The story begins with dogs walking on the beach in St. Simons Island, Georgia. And because there are nothing but happy dogs at the beach, they want to meet other happy dogs. The dogs become friends, the owners meet day after day, and they become friends. It’s a group of these early morning dog-walkers who is responsible for the creatively, and whimsically decorated driftwood tree of East Beach.
We’ve written a number of posts about this fun tree, which is decorated for holidays throughout the year. We had no idea who was responsible, but in their honor, we named it “The Totem of the Beach Clan.” Well thanks to our well-informed, north-island buddy Dianne, we now know the real story.
An article in the March 20, 2013 edition of the Coastal Illustrated magazine solves the mystery. According to the article, the two-legged friends saw a tree bobbing in the surf, and being concerned about safety for boaters, they pulled the tree ashore. Almost immediately, decorations started showing up on the tree.
The unofficial ring leader of the group, Jenifer Whiddon, came up with the idea to decorate the tree for Christmas. The group decided to un-decorate the tree after the Christmas holiday, and soon, it became a tree for all holidays. Now it’s decorated for Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Fourth of July, and many occasions in between.
This fun tree has become one of the most photographed spots on the island. In fact, the Seattle Times included it among its “12 Christmas Trees of the World.” Not bad for a piece of driftwood dragged from the surf.
Unfortunately, in 2012 seventy year-old Jenifer Whiddon passed away. Her friends (and her dogs) miss her, but the Totem and her memory lives on at East Beach.