by Geoff Rushton
Erik Pauze was visiting State College in September 2010 for a high school football game when he spotted it.
Head gardener for Rockefeller Center, Pauze is constantly on the lookout for trees that could serve as the New York City landmark’s annual Christmas tree, the focal point of a holiday celebration that draws tourists from around the world. The Norway spruce on the property of a home on Pikeview Road in College Township had everything he looks for.
“I’m looking for a nice , tall, straight tree that’s nice and full, one that after it makes it’s trip to New York and gets put up in Rockefeller Center it’s going to look good there too,” Pauze said. “When I saw it it was in great shape and it was nice and full, I thought ‘I gotta knock on that door tomorrow.'”
On Thursday, seven years later, that tree — measuring 75-feet tall, 50 feet in diameter and weighting approximately 12 tons — was cut, hoisted by a giant crane and loaded on a flatbed to make its way to Midtown Manhattan where it will be the 2017 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
It was donated by property owner Jason Perrin, who has owned the home there for the past 14 years. Perrin said when Pauze knocked on his door seven years ago, he at first thought it might be a joke.
“After I figured out it wasn’t a prank, Erik told me my tree looked like it was tall and wide enough, and full enough, and he thought that in a few years it might be ready to be theRockefeller Center Christmas tree,” Perrin said.
Property owner Jason Perrin talks about donating the spruce to be the 2017 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Pauze returned each year to measure the tree and decided over the summer that this would be the year. He said the tree has grown about 10 feet since he spied it from the highway in 2010.
Perrin agreed to donate it. A Pittsburgh area native and Penn State graduate, Perrin worked for State College Area School District for 17 years, most recently as assistant superintendent. He recently relocated to Gettysburg to become superintendent of schools there.
“I’ve enjoyed the tree over the years, but I’m working in Gettysburg now so I’m kind of exiting with the tree,” he said.
The tree also was reaching its peak.
“It’s 75 feet tall, and the way those trees usually come down is wind and storms, then you’re paying $3,000 to have it cut up,” Perrin said. “I think this is one of the best ways for it to go.”
Crews have been preparing the tree for the move and on Thursday morning it was cut at the base with a chainsaw and lifted by a crane and turned on its side, then lowered onto a 115-foot flatbed truck waiting on East College Avenue. It will arrive at Rockefeller Plaza on Saturday morning to be raised off a trailer and put in place by crane.
After being cut at the base with a chainsaw, the tree is lifted by a crane.
A Swarovski crystal star will be place on top of the tree on Nov. 16 and the tree will be adorned with more than 50,000 multi-colored lights.
The official lighting will take place on Nov. 29 during the live broadcast of “Christmas in Rockefeller Center,” which will begin at 7 p.m. and air on NBC starting at 8 p.m. The tree then will remain lit through Jan. 7. After it’s taken down, it will be cut into lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity for use in home building.
The Norway spruce is rotated by a crane to be lowered onto a flatbed truck
It marks the 85th year for Rockefeller Center’s tree lighting ceremony, and Perrin will be there to see his former spruce become, for one year, the most famous Christmas tree in the world.
“It’s fun. A lot of people are going to get to enjoy the tree and then after that it’s going to become part of someone’s home through Habitat for Humanity, which is also pretty cool,” Perrin said. “It’s probably a better end than most trees have.”
The tree is lowered onto a flatbed waiting on East College Avenue to begin its trip to Rockefeller Center.