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Kentucky Arts and Culture

Berea is building community with a lot of love and a very large crocheted holiday tree

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Courtesy Betsy Whaley
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As the crocheted holiday tree takes shape, a special star is ready to be put on top.

For months volunteers in Berea have been crocheting five to six-inch pieces of fabric known as “granny squares”, to make a very large outdoor holiday tree. More than 900 “granny squares” with every color imaginable have been attached to a metal frame that’s 12 feet tall. Joy Gritton says, creating this art together is one way of building community during the pandemic. The Berea resident says hundreds of hours of peoples’ time, energy, and commitment and love went into this project.”

“We had people all ages, all backgrounds. We had single moms who were working on this when kids were at school or after kids went to bed. We had seniors who had been crocheting all their lives who were working on it. We had some young people that were new to crocheting who learned from others. There’s a lot of people right now that feel very good about creating something and especially in a dark time. Creating is healing,” said Gritton.

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Courtesy Joy Gritton
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The crocheted tree is just about ready for the lighting ceremony.

The idea came about last January when Betsy Whaley saw a version of the crocheted tree in a picture from New Zealand. She reached out to someone in the small town there to get details. She says in addition to building community, this project gives people a creative outlet during a time when there’s a lot of hard stuff happening in our country.

“And coming together to have a small part, you crochet a square or ten squares or 100 squares and then seeing that put into a public art installation. You know when we create beautiful things together, we really create a beautiful community of people,” said Whaley.

Whaley likes to call the giant cone-shaped tree with a star on top, a Crochetmas Tree because after all it does resemble a Christmas tree. But she and Joy Gritton agree the holiday tree is for everyone.

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Courtesy Betsy Whaley
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Berea community members take time to attach the crocheted granny squares to the metal frame.

This whole project has been about being inclusive and bringing people together and I like the idea of this being a collaborative you could say art installation, a collaborative community initiative,” explained Gritton.

The women say people around the globe in places like England, Italy, and Australia are also creating crocheted holiday trees. A tree lighting ceremony at Chestnut and Broadway in Berea is scheduled for Friday evening at 6:30. Everyone is invited. The event will include a fire pit, food truck, hot chocolate, and cookies.

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