Christmas Trees That Are Major Exhibitions and Statements

Northgate Shopping Center Christmas tree 1950 (image credit: C.R. Douglas)

Willwork Inc. Exhibit & Event Services is a national leader in exhibition services and event project management.

A major portion and component of the business we are in is installing and dismantling, erecting and setting up, taking down and putting away.  We perform these functions and these roles across projects and jobs the scope of which span from the installing and dismantling of a single 10’ x 10 exhibit, to the installing of all displays and fixtures in a shopping mall, to full-service general contracting for shows and conventions that cover floor space across multiple large halls and venues.

As appropriate, during the holiday season, across our social media presence, we feature posts and publish stories about events and displays and exhibitions that are holiday and festive themed.

On Christmas Eve 2014, we published here a post, “Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services Does a Call Out to Impressive and Awesome U.S. Holiday Displays and Events.”

Now, for sure, there is considerable planning, industry, and effort committed to the putting up and erecting of a primary symbol of the season: the Christmas tree.

A lot of money is shelled out around the world for Christmas trees – whether natural or artificial – that decorate and hold a place of honor in our homes. Residential Christmas trees are big business.

And, of course, whether to have an artificial or natural tree is a long-debated matter.

On November 20, Popular Mechanics published a story, “The 7 Best Artificial Christmas Trees: All the joys of the holidays, with none of the mess.”  Popular Mechanics is very sensitive to budgets in its selection, with the most economical a six-foot hinged “pine” tree with stand from Best Choice Products that goes for $49.97, and the most expensive, a six-and-a-half-foot luxurious Balsam Hill Vermont White Spruce that carries a price tag of $1,012.44.

The real-thing tree has been skyrocketing in price.  Please click here to be taken to a Fortune story, “Christmas Trees Are More Expensive This Year, Continuing Trend,” published on December 7, and written by Chris Morris.

Following is an excerpt from Fortune story:

“The National Christmas Tree Association said the cost of the evergreens are expected to increase 2% over last year’s average price of $64-$73. That’s on the heels of a 17% price spike from 2015-2017.

“The reasons vary, but it largely comes down to three things: the economy, bad weather, and farmers shifting to more lucrative crops … “

As for the installation and dismantle of residential Christmas trees, none should involve much difficulty.  But very frequently the procedure becomes an immensely involved task … a task that infringes on holiday merriment and joy … even if only briefly.

Then there are the Christmas trees of a corporate or institutional or municipal nature.

In our Christmas Eve 2014 post, which was referenced and linked to earlier in this post, we featured what just might be the best known and most iconic holiday season display in the United States: the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.  Every year, since 1933, there has been a Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  The tree, which is almost always a Norway spruce, has ranged in height from, on the shortest end, about 60 feet, to the tallest, the 100-foot conifer erected in 1999.

What is the tallest natural Christmas tree ever set and installed in America?

Okay, the tallest real Christmas tree, as Guinness World Records informs us, was the 67.36-meter (221 feet) Douglas fir installed and decorated in December of 1950, in Seattle, WA, at Northgate Shopping Center, which had opened the previous May.

Yet something of a qualifier seems warranted in discussion of the Northgate Shopping Center Christmas tree of 1950.

Because, you see, the tree was something of a Frankenstein tree: all natural, but also modified and adulterated.

How the giant Christmas tree happened and came to be was tied to and revolving around the fact that the Northgate Shopping Center was a bit of a risky venture; it was a new form of shopping complex: a regional mall located in the  suburbs.  Jim Douglas, the president of the company that developed Northgate, forecast that the building of more roads and highways would encourage shoppers to venture beyond Main street of towns and the downtowns of cities.  Things were going to change, Mr. Douglas and other suburban shopping mall pioneers projected.

But major retailers were skittish about committing to and leasing space at Northgate Shopping Center.

Jim Douglass recognized that that first holiday and Christmas season was crunch time – do or die.  He thought and figured on different marketing draws, and arrived at the concept of putting up a monstrous … a gigantic …Christmas tree at the mall.

Douglas and associates went out into the forests of Washington and found a giant fir.  Yet, while it was giant in height, it was deficient in a bounty of branches and evergreen that spread wide like a skirt wrapping the tree, which is a characteristic of any good Christmas tree.   This paucity, which had to be rectified, owed to that the tree selected grew within a tight cluster 0f other firs, and this prevented the tree from growing and spreading its branches, especially in its lower region.

Transporting the tree was also presented a challenge to be solved.  Again, we are going back almost 70 years.  Trucking and rigging and transport were not what they are today.

What to do?  Well, the tree was felled and stripped of all its branches and became, basically, a pole that was a little more than 200 feet long.  Two trucks transported the pole to Northgate Shopping Center where it was raised and steadied with guide wires, and to which were affixed the branches that have been shorn from the tree, and also other fir tree branches that had been collected.  The tree was then adored with lights and other decorations.

And, wouldn’t you know, that Christmas tree did what it was supposed to do.  It brought sightseers and shoppers. Providing a big boost to drawing power of the Christmas tree was the media exposure it was accorded, including being the subject of a story in Life magazine, which at the time one of the most popular general interest publications in the world.

Northgate Shopping Center flourished.

Clicking here takes you a page at the site of the public radio station KNKX (Tacoma, WA) where you can find a short article on the Northgate Shopping Center Christmas tree, and a link to podcast of an interview (originally aired on KNKX on May 13, 2017) that Jennifer Wing, a producer at KNKX, conducted about the tree with C.R. Douglas, a cousin of Jim Douglas.  C.R. Douglas is a political analyst for the news broadcast of Channel Q13, the Fox TV affiliate in the Seattle and Spokane area.

What is the tallest artificial Christmas tree in history to date?

That would be the 238-foot tall structure in Colombo, Sri Lanka that was unveiled on Christmas Eve 2016, and which bested the previous record holder:  a 180-foot tower of lights, artificial foliage, lamps, and ornaments erected in Guangzhou, China in 2017.

The World’s Tallest Artificial Christmas Tree, in Colombo,           Sri Lanka (image credit: Anton)

Following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry about the Sri Lankan Christmas tree:

“The cone-shaped tree is a steel-and-wire frame made from scrap metal and wood, and covered by plastic netting. It is decorated with approximately one million natural pine cones painted gold, green, red and silver colors. It has 600,000 LED bulbs which illuminate the tree at night.  On the top of the tree there is a 20-foot (6.1 m) tall Christmas star with bulbs, weighing about 60 kg (130 lb). The tree cost Rs 12 million (about US$ 80,000).  The tree was constructed by 150 employees of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Ports and Shipping with support from other parties.”

Please click here to be taken to CBS News story about the Sri Lankan Christmas tree.

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services will publish here on Christmas Eve another post about noteworthy displays and exhibitions with holiday-season and festive themes.

Willwork wishes and extend to all – Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

 

 

 

 

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