Baskets full of holiday cheer can be found just across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Kent Narrows, Maryland, where three festive “crab basket trees” illuminate the parking lot by Fisherman's Inn.
The attraction is part of a growing holiday tradition that’s unique to the Chesapeake region. Across Maryland, tree-shaped constructions made up of crab bushel baskets honor the men and women who harvest crabs and oysters and catch fish in Chesapeake waters.
In Kent Narrows, the three trees were installed by the Queen Anne’s Watermen’s Association. Christy Wilkins and Brooke Horney, whose husbands are members of the Watermen’s Association and were a major part of pulling the installation together, said that the event is a fundraiser for the Association and a way of bringing the community together. Since starting in 2020, the Kent Narrows event has become increasingly jolly with each subsequent year.
“This started with one tree and 200 baskets,” Wilkins said. “Last year we said, 200 baskets is good but let’s go for 300 baskets.”
The Association began selling the baskets and attracting sponsors for the event in October. Each of the 300-plus baskets gets hand-painted, either by the people purchasing them, members of the Association or volunteers.
The final product is a cheerful collage of the Kent Narrows community. Some additions represent local businesses and charities, such as the Jacob Sloan Foundation’s #LoveLikeJake basket. Others represent unique aspects of Kent Narrows, such as a basket depicting the town’s architecture. While others are simply nautical and holiday-themed creations, including a green Grinch basket and yellow and black-striped Charlie Brown basket.
“All of the baskets have a story behind them,” said Wilkins.
Special memorial baskets painted with a red heart can also be found on the tree. These baskets are in memory of watermen and women who passed away in 2022.
Wilkins and Horney describe the process of getting the basket trees together as an all-hands on deck effort. Members of the Watermen’s Association and local volunteers start by acquiring the 300-plus baskets, which even in a Chesapeake Bay town is no small feat. Then they sell the baskets, get them painted, collect them again and begin constructing the trees, which are lit and adorned with festive toppers: a red crab, white workboat and blue anchor.
“We were [working] down to the last day,” said Wilkins.
An official lighting ceremony kicked off on December 3rd, which featured visits from Pastor Bob Timms, Captain Buck Lynch and Santa Claus. The trees will stay up until the end of January and their lights turn on around 5 p.m. each night.
To see the baskets from the comfort of your home, you can visit the Association’s Facebook page.
Is there a crab basket tree in your community? Let us know in the comments!