Story by Lourice Angie
A beautiful Norway Spruce tree selected from the Village of Florida will debut as the glorious Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City this year. On Thurs., Nov. 7, hundreds of people gathered outside the home of Carol Schultz, located at 5 Cedar St., in Florida, to witness a momentous tree cutting, in the spirit of the holiday season.
The 65-70-year-old, 77 ft. tall, 46 ft. in diameter, Norway Spruce, donated by Schultz is tipping the scales at approximately 14 tons and will bring joy to millions of people visiting Rockefeller Plaza this year.
A large crowd, made up of local residents, Golden Hill Elementary School students, visitors and media news outlets anxiously cheered as a crew of workers began sawing into the base of the tree being held upright by a crane.
“Cut it Down” chanted the school children, who also helped keep the crowd entertained by singing Christmas carols while they anxiously waited and watched in amazement. The Zalewski family, of Bridgewater NJ, traveled for one hour and 45 minutes to the Village of Florida, to witness the tree cutting ceremony.
“It’s so exciting, we visit Rockefeller Center every year to see the Christmas tree. It has been a family tradition for over 50 years,” said Karen Zalewski.
The tree was cut down on a slight angle and safely lowered onto a 115 ft., flatbed truck, where it was tightly secured and prepared for its safe journey to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Once the tree is hoisted in place a scaffolding will be secured around it and the tree will be decorated with more than 50,000 multi-colored energy efficient LED lights strung over five miles of wire.
Hundreds of solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller Center buildings will power the lights. For the 16th year straight, a Swarovski crystal star, will adorn the larger than life Christmas Tree. The new three-dimensional star weighs approximately 900 pounds and features 70 spikes covered in three million crystals. To officially kick off the holiday’s the 87th Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting will take place on Wed., Dec. 4.
Planted with a Purpose & Destined for Greatness
Carol Schultz, 79, wanted to choose something unique for her Florida, NY home in 1959, so she purchased a young Norway Spruce sapling in a nearby town during Christmastime. The tree was reminiscent of the scrappy Charlie Brown tree then. It stood on a coffee table until the following Spring when she planted it in her front yard, where it could be enjoyed by her family.
Shultz, a mother of four, grandmother of eight, a great-grandmother of four fondly remembers decorating the tree with Christmas lights and even egg decorations for Easter each year. Not only does the family have vivid memories of the tree, but the entire Village of Florida recognizes it as the magnificent beauty that was destined for greatness.
More than a half century later, in 2010, Shultz and her companion, Richard O’ Donnell, visited Rockefeller Center’s website and decided to submit the tree to be considered as their annual Christmas tree. Earlier this year, Shultz was contacted by Rockefeller Center’s Gardener, Erik Pauze, who knocked on her door to inform her that her tree had been selected.
“I just knew that one day it would be chosen,” said Shultz
Pauze explained that the tree selection is a yearlong process of driving around the tri-state area and searching for possible candidates as well as checking on the submissions from the public.
“This year’s Norway Spruce was picked because it was a mature tree that was in its later lifecycle. This is a great region for Norway Spruce trees. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has come from this area a few times in recent years. As I was scouting last Spring I made a note to come check on Carol’s tree, and this year it’s just right. A younger tree was planted to replace it, as in past years, once the tree is taken down, its lumber will be recycled and milled into lumber for the Habitat for Humanity Charity’s building project,” said Pauze.
Village of Florida’s Mayor Daniel Harter Jr., took a moment to thank everyone for their extreme patience throughout the entire process.
“Thank you to the Schultz family for their unselfish donation. Thank you to the residents who have been inconvenienced on Cedar, Scanlon and Highview since the announcement. Everyone was so cooperative from the parking to the street closures to the excess traffic,” said Mayor Harter, who also thanked the Florida and Warwick Police, Fire and Ambulance Department for all of their hard work. “This was a very exciting day in the Village and we are so happy that we have wonderful residents to share it with.”