Family’s giant pine becomes city’s Christmas tree
By Susan Frick Carlman scarlman@ stmedianetwork.com November 22, 2011 4:48PM
Arborists for the City of Naperville lifting an evergreen donated by David and Amy Gray on Fredricksburg Court in Naperville, Tuesday morning, November 15, 2011. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Most wonderful time
The city will kick off the holiday season officially on Friday, with an array of activities planned as part of Downtown Naperville’s Hometown Holidays 2011. Highlighted by the beloved Electric Parade, the event features the flooding of the city center with twinkling light — activated via a flip of the switch by the jolly old elf himself.
Seasonal songs — From 3:45 to 4:30 p.m., young local standout vocalists will fill the air with familiar tunes, performing on the parade main stage at Jefferson Avenue and Webster Street. Those scheduled to sing, and their schools, include Ian Emerson, Naperville North High School; Erin Calhoun, Metea Valley High School; Yaevin Lee, Neuqua Valley High School; Josh Blue, Waubonsie Valley High School; Samanatha Lodge, Naperville Central High School; and Chelsea Ward, North Central College.
Hot cocoa — The Nichols Library, 200 W. Jefferson Ave., will serve hot chocolate in its community room from 4 to 8 p.m.
Parade — The Electric Parade will step off at 4:30 p.m. Emcees, broadcasting from the main stage, will be CBS news meteorologist and Naperville resident Mary Kay Kleist and Scott Mackay, morning disc jockey on 95.9 WERV-FM. The parade will start at Centennial Beach, turn east on Jackson Avenue, north on Webster Street, west on Van Buren Avenue and end on Eagle Street.
Encore performance — The young superstar voices will reprise their earlier appearance at 5:15 p.m.
Let there be lights — Santa will flip the switch, setting more than 300,000 twinkling bulbs aglow throughout the downtown.
Ho-ho-ho — Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit with children on the main stage from 5:45 to 8 p.m. Kids of all ages are welcome.
Shop late — Most shops and restaurants will remain open until at least 8 p.m.
Updated: December 24, 2011 8:01AM
When the kids were littler, sometimes they would play in the big pine tree in the Gray family’s front yard. Its boughs hanging low enough then to conceal them, it made a superb hiding place.
Over the four-plus years since the Grays moved into the house on Fredericksburg Court in Naperville, the majestic blue spruce has flourished, eventually towering over their two-story residence. And it has revealed more secrets.
“We found all kinds of stuff in there,” said David Gray, who shares the house with his wife Amy and their kids, Rachel, 15, Lauren, 13, and Ethan, 11. “We found a discus, and there were slobbered-on tennis balls from the previous owner’s dog.”
There have also been numerous footballs snagged in the branches — but that’s no longer a problem.
The tree’s gone now, felled by a Public Works Department crew Nov. 16 and trucked over to its new spot in front of the Municipal Center, where it will serve as the city’s official Christmas tree.
“We were wanting to take it down, so we called the city,” Amy said, eyeing the 35-foot pine during the final weeks of its domination over the front yard.
The tree was devoid of the wayward sporting equipment by the time the trucks arrived to take it down, but it no doubt took stories that could be shared, if it could talk.
“We love it,” David said. “We wish it was on the side of the house.”
Several families each year volunteer to donate a fir from their yard to take the official place of honor in front of city hall. City forester Jack Mitz said sometimes they’re lopsided, having grown too close to a building or another tree. This time, he said, the symmetry is just about perfect.
“I’ve probably looked at half a dozen trees this year,” Mitz said. “This is a really nice size for us. A lot of times you get a bigger one, and we end up cutting a lot off.”
With a morning chill lingering over the neighborhood, Mitz watched as a collection of heavy machinery bearing the city logo gathered in front of the house. A worker was hoisted in a bucket to the upper branches of the spruce, where he affixed a crane hook securely to the main trunk. Another crew member then crouched underneath, chain saw buzzing, a sawdust cloud flying. With a mighty creak and a groan, the evergreen ascended from its trunk. It dangled from the cable briefly while the crane moved it over to the waiting lowboy, laying it down gently on its side.
Traffic was slowed, but only by a few minutes, as the vehicles made their way up West Street, the huge fir’s lower limbs stretching across both lanes. Once the heavy-duty motorcade arrived at its destination, it took only a few more moments to transfer the tree onto the rustic stand fashioned from two-by-fours nailed together over the fountain head in the center of the circular drive at the Municipal Center. A chain saw shaved off a little here and there, and the pine wobbled ever so slightly before settling onto the base.
For the Grays, the new exposure on the front of the house will take some getting used to.
“It’s going to feel naked at first,” David said.
But Ethan won’t mind. More a couple of times, he watched his pigskin vanish midway through a long pass across the front yard. For him, the clear field is an early Christmas present.