Like the holiday season any other year, a decorated 35-foot fir tree stands upright at Kent Circle for all to see. 

However, the process to get this year's holiday tree to Gloucester was anything but normal. The Tarr family had to navigate travel restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic to bring the tree south from Canada. 

"It was a big ordeal," Brent "Ringo" Tarr laughed, explaining that he has about 50 emails from coordinating the tree's travels. 

A long-standing tradition in this coastal community, the Tarr family has been making the drive to Gloucester's sister city of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, to retrieve a holiday tree for Kent Circle for about 28 years. 

This year looked a lot different, however, as travel between the United States and Canada is restricted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

"This has been a wonderful tradition and over the years we have had to face many challenges," said Ringo's brother, state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. He noted past challenges have included finding a tree or creating a contraption to transport the tree from country to country.

"This was one of the largest challenges we have ever faced," Bruce Tarr said of this year's border closure. "But we had to maintain the holiday spirit despite everything that is going on around us."

After communicating with the Canadian Consulate, the senator's chief of staff, A.J. Paglia, found out that there was a tree scheduled to go to Boston from Halifax, Nova Scotia, which had secured a ride on a container ship. The consulate agreed to let the Shelburne tree join the sea voyage. 

The tree destined for Gloucester came from the Harris Family Tree Farm and was bundled up by the Shelburne Dapartment of Public Works.

"I can't thank the Harris family and the Shelburne community for doing it all these years," said Ringo Tarr, an electrician by trade. "It is a lot of work for them up there."

Once the packaged tree was ready to travel, Ringo Tarr  was able to make contact with a fish dealer with a trucking company who was willing to transport the tree the three hours from Shelburne to Halifax. From Halifax, both the soon-to-be Boston and Gloucester trees boarded the container ship that took them to Portland, Maine.  

Ringo Tarr then went to Maine to pick up the tree for the final stretch.

"It was an enormous holiday relay race where the tree was the baton and many hands touched it," Bruce Tarr laughed. "It is now standing at Kent Circle, the race finished successfully." 

While in years past the city has held a holiday parade that concludes at Kent Circle with the lighting of the tree, the annual festivities have been canceled as the city is still in a state of emergency because of the pandemic. 

But the threat of disease has not stumped the Tarr family’s creativity on how to include the community in the tree lighting. 

Although he isn’t sure when and how, Ringo Tarr is brainstorming ways to livestream the lighting of this year’s holiday tree for all to see. 

“Hopefully, we can keep the tradition going,” Ringo Tarr said.

Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or

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