masthead_37.jpg
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Lit up like Vegas': Stonington lobster trap tree celebrates New England fishing culture

Stonington Lobster Trap Christmas Tree
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
The second annual Lobster Trap Tree in Stonington, Conn., is lit up on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The 35-foot tree has over 400 buoys painted by local artists and children.

Southeast Connecticut’s newest Christmas attraction has its roots in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Lisa Konicki was shopping in the Massachusetts seaside city in January 2020 when she noticed “this gigantic tree built out of lobster traps in the heart of downtown.”

“I fell in love with it,” said Konicki, a Stonington resident and the president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, which serves parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island. She said to her travel companions, “I’m doing this in Stonington.”

Lobster Trap Christmas Tree
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
A family takes in Stonington's Lobster Trap Tree during the second annual tree lighting on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Each buoy is hand-painted and tells a unique story.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the town wasn’t able to implement her plans until the 2021 holiday season. The first year of the Lobster Trap Tree proved immensely popular.

The BBC named it one of the world’s most amazing Christmas trees, and it was the site of three marriage proposals. The weekend wait time to get inside took about 45 minutes.

So this year, they went even bigger. Konicki says the Lobster Trap Tree is 35 feet tall — roughly 8 feet higher than last year's version. Thousands of zip ties connect 420 lobster traps in the shape of a Christmas tree. A structural engineer was involved in the build, and it got inspected.

The “tree” is lit with about $9,000 worth of lights and decorated with more than 400 painted buoys. Artists painted the majority of the buoys, but dozens of them were created by Stonington children. Roughly 145 of them will be available for auction after this holiday season. The rest of the buoys go back into the community, including 24 that are given to local fishermen for their boats.

Konicki says the tree is the perfect way to celebrate and promote local artists, plus, “it brings tremendous joy to the community.”

“During the day, it’s all about appreciating the largest outdoor art exhibit probably in the state of Connecticut. But at night, it’s the wow factor. It’s beautiful,” Konicki said. “It’s all lit up like Vegas!”

A couple have even asked to exchange their vows inside the structure this season.

The tree is at the town’s dock. It’s free to the public and open daily from dawn until 9:30 p.m. from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until Jan. 15, 2023.

Lobster Trap Christmas Tree
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
The second annual Lobster Trap Tree in Stonington is lit up on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. The 35-foot tree has over 400 buoys painted by local artists and children.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. After spending 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN, she decided to tackle a new medium because she values Public Broadcasting's mission. She wants to educate and entertain an audience and Connecticut Public lets her do that.