the event are integral to the holiday season in Beacon. See you this afternoon/tonight at 3:30 pm! Santa arrives at dusk (about 4:30 pm) and the tree is lit at 5 pm. Bring a mug for hot chocolate. Then return to this spot on December 24, 2016 for the lighting of the Bicycle Menorah to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah, and let's gather at Dogwood on New Year's Eve for the dropping of the Bicycle Ball.

The Bicycle Ball for New Year's Eve at Dogwood.
Photo Credit: Ed Benavente

This article is a Sponsor Spotlight post with our partnership with BeaconArts, but what makes the partnership so great is that we would have written about it anyway! Thank you for supporting businesses and organizations who support us.