Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

On this particular day in early November, one of my long-time reporting dreams came true! Crews were going to cut down the 2013 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in our area - and I got to cover it! I was just beside myself. As a journalist, each day is different. I learn something new on each assignment. It's an aspect I love deeply about the job. Some stories can be absolutely heartbreaking, so when a happy one comes my way, I'm all about it. Not to mention, this story involved the most famous Christmas tree in the world that was heading to a building I hold pretty near and dear. To say I was excited would be an understatement. 

 From a Shelton Family's front yard all the way to 30 Rock! The Vargoshe Family had cared for their 12-ton, 76-foot-tall Norway spruce for decades. It was a staple to their home. When they would give visitors directions to their house they'd say, "It's the home with the big Christmas tree out front". Their two boys had baby swings in that tree and grew up climbing it.  Needless to say, it was a part of their family.

 The Vargoshe Family said they entered their tree into 30 Rock's national competition in 2012 but didn't win, so they entered it again in March of 2013. And before they knew it Rockefeller Center's top gardener showed up at their doorstep over the summer to check it out in person. In the coming months, gardening crews kept a close eye on it and then announced it as a finalist. The family found out their tree was chosen only two weeks before crews cut it down. They said it was definitely a day filled with mixed emotions. They were sad to see it go but thrilled to share it with the rest of the world. I loved hearing the background story of this soon-to-be icon. I felt like I was getting a VIP sneak peak before the rest of the world. 

Crews cut a piece of the trunk to be turned into a tabletop for a family memento. They said they counted 57 rings on the stump and figured there were a few drought years so it was probably 65-70 years old. It made the drive from Shelton that afternoon and arrived in New York City that night. A few friends told me they even saw the tree being escorted into Midtown with full-blown sirens and security. Talk about big time. 

Early the next morning, the tree was officially in our neck of the woods. It made its big entrance on the plaza during the Today Show. People cheered. Al interviewed the Vargoshes. And crews used cranes to hoist the tree in place. It wasn't even Thanksgiving yet, but Christmas cheer was officially here. 

Fast forward one month later to early December. I knew I had to go to the annual tree lighting. I went to the lighting last year and kind of knew how to navigate the night. I showed up a few hours early and stood in my same spot. After the Boston Marathon bombings, I have a whole new mindset at events like this with big crowds. I always try to have an exit plan if things get crazy, but let's get real, you're surrounded by thousands of people in tight quarters. It does make me a little nervous.  

My dear friends, Jennie and Kenzi, were in that crowd somewhere. We had plans to meet up but it was impossible. Still sad about it. I couldn't see the performers but we could hear them. So I sang with strangers, made friends with those around me, and inched my way forward until I had this great view. 

And when that countdown ends and those sparkly lights turn on, I get the chills. I felt like we'd come full circle, me and that tree. 

The second year in a row at the most magical tree lighting in the world makes this a tradition! 

I met up with Kenz and Jennie for some Magnolia's bread pudding that we ate outside while enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. It was a fabulous New York night. 

Even with the crowds, I tried to walk by this tree as much as possible during December. If I had to run errands, I was sure to see how my route could lead me there. This may sound silly, but I kind of felt like I had a personal connection with that big, beautiful tree. Like we had known each other for awhile. 

The Vargoshes told me the family that lived in their home before them, had planted that tree in their front yard after celebrating the holiday. And to think, this beauty started its life as a Christmas tree and would now end its life as the world's most famous one. Way to go out with a bang. 

(P.S. Also, in case you're wondering, (because I was) I'm told 100% of that tree was recycled after it was taken down. Made into mulch and things like that.)

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