Estimated at about 90 years old and measured at 71 feet in height, the blue spruce just harvested from the Waaras’ yard is carefully brought to the street by equipment from Hebert Construction. Next stop: the state Capitol in Lansing.
IRON RIVER—With some snow from the night before adding a seasonal touch, Iron River residents got to take part in a genuine media event Nov. 6 when the state Capitol Christmas tree was harvested from the Waara family yard on Maple Street.
It was quite a scene. School kids from both West Iron and Forest Park came over on buses to witness the event—they were kept in the nearby parking lot. The unbeaten West Iron and Forest Park football teams were there in force, along with the Trojan cheerleaders.
Political dignitaries, from the governor’s U.P. representative to Iron River Mayor Terry Tarsi. Musicians and singers, providing suitable holiday music for a tree harvest. Hundreds of area residents.
Many people involved with the timber industry along with the state Capitol Christmas tree crew. And many, many camera people, both still and video, professional and amateur, who came to chronicle the big event.
No ceremony like this takes place without an preliminary round of speeches, announcements, recognitions, acknowledgements and thanks. Master of ceremonies Denny Olson recognized the Wykon and Trojan football teams twice and offered wishes that they can make a long trip downstate, too.
The tree will eventually be richly decorated and displayed on the state Capitol grounds as part of Lansing’s 29th annual Silver Bells in the City event. The big day is Nov. 22 and includes a Christmas parade, the tree lighting and a fireworks display.
The tree that will be at the center of the event is a blue spruce that was planted in the early 1920s. When the timbermen measured it after cutting it down, they found it was 71 feet long, a little longer than expected. Denny Olson of Breitung Township, master of ceremonies for the event, estimated its weight at between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds.
Hebert Construction of Iron River was involved in the actual harvest of the tree, and crews from Hilberg Logging of Crystal Falls and Piwarski Brothers Logging of Iron River also played major roles in the event.
Involved in the event were the state Department of Technology Management and Budget, the Michigan Association of Timbermen, the Great Lakes Timber Professional Association and the West Iron County schools.
Olson, a long-time member of the Timbermen and the Timber Professionals, said the state and the timber groups have had their eye on the Iron River spruce for about five years as a potential Capitol Christmas tree.
“We have a list of about 20 trees, future trees for taking to Lansing,” he said. “We try to take the one that’s the best for that year.”
When they noticed that the tree in the Waaras’ yard was “showing its age” (Needles in the branches, he said, were not what they used to be.), it made their decision easy. “That’s why we moved forward with taking this tree this year.
“It’s a very good project,” said Olson. “I’m so thankful that I can be part of it.”
“This has just been a great collaboration amongst these four entities,” said Denise Maloney, West Iron wellness coordinator who helped organize the event. “We are so excited and so proud to be the one that supplied the Christmas tree this year. It’s a great honor.”
She spoke about all the classes, the football teams, the band, the community. “We’re just really excited and proud.
“The snow was perfect, wasn’t it? I prayed for snow—I really did.” She said people from the governor’s office who came up for the event told her they have never been so well received at a tree harvesting.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” agreed Chris Thomson, West Iron superintendent, “and it’s wonderful that the community has come out to support this. We had all our Stambaugh El kids, our football team, Forest Park was here, so it’s a cooperative Iron County effort.
“What more can you say? It’s a heck of a thing for the community.”
A lot of work remained after the spectators left—the tree’s branches had to be “wrapped” so it could keep looking good after its 465-mile ride to the state Capitol in Lansing. That work continued long into the afternoon.