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The Story of Anaheim's Christmas Tree

By Carol Latham, 2013-12-19

The  first Downtown Anaheim Christmas tree lighting was in 1996.  The newly formed committee had only about six weeks to put it together and that also included finding a suitable tree.  We found a tree for $750,  the last decent one on the lot.  That year the tree sat above ground in its 24" box and we decorated large packing boxes and placed them around the base of the tree to help create the atmosphere.

A few days after our event, I got a call from City Hall saying that since this tree had a curved trunk, it probably would not be suitable be the city's Christmas tree.  So back to the search for a better tree.  I had called some friends at Disney asking where they got their trees and was directed to a tree farm out in the Lancaster-Palmdale area.  A group consisting of three committee persons and two city employees had a "field trip" and  found our current tree way out there. 

The city agreed to put the money up front to pay for the tree and they were promised repayment from donations from the citizens of Anaheim.  The cost of the tree with delivery charges was $15,000.  Most of those costs came from permits from cities along the way to transport the tree through their streets. 

What fun it was to watch that poor tree being lifted off the truck and set into place. Most of that committee has moved on to other ventures, but I remember that Janis Heckle with the city was there with us that day. 

Two weeks after the tree was planted, I got a call from the city telling me that they had a check in their hands from Disney for the full $15,000 for our Christmas Tree!!!!  Each year in our script for our Nutcracker program we recognize Disney's generous contribution to our community and a plaque has been installed near the tree as well. The tree is planted in the center of the traffic circle across from Anaheim Ice on Center Street Promenade.

The man at the tree farm told us that we should expect about 2 feet a year growth from our tree, I believe the tree was either 28 or 32 feet tall when we brought it home to Anaheim. I am not sure how many other cities in Orange County  have a LIVING Christmas tree, but I sure would like to know if any of the cities have a LIVING Christmas tree as tall as ours. 

Our tree has flourished under the care of the Downtown Anaheim Association with Shelley Reeves being the main "overseer" since her arrival at the DAA.  Over these 18 years we have seen many beautiful plantings of seasonal flowers, small trees and shrubs.  I believe at one time we were planting small pine trees to help accent our large tree and then later used these small trees at other locations.  It does appear that it could now use some  innovative landscaping. I remember one year a Girl Scout leader asked if she could bring her girls down so that they could plant flowers and subsequently come back to nurture them along and have a sense of ownership. 

In all these years the committee and the DAA have taken great pride in our tree and what it means to the community.  If we seem a little possessive or paranoid about the tree just remember that it has been a part of us for many years.

This year, I was really excited about how our tree is going to be transformed - dressed  with larger and more ornaments.  She is spectacular!

Carol Latham is the immediate past President of the Anaheim Arts Council, and serves the arts in Anaheim in numerous other capacities.



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