By Susan Nolan
Kids and Christmas go together like boating and Annapolis—and during this holiday season, a Christmas tree that brings kids and our maritime heritage together can be seen in downtown Annapolis.
As a part of the Downtown Annapolis Partnership, South Annapolis Yacht Centre is sponsoring the Christmas tree at Market Place—and who better to decorate it than a group of local kids from Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park’s Box of Rain? The museum’s youth program, formed in the memory of local sailing enthusiast Lee Griffin and named for the Grateful Dead song, was up to the task.
“Box of Rain connects students to Annapolis maritime history, heritage, and experiences through kayaking, sailing, teaching students about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay and how to be good stewards of their environment,” says Marco Rajos, the museum’s Community Program Manager. The year-round program serves hundreds of local children between 8 and 14.
Rajos adds that the trips and activities are free of charge for the participants. “We eliminate the barriers that normally inhibit people from participating in such prodigious opportunities,” he says. Past activities include a summer camp and trips to the Baltimore Aquarium and to Assateague Island.
Their latest project was more than just a tree-trimming party. They were decorating the 24-foot tree with over 50 ornaments they painted under the direction of local artist Comacell Brown Jr. “They used their own creativity,” says Brown. “The only guideline was the color scheme. They had to stick to light blue, dark blue, red, silver and gold.”
According to Rojas, he and Brown met over a year ago. The artist gladly accepted when he was invited to hold a workshop for Box of Rain. “The kids really enjoy working with Comacell because they resonate with his story and can see he’s walking in his purpose. It’s important to connect youth to people who are passionate about what they do and are doing what they do at a high level,” Rojas states.
Monarch Academy 5th grader Tyzay Hunt has participated in Box of Rain programs for about a year. Of the many activities, he says decorating the tree is his favorite so far. “It’s Christmas,” he says, “and I love Christmas.”
The tree will be lit in an official ceremony on Sunday, November 27. Live entertainment and hot chocolate will be offered at 4 pm. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Elfie will arrive by boat at 5:30 to help Mayor Gavin Buckley countdown the tree lighting. During Midnight Madness, after 4 pm on the first three Thursdays in December, the public is invited to stop by the South Annapolis Yacht Centre tree to learn more about Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park and the Box of Rain program.