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Monday, December 25, 2017

VIDEO: Christmas time, the Gävle goat and the Charlestown bonfire

Celebrating by playing with fire
By Will Collette

Here comes the twister (Photo by Will Collette of the New Year's Eve,
2012 Charlestown bonfire that was almost its last)
Since Tom Ferrio and I started Progressive Charlestown in 2011, we’ve featured two important holiday season events: Sweden’s Gävle goat and the Charlestown New Year’s Eve bonfire.

Despite all of 2017’s tumultuous and often tragic events, life goes on and so do the Gävle goat and the Charlestown bonfire.

Of particular local interest, the Charlestown New Year’s Eve bonfire WILL take place again this year, on that day and in Ninigret Park. In an e–mail, the bonfire’s originator and main mover Frank Glista told me he relented from his decision that last year’s fire was going to be his last.
Yes, I gave in to doing another Bonfire.  The main Structure is complete so now it's time to do a little decorating.
Sweden's Christmas goat burned down on opening day
In 2016, the Gävlebocken was torched only hours after it was dedicated.
I’m really glad about that because that bonfire was one of the few times each year where local friends and foes could stand together in peace and enjoy the warm glow.

In my own odd way of thinking, I connect our bonfire to the “traditional” 40-foot high Yuletide straw goat, the Gävlebocken, in the town of Gävle, Sweden. 

The “tradition” is just over 50 years old when town merchants came up with the idea in 1966 as a gimmick to promote winter tourism.

As traditions go, that’s not very long. Indeed, that nauseating tune Jingle Bell Rock predates the Gävlebocken by almost 10 years.

What made the Gävlebocken different than any other commercial Christmas display is the fact that, most years, the Gävlebocken gets burned to the ground.

The battle between the forces of darkness and light (you be the judge of which is which) over whether the Gävlebocken makes it all the way through the season. It has only done that 14 out of 50 times.

I just check the live feed from Gävle, I can tell you the goat is still intact.

As for the bonfire, I hope this year’s is NOT it’s last. The bonfire has had close calls before. I looked back at my 2013 coverage, a year when the bonfire was especially spectacular due to very cold temperatures and lots of snow on the ground that spawned several mini-tornadoes.

That was the year when some Charlestown Grinch complained to DEM that the bonfire violated environmental law. Indeed, DEM issued notice to Charlestown that it deemed the bonfire to be an unlicensed, illegal municipal trash fire (the structure is built from clean wooden pallets donated by Arnold Lumber).

DEM issued Charlestown with a cease-and-desist order. Maybe not coincidentally, this happened at a time when DEM was telling local residents it didn’t have enough inspectors to police the notorious Copar Quarry in Bradford.

But luckily for Charlestown, we had an effect state legislator to help resolve this mess. Then state Representative Donna Walsh who talked to DEM about the fact that the fire was a municipal event carefully monitored by the Charlestown Fire Department, and not a dump fire.

DEM rescinded the notice.

If something like that happened today, we’d have to rely on Donna’s replacement, Blake “Flip” Filippi. Probably all we’d get is a press conference where Filippi would announce he was introducing a Constitutional amendment guarding the right to carry matches.

Please enjoy the following 20-minute video on the Gävlebocken produced by the Guardian and enjoy the rest of the holiday season, especially the Charlestown bonfire after sundown on New Year's Eve.