The Greasy Pole — in many ways, the pivotal piece, literally, in the 84-year-old celebration of St. Peter's Fiesta — lost its legs and was found tipped over onto its side in the water off Pavilion Beach on Friday morning.
But Fiesta and city officials are leaving it no doubt it will be rebuilt.
The Greasy Pole — a telephone pole made slippery with liberal amounts of grease and suspended out from a platform — regularly tests the balance of even more heavily lubricated competitors during their popular Friday, Saturday and Sunday efforts to walk across it to the end and claim the flag before falling into the chilly water of the harbor the last weekend of every June.
But that sea — accompanied by high winds and a rising overnight tide — apparently claimed the pole sometime between late Thursday night and daybreak Friday.
"It's old like us," said police Lt. Joe Aiello, "and its sticks aren't as good as they used to be."
Mayor Carolyn Kirk met a team from the St. Peter's Fiesta Committee and municipal departments at Pavilion Beach at 10 a.m. Friday to coordinate salvage plans and announce that "money will not get in the way" of having the structure repaired and back in place.
"We will rebuild the Greasy Pole," she promised.
Fiesta Committee President Joe Novello said Tropical Storm Irene, which blew through in August, had damaged the platform and a meeting to plan for strengthening it had coincidentally been scheduled for Pavilion Beach with Conservation Commission representatives Friday morning.
Local contractors Norris "Tiger" Marston and Jack LaVie, who had been hired by the Fiesta Committee to shore up the pole and its dock prior to Friday's calamity, instead floated the platform at the afternoon high tide to carry it over sensitive eel grass beds just off the beach. The pole and its dock were towed to Rose's Marine.
"We want to make sure it's not a hazard, and doesn't do any (environmental) damage to the bottom," Novello said.
Aiello said the police learned of the discombobulation of the superstructure during the night, which featured super high tides, driving rain and gusty winds.
The morning arrived with the platform on its side, the pole bobbing in the whitecaps.
Over the decades — especially in recent years with social networking technology and advertising — the Greasy Pole walks have drawn thousands to watch from Pavilion Beach.
The Friday preliminary pole-walking breaks up in time for the winner — or many near winners — to be carried dripping wet but charged with energy into the crowd around St. Peter's Square for the parade of St. Peter and the formal beginning of the Fiesta weekend.
The pole platform is believed to have been in the same spot since the 1930s.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org