Unless someone steps up to the plate, Montauk could be a little less merry and bright next Christmas.
After decorating the 70 small pines that run on both sides of Montauk Highway in downtown Montauk for the last 12 to 15 years, Jimmy Daunt, an owner of the Albatross Motel, and his crew of employees that includes his brother Richie Daunt, his cousin Joseph Horton, and his office manager, Cindy Dess, have decided it is time to step down from the project that was started 20 years ago by John Keeshan when the old-fashioned light posts were installed.
At that time Mr. Keeshan formed a Christmas committee to decorate trees supplied by the Town of East Hampton. The chamber provided the lights and the committee decorated the trees each year until Mr. Daunt took it over.
But now he is downsizing, he said, with regret, because he loves seeing the trees all lit up. “It looks so beautiful when it’s done,” he said, but it’s also become too much for him to do each year.
Each tree was hung with two sets of lights in a specific color formation with a white light at the tip of each to signify an angel, said Mr. Daunt.
It takes a lot of work that starts weeks before the trees are even delivered, as each set of lights has to be checked for burned-out bulbs. Once they are decked out, Mr. Daunt takes it upon himself to check the trees every few nights, looking for bulbs that have blown.
Some years, the wind took its toll on the trees. Last year was particularly windy around Christmas, forcing the crew to give up, he said.
His crew put up most of the lights, and they were paid for the job from Mr. Daunt’s own pocket. He stayed behind the scenes, he said, and focused his energy on the elaborate Christmas village and a display of lights at the motel.
Montauk Chamber of Commerce officials said Mr. Daunt was meticulous with his lights and purchased, again with his own money, huge plastic tubs that were used to store the strings of lights. Chamber officials have put out a call for someone to step forward and take over. But do not be surprised if Mr. Daunt checks on the newbies. He said that he cannot help but check for outages as he drives through town.
“I roll back into town and drive toward the [Catholic] church, turn around and drive back through because it just looks so beautiful,” he said.