A 55-foot blue spruce ended its 1,300-mile trek to Fort Worth on Monday when it was hoisted into place in the middle of Sundance Square Plaza to serve as the city’s Christmas tree.
“It’s going to be gorgeous,” said Mayor Betsy Price after sitting in a crane that helped 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, selected by a tree broker hired by Sundance Square, was cut at a Lake City, Mich., homestead on Wednesday and arrived in Fort Worth on Sunday. The tree crew spent about 30 minutes trimming the bottom before it was slowly lowered into the base.
Four candy cane-like guide posts will hold heavy gauge cables to secure the tree in place. The cables will be just under 11 feet high. In past years, cables were strung from the tree to the ground, creating an obstacle to move 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 two-block plaza, featuring fountains and a stage, was opened to the public earlier this month.
The central set where Santa sits has been refurbished for this season, and three Candyland set pieces added along the wait line, Sundance said.
Sundance Plaza 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 over 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 by the Texas Motor Speedway and 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 2005 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.”