Big changes for Raleigh Christ­mas tree light­ing

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.C. - BY ANNA JOHN­SON ajohn­son@new­sob­server.com

If you’re com­ing down­town for the an­nual Christ­mas tree light­ing this year, pre­pare for a few changes.

The Down­town Raleigh Tree Light­ing Cel­e­bra­tion will no longer be at City Plaza and the more than 30-foot tree will be ar­ti­fi­cial for the first time.

The cel­e­bra­tion is planned for 6 p.m. Fri­day, Nov. 30 on the Lichtin Plaza at the Duke En­ergy Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, lo­cated at 2 E. South St. The cer­e­mony will in­clude area choirs in pe­riod dress, free hot cho­co­late and food trucks.

“I think the big­gest rea­son for the move is we wanted more peo­ple to be able to en­joy it,” said Kris Lar­son, the CEO of Down­town Raleigh Al­liance, which or­ga­nizes the event. “The last cou­ple of years it’s been at City Plaza tucked in be­tween the lit­tle restau­rants and you can re­ally only see it once you’re in City Plaza.”

As for the tree it­self, Down­town Raleigh Al­liance has had trou­ble find­ing a large tree that was also aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing. They’d re­ceived com­plaints that the trees were too small, were asym­met­ri­cal or that they didn’t look enough like a Christ­mas tree.

And an ar­ti­fi­cial tree will likely save DRA money in the long-run.

“The pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion was not cost,” Lar­son said. “All told, get­ting a nat­u­ral tree and dec­o­rat­ing each year costs any­where from $15,000 to $20,000 and our ar­ti­fi­cial tree will cost about $30,000. But we will get more years out of ser­vice for the tree. But the fi­nan­cial sav­ings is re­ally sec­ondary. The pri­mary mo­ti­va­tion was hav­ing a beau­ti­ful tree that is go­ing to be well dec­o­rated and get peo­ple ex­cited about the hol­i­days.”

DRA “feels good about the de­ci­sion” to move to an ar­ti­fi­cial tree re­gard­less of any strong feel­ings peo­ple may have about us­ing fake trees over a real one, he said.

“Ar­ti­fi­cial trees have been very pop­u­lar in Amer­i­can homes for decades,” Lar­son said. “At the end of the day, we feel like we’re mak­ing the right de­ci­sion for the right rea­sons.”

Peo­ple should be able to see the tree if they are look­ing down Fayet­teville

Street. The dis­play will also in­clude a 9-foot Hanukkah meno­rah and a dis­play for Kwan­zaa.

“We are hop­ing to in­clude a lot of dif­fer­ent her­itage and dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual and re­li­gious cer­e­monies to kick off the hol­i­day sea­sons,” Lar­son said.

On the other end of Fayet­teville Street down­town, the Christ­mas tree light­ing at the State Capi­tol is planned for Thurs­day, Dec. 6. The cel­e­bra­tion be­gins at 5 p.m., with the ac­tual tree light­ing hap­pen­ing around 6 p.m. The Ju­nior Wo­man’s Club will pro­vide cook­ies and hot cho­co­late and, yes, the big man in red will be there.

And a real Christ­mas tree.

“We al­ways use real North Carolina-grown Christ­mas trees,” said Tara Schramm, site ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Capi­tol. “Of course we are a tree-grow­ing state, and we are proud of that. We have never con­sid­ered us­ing an ar­ti­fi­cial tree.”

The trees for the Capi­tol and the gov­er­nor’s man­sion are from Peak Farms in Ashe County. North Carolina is the num­ber two pro­ducer of Christ­mas trees in the coun­try.

TAKAAKI IWABU NEWS & OB­SERVER FILE PHOTO

Work­ers hang lights on the Christ­mas tree at City Plaza in down­town Raleigh in 2012.

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