“It’s going to be gorgeous,” said Mayor Betsy Price after sitting in a crane that helped to guide the tree into place. A professional crane operator lowered the tree into the 6,000-pound base.
Crews will spend the week decorating the tree with 5,000 LED lights and ornaments. The lights will be turned on at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, breaking a decades-old tradition of the tree-lighting being held after the city’s Parade of Lights the day after Thanksgiving.
The tree was selected by a tree broker hired by Sundance Square and shipped to Texas. It was cut down from a Lake City, Mich., homestead on Wednesday and arrived in Fort Worth on Sunday. The tree crew spent about 30 minutes trimming the bottom for it to fit in the base before it was slowly lowered into the base.
Four candy cane-like guide posts will hold heavy gauge cables helping to hold the tree in place. The cables will be just under 11 feet high. In past years, the cables were strung from the tree to the ground and was an obstacle to moving around the tree.
“The plaza was created just for these type of community events that offer a whole new experience for visitors coming downtown,” said Tracy Gilmour, Sundance Square’s marketing director.
The central set where Santa sits has been refurbished for this season, and three Candyland set pieces have been added along the wait line, Sundance said.
Sundance will also host a free New Year’s Eve event featuring the Professor D Band. The tree will be up until around Jan. 5, when it will be taken down and mulched.
Sponsorship for the city’s Christmas tree has changed only a few times in the past several decades.
Until 2004, and for 48 years, the tree was sponsored by the Fort Worth Jaycees. In 2005, the sponsorship was picked up the Texas Motor Speedway and the Speedway Children’s Charities. Sundance Square began co-sponsoring the tree in 1999, until taking it over completely in 2006.
For many years, the tree was displayed in Burnett Park. In 1986, it was moved to General Worth Square on Main Street in front of the Fort Worth Convention Center. About 14 years ago, it was moved to Sundance Square and placed in the middle of Main Street.
Between and 2008, Sundance Square was the major sponsor of the parade, which is now sponsored by Chesapeake Energy. The parade, in its 31st year, will take place Friday, Nov. 29. It typically draws more than 100,000 people and more than 100 floats.
In past years, the tree lights were turned on and Santa arrived following the parade, which made the evening late for many families.
Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said separating the events give visitors two big reasons to enjoy downtown.
“Now we have the plaza,” Taft said. “A night for the tree lighting, that’s a great event idea. It’s two big nights in downtown, rather than one. The tree lighting deserves its own moment.”