Chicago turns to Elgin again for Millennium Park Christmas tree. How did they move it?

  • A 55-foot blue spruce is lowered gently onto a truck. It's ultimate destination: Millennium Park in Chicago, where it will star as the city's 106th annual Christmas tree.

      A 55-foot blue spruce is lowered gently onto a truck. It's ultimate destination: Millennium Park in Chicago, where it will star as the city's 106th annual Christmas tree. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A 55-foot blue spruce from Elgin will be Chicago's 106th Christmas tree. It was cut down Thursday morning.

      A 55-foot blue spruce from Elgin will be Chicago's 106th Christmas tree. It was cut down Thursday morning. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A crane was used to lift a tree out of the yard of Gene and Connie Nelson's Elgin home Thursday. It will become Chicago's 106th Christmas tree.

      A crane was used to lift a tree out of the yard of Gene and Connie Nelson's Elgin home Thursday. It will become Chicago's 106th Christmas tree. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Carlos Montero of Brightview Landscape Service waits patiently in the tree for the lift from the crane Thursday.

      Carlos Montero of Brightview Landscape Service waits patiently in the tree for the lift from the crane Thursday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/8/2019 4:05 PM

Nobody yelled "timber!" when Gene and Connie Nelson's Colorado blue spruce went Thursday morning from being an Elgin neighborhood's towering landmark to Chicago's official Christmas tree.

That's probably because the 55-foot, 7,000-pound tree was carefully secured to a crane's hook and guided by five rope-wielding workers on the ground as it was sawed off, lifted up, then gently laid on a flatbed truck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And lest you are inclined to cry about a perfectly good tree being slaughtered for holiday frivolity, take heart: The tree was going to come down soon anyway.

Its roots were encroaching on the foundation of the Nelsons' house and had already caused part of a landscaping wall to heave.

"Now we get to share its beauty. It's an end-of-life celebration," said Jennifer Melton, the Nelsons' daughter.

It's not the first starring moment for the tree, which was about 46 years old, judging by its rings. It was featured in an infomercial for a company that was selling a product for putting Christmas lights on big trees, Connie Nelson said. Gene Nelson used to put lights on the tree, when it was smaller.

The tree was a runner-up in the contest two years ago but was a foot too short. The city wants a tree at least 55 feet tall, said Mary May, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There were 40 entries this year, she said. Since the city resumed using a single tree in 2009, all of the trees have come from the suburbs: Palos Heights, McHenry, Western Springs, Prospect Heights, South Holland, Northlake, Wauconda, Grayslake, and twice from Elgin.

Why the suburbs?

The trees "are much taller outside the city," May said. "They just seem to grow them bigger out here."

But there are a few in Chicago she and other staffers are keeping an eye on, she said.

Sharon Yiesla, plant knowledge specialist for the Morton Arboretum, said suburban trees might grow taller because they have more space to grow, less exposure to road salt and vehicle exhaust, and soil that is less compacted.

"Soil is everything for roots," she said.

Spruce trees such as the Colorado blue can grow to be 30 to 40 feet wide, and their roots can spread even farther, she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Blue spruces are a popular choice for landscaping because of their color -- "they kind of stand out from other evergreens," she said. But they have been overplanted around here, she said, and in recent years have been more susceptible to disease because of changes in our weather.

"Let's enjoy them in moderation," she said.

Next step

The Nelsons' tree will be delivered Friday evening to Millennium Park in Chicago. Over the next two weeks workers will install up to 50,000 lights on it, plus other decorations.

The Nelsons will see it again when they help turn the lights on at a celebration at 6 p.m. Nov. 22.

For details on the ceremony and other events, visit millenniumpark.org.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.