Just before dawn
Oneonta tree to grace Rockefeller Center
Story by Jessica Reynolds staff writer The Daily Star
ONEONTA — Halloween had hardly begun Monday when news about Christmas took center stage.
That’s because a massive Norway spruce at 72 Country Club Road in the town of Oneonta has been selected to serve as this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in Manhattan, according to a Monday morning media release from the center.
Area officials said Monday that they were excited to hear the news, rumors of which had been circulating for several months.
The tree is in Angie and Graig Eichler’s backyard.
“It’s true,” Angie Eichler said Monday. “We’re excited. We’ve known for a while now. We’re glad we can finally talk about it.”
However, the Eichlers — who both work at SUNY Oneonta — cannot actually talk about it, at least not to media personnel. Brady Littlefield, a representative from Rubenstein*, refused to allow any further interviews with them until next week, when the huge evergreen will be cut down.
The Rockefeller Christmas tree tradition dates back to 1931, when construction workers erected the first one on the center plaza block. The holiday icon is now raised there every year.
The center takes applications for a Christmas tree from the public each year, according to the site. To be considered, a tree must be in the later years of its life cycle and must measure at least 75 feet tall and 45 feet in diameter, it said.
“If you have a Norway Spruce you would like us to consider, please complete the form to the left,” the website reads. “Any details on the tree, including its approximate age and any related family stories, are greatly appreciated. If we are interested in exploring your tree more closely, we will be in touch.”
Last year’s tree also came from New York, from the Ulster County town of Gardiner.
Several friends gathered Monday outside of the Eichler’s home, a small brown house with green trim.
Meanwhile, workers from Torsilieri Inc. of New Jersey emerged from large trucks and unloaded plywood onto the Eichler’s front lawn. The landscape business has a “reputation for sensitivity in moving large trees,” according to a 2007 obituary in The New York Times for Marc Torsilieri, who graduated from the State University College of Technology at Delhi.
The Eichler’s spruce will be cut Thursday, Nov. 10, and will arrive at its New York City home on Saturday, Nov. 12, according to the Monday media release.
John Carroll, a spokesman from New York State Electric & Gas in Oneonta, said arrangements have already been made to temporarily relocate some wires and conductors at the house so there’s nothing in the way of cranes.
After being wrapped with more than 50,000 multi-colored, LED lights and crowned with a Swarovski star, the Oneonta tree will be lit during NBC’s live “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” broadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 30, the announcement said. The tree will be on display through Saturday, Jan. 7.
According to NBC, the center’s tree is usually milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity after it’s taken down.
Several people said Monday that there have been rumblings of the news around town, but it was, largely, kept a secret.
Peggy Falco, who lives around the corner on Handsome Avenue, said she can see the tree from her home. She heard several months ago that the spruce was in the running for Rockefeller Center, she said.
“We see it all the time,” said Falco, who has lived in her house for about a year. “The neighborhood has known about it. It’s going to be quite an occasion to see it moved. I’m sure all the neighbors will gather around to watch. Very exciting.”
Oneonta Town Supervisor Robert Wood said he was also “pretty excited” to hear the news Monday.
“I need to drive by and look at it,” he said. “We’re thrilled. When we see it on TV, we’ll all know it’s a little — or big — piece of home.”
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig agreed.
“I think this will just reinforce the message that Oneonta is an absolutely beautiful place,” Herzig said, “and make people want to visit or live here.”
Frank Russo, executive director of the Oneonta Family YMCA, said it was no surprise to him to hear that the tree is coming from Angie Eichler’s property. Eichler is a fitness instructor at the YMCA, he said.
“Angie is involved in all kinds of community things,” he said. “She’s a very community-spirited person, and she’s always happy and bubbly. This is really cool for their family and for Oneonta.”
Barbara Ann Heegan, president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, said she’s looking forward to visiting the tree in Manhattan with her family.
“We’ll have to get Eastern Travel to organize a bus trip,” she said Monday. “I think that people who go to see this Christmas tree from all over the world are going to really appreciate its beauty. And to know that that’s coming from Oneonta, I think, just makes it magical and speaks volumes about the beauty of our area. I think it will truly put a spotlight on our region.”
*Story changed at 11:36 am Nov. 1 to provide the correct name of the company.
- Just a little side trip….