Updated! The pole has been delivered. Scroll down to see where!

As we all know, planning is a kind of religion in Chapel Hill (worshiped fervently, debated endlessly, and blessed with many niceties of dogma). It seems fitting that we formally recognize this religion each year, and perhaps even more fitting that our Planning Commission, the local practitioners of this particular gospel, choose to celebrate it in the tradition of Festivus.

If you’re not familiar with Festivus, it’s a secular holiday made famous during an episode of Seinfeld 25 years ago. According to that episode, Festivus is traditionally celebrated on December 23, involves an aluminum Festivus pole, and activities such as the “airing of the grievances” and “feats of strength.” It’s completely ridiculous.

How the Chapel Hill Planning Commission celebrates Festivus

The Festivus Pole made its debut at the Central West Steering Committee holiday party ten years ago this December. It represented the airing of grievances that had brought delight to town citizens for many months during that planning process. After the party, exhausted by just how many grievances had been aired, the pole went into hiding in (now Town Councilmember) Amy Ryan’s garage for several years.

In 2017, believing it was safe to once again celebrate planning, the pole was given to Brian Wittmayer, former Planning Commission member, in a stealthy ring-and-run operation by Buffie Webber and Amy Ryan. The torch had been passed, and a tradition began.

During a subsequent holiday season, the pole was briefly awarded to Michael Parker, who was on the Planning Commission at the time, at a dinner party at his home with the strict stipulation it was welcome for dinner but needed to leave before his wife Linda came home.

John Rees surprised to find a Festivus pole on his front porch.
John Rees surprised to find a Festivus pole on his front porch.

Feeling the pressure of anti-large-aluminum-pole sentiment, the pole went back into hiding, until it emerged on the front porch of Planning Commission member, John Rees. A Festivus miracle!

From there, each holiday season the pole has shown up unannounced, but mostly not unwelcome, at the home of a Planning Commission member or alum.

A video has emerged of the pole being delivered to John Ager’s house, and can be seen here. Note, as John Ager is English, the delivery was made in the likeness of one of England’s most celebrated villains, Guy Fawkes. John found the whole thing very confusing, but happily drank the good English beer the reveler had delivered to lessen the blow.

From the home of John Ager, the pole made its way to recently elected Town Council member Melissa McCullough. After a year of reflection and, perhaps, an occasional airing of grievances, it made its way to Stephen Whitlow’s front porch. Where will it go next?

A person holding a Festivus pole for a secret delivery
Melissa delivering the Festivus pole to Stephen Whitlows house.

Have a guess? Email it to [email protected] We will update here when it has been delivered to the next Planning Commissioner’s home in the next few days. And remember, anything can be labeled a Festivus miracle – especially good planning.

Update: The pole has been delivered to its next proud victim owner, Chapel Hill Planning Commissioner, Louie Rivers.

A Festivus pole sits in the living room of Planning Commissioner Louie Rivers home
The Festivus Pole has found its way into the home of Chapel Hill Planning Commissioner, Louie Rivers.
The greeting that arrived with the Festivus pole, depicting Godzilla hoisting the sacred pole
Chapel Hill Planning Commissioner, Louie Rivers, holding the greeting attached to the Festivus Pole. Rivers is a Godzilla fan!

John Rees lives in Chapel Hill. His day job is an enterprise architect for a big IT company. He was, until very recently, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission and former chair. He serves on...