It is almost time to light the most recognized Christmas tree in the world, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! Here’s a little history about the iconic tree. The first Rockefeller Center tree went up unofficially on Christmas Eve in 1931 before the Rock was actually completed. In 1933, the tree was officially part of Rock Center and lit every year except during war time in 1944-1945, when the tree remained unlit due to blackout laws. There was one televised tree lighting in 1951 on NBC during “The Kate Smith Show”. The tallest tree ever was a 100 foot tall Norway spruce in 1999.
Since 1997, NBC has televised the annual tree lighting live on national television for the entire world to watch and kick start the holiday season! This year is the 86th annual holiday event. There are recorded and live musical performances by Diana Ross, Tony Bennett and Pentatonix just to name a few of the various artists singing holiday songs from the beautiful backdrop of the famed ice rink and other locations around Rockefeller Center.
This year the tree gets a brand new topper! A Swarovski star designed by Daniel Libeskind, weighing in at 900 pounds and has over 3 million crystals! The well-known architect also designed the master plan of the rebuilding of World Trade Center after 9/11. An incredible creation for the tree, no one knows crystals better than Swarovski!
This year, the tree hails from Wallkill, New York, a two-hour drive north of the city. The tree is donated by the property owner and then donated again after the New Year to Habitat for Humanity to use the wood for building homes. The current tree is 75 years old, stands 72 feet tall & weighs 12 tons!
The Sarasota Post was able to get an interview with the current donors Shirley Figueroa and Lisette Gutierrez about their experience of being an owner and a donor of a Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree!
SP How long have you lived in Wallkill?
We have lived in Wallkill for almost two years but, we have lived in this area for 17 years.
SP When did you realize the tree was being looked at by Rockefeller Center?
When we bought the house the previous owners mentioned that Rockefeller Center was interested in the tree. I didn’t believe it until one evening during dinner Mr. Pauze, the Rockefeller Center Head Gardener, came to our door and told me he had his eye on the tree!
SP What was the process in donating the tree to the Rock?
The process in donating the tree was pretty simple. Mr. Erik Pauze had asked permission to water and feed the tree-which we were okay with. We still didn’t know they were going to take it. We officially learned it would be the 2018 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in mid-October. After we learned they were going to take it, they started the process of wrapping the tree for transport to NYC. On November 8th, they cut the tree down and it left the property for her journey to NYC. She arrived and was set up on November 10th.
SP What was it like for you the day they came to cut the tree down?
I was full of emotions. I was sad to see her go but I knew it was for a great cause. I was sad because she was a 75 year old living thing, I was happy that the tree was going to be appreciated by people that come from all over the world, of all different backgrounds, races and religions.
SP How do you feel about the tree being cut and used for Habitat for Humanity homes?
I am so ecstatic that the tree will live on in homes, hopefully for years to come. I am so happy that Rockefeller Center sends the trees out to be milled and recycled into doors. It really does make you feel like it was not cut down in vain.
SP What has been the response of your family, friends and neighbors about you donating the tree?
My family and friends are so proud of our contribution. Every day I hear from a family member or friend telling me they heard the news and are so happy. It really has been a great experience for us. We are very happy that we have made our loved ones proud. Our neighbors have been supportive as well. They mention how proud they are that the tree will come from our town.
SP Are you planning on attending the tree lighting?
Yes, we hope to attend and see the tree- who we call “Shelby”, with all of her sparkly jewelry on! She is going to look beautiful. We can’t wait to see the happy faces of people when she is lit up!
You can attend even if you can’t be there by watching it live on NBC Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 8 p.m. EST, check your local listings. The Today show anchor crew will co-host including Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin & Al Roker, who has been doing the live special longer than any other host. Light it up!
Photos courtesy of Rockefeller Center and Vicky Sullivan for The Sarasota Post.