The Wagner Companies is celebrating its fifth year of selling Festivus Poles®—an aluminum tube used as a centerpiece for those who celebrate the “Seinfeld” inspired holiday of Festivus. Tony Leto, executive vice president of sales, reports that, “When we decided to start manufacturing Festivus Poles here in our Milwaukee manufacturing facility in 2005, we expected to sell a few, get some publicity and have some fun. Since the introduction, we have sold over 6,500 Festivus Poles. That may not seem like a lot, but our primary business is selling metal, and that equates to 15 tons of aluminum sales.”
Festivus Poles are now available in three sizes: a full-size floor model, a shorter table-top version and a newly added mini Festivus Pole which is part of “Festivus In A Box.” The Festivus Pole is the centerpiece of the Festivus celebration made famous in a December 1997 episode of the television program “Seinfeld” entitled “The Strike.” In that episode, the fictional Frank Costanza, played by Jerry Stiller, tells of how he invented the holiday when his children were young and he found himself in a department store tug-of-war with another Christmas shopper for a doll. “I realized there had to be a better way,” Frank recounts.
According to Mr. Costanza, the Festivus tradition begins with a bare aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its “very high strength-to-weight ratio.” The unadorned aluminum pole is displayed in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, and because the holiday’s creator, Frank Costanza, “finds tinsel distracting.”
Leto explains: “Having grown up in New York and gone to college with Jerry Seinfeld, I was always a big fan of the show. In December 2004, I read an article in the New York Times by Allen Salkin that touched on how the fictional Festivus was starting to take hold in various parts of the country. The specifications noted for Festivus Poles were certainly something we could meet, so I registered the domain name ‘festivuspoles.com’ for possible use later. Then, in October 2005, I happened across a copy of Allen’s newly published ‘Festivus, The Holiday for the Rest of Us.’ The timing seemed right and we went into production. It has also been a fun project for us since it is a step away from the architectural and industrial metal products we would typically produce.”
In addition to Festivus Poles, the celebration includes two more components: “The Airing of Grievances” and “The Feats of Strength.” “The Airing of Grievances” takes place at the Festivus dinner. Each participant tells friends and family about all the instances in which they disappointed him or her that year. During “The Feats of Strength,” the head of the family tests his (or her) strength against one participant of the head’s choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. (A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead.) Orders for Festivus Poles may be placed here.
The Wagner Companies has been in the metal business since 1850 as a manufacturer of handrail fittings and metal products for architectural and industrial applications, offering laser, waterjet cutting, bending, stamping and finishing capabilities, and CAD design service.