A 70-foot tree and a dream: Hayfield Holiday Fest

Dec. 5—HAYFIELD — Whenever Delmont Martin looked at the big pine tree towering over downtown Hayfield, he saw Christmas.

For years, Martin looked at the tree and thought it would look great festooned with lights for the holidays. But every time he mentioned his idea to someone, they'd smile, nod and go about their business.

"It's as big an evergreen as I ever saw," Martin said. "About three or four years ago, I started talking to these guys, but they'd say it cost too much or we can't get to the top of the tree."

Finally, this past summer everything changed.

"I finally mentioned it to the right guys, and it really took off," Martin said. "First thing I know they're having meetings and raising money. That's the one thing about these small towns, something catches fire and away they go."

Away they went, indeed.

Hayfield has never hosted a holiday festival, at least not in recent memory, said Paul O'Brien, the city's fire chief and public works director.

O'Brien said he and City Clerk Lori Kindschy had been talking for several years as well. But the two had wanted to start a holiday festival in Hayfield. When they heard about Martin's idea — which was getting donations and gaining steam — they figured it was time to put on a holiday festival.

While the city has not hosted a festival, there was a holiday parade last year — really just an excuse to get people out of their houses in the middle of the pandemic, said Rich Rieken.

Rieken was one of the "right guys" to whom Martin mentioned his idea about the tree and covering it with lights.

With the lights happening, the a group in town arranged for a host of activities that happened Saturday in Hayfield. There was a parade, a bazaar and bake sale, sleigh rides, cookie decorating and craft making, s'mores, carolers and, of course, the lighting of the tree, and so much more.

"We will try to make it even bigger next year," said O'Brien, who made a giant wooden wreath and 8-foot presents for under the tree. "I just like Christmas. I decorate my whole yard at home too."

O'Brien said the big tree is covered with several thousand lights. He turned it on a few times ahead of Saturday's big flipping of the switch to test the system. When it didn't look quite grand enough, he called back the company hired to put up the lights to have them add more illumination.

"They were really loading it with lights," he said.

Martin, who was born nearby in Sargeant, but moved to Hayfield in 1988, got the honor of flipping the switch to turn on all those lights Saturday.

For years, he worked as manager of the American Legion, from whose patio the giant tree can be seen. And now, at age 90, he's glad his idea of lighting the tree has helped bring a little holiday joy to his town.

"Oh, wow," he said of the experience of flipping the switch to light the tree. "It was a bigger deal than I ever thought it would be."