Jack and Bridie Yanovitch of Tamworth donated the 35-foot tree at right to serve as Laconia's Christmas tree this year, shown at left. To its left, the Dearborn tree stands a majestic 110 feet tall. As shown at right,he long branches on the Dearborn tree would make application of spiral wrapped lights practically impossible. (Courtesy/John Moriarty)
LACONIA — The annual lighting of the City's Christmas tree is scheduled to occur immediately following the holiday parade, which begins at 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 26, but according to city and downtown officials there are big – or rather, smaller – changes this year. For the first time in recent years the enormous Norway spruce tree will not be recipient of Santa's magic.
"Few people understand the scope of this project," said John Moriarty of the Downtown Laconia Main Street Initiative. "Despite the fact that everybody – myself included – wanted to see attractive lights strung around the tree in traditional spiral fashion, it is just not a feasible solution."
During the spring, the Main Street Initiative brought in Lance Cote of the firm Christmas Decorating Specialists. Cote, whose firm is responsible for large municipal lighting and decorating projects throughout New England, including Manchester, met with a group of downtown officials to explore possible solutions.
"He came up to Laconia, and wasn't out of his truck for more than three minutes before he delivered the bad news", said Ted Roy of the Water Street Café and member of the Main Street design committee.
Cote explained that there were three insurmountable problems with this project. First, the reach of his truck maxes out at 70 feet—a lift 50 percent taller would be needed to reach the additional 40 feet to the apex of Laconia's 110-foot-tall tree. Second, the branches were spaced too far apart to hang the lights on with continuous support.
"None of your citizens would be any happier with the new lights than they are with what you have now", he said. "Each branch is so big, and spaced so far apart, it would appear that more empty space was lit than decorative tree branches."
Cote's third reason resonated most with Randy Bullerwell of All My Life Jewelers, and chairman of the Design Committee. "He explained that with branches that reached so far out from the trunk, and with so much space between them, they were prone to large movements in the wind," Bullerwell said."We've seen this problem ourselves; when the wind moves large branches at different speeds and in different directions, it just rips the strands apart."
"I will not take your money, and leave you with a tree that disappoints you, and leaves you with half the lights not working after the first week," said Cote, referring to the more-than-$20,000 price that it would require to string new LED lights.
Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Facilities with the dity of Laconia was quick to add that Laconia should be proud of this historic spruce while emphasizing that no ills were to befall the magnificent tree.
"Our tree has been around for a long time and it going to remain here for a long time to come," said Dunleavy.
Rather, the Parks Commission has directed Dunleavy to work with Downtown Laconia Main Street Initiative to find a solution which in the long run will entail finding a suitable location to transplant a significant tree that will mature into a manageable sized tree, to be used as the city's Christmas tree. In the meantime, Dunleavy advertised, soliciting donations of a tree to be felled, transported to downtown, and rigged to stand as if it were growing in Veterans Square.
Jack and Bridie Yanovitch of Thornton came forward, donating a 35-foot-tall blue spruce tree, as a gift to the city. The Parks Department worked in concert with the Department of Public Works to transport the tree, dig a 4-foot-deep hole, and insert the tree into its new temporary home.
"Seeing this tree towering over its surroundings really brings home that it sometimes difficult to see the difference between huge and enormous," said Moriarty, "At that height, everything loses its scale."
Dunleavy agreed, saying that in its former location the new spruce looked as dramatic as the city's existing spruce. "Only when you bring them side by side do you start to get a sense of what a really unusually large tree our Norway spruce is."
The temporary tree will be illuminated with 3 kilowatts of lights, which is a dramatic decrease compared to the large tree. Moriarty explained that to illuminate the large tree with the same density would have required more than 8,000 strands each containing 140 lights.
To complete the effort and illuminate downtown, the Downtown Laconia Main Street Initiative is asking for assistance in reaching this goal.
"If everybody who felt disappointment with the old downtown lighting scheme contributed $10 to our crowd-funding effort, we would easily reach our goal of $2,500," said Melissa McCarthy, the people person for Downtown Laconia Main Street Initiative.
For more information or to make a contribution, visit www.laconiamainstreet.com and follow the link to the Razoo crowd funding site. Everyone is also welcome to call Downtown Laconia Main Street Initiative at 603-455-2084, or visit participating downtown businesses to make a contribution by cash or check. Participating businesses include The Water Street Café, All My Life Jewelers, The Studio, Polished & Proper Barber Shop and Local Provisions.