8-ton tree arrives for its NYC debut

November 14, 2008 11:58:45 AM PST
In 1931, a New Jersey family took their 7-foot Christmas tree and planted it outdoors. On Friday, that Norway spruce - now 72 feet tall and weighing 8 tons - was hoisted into place at Rockefeller Center, where it will be decorated with tens of thousands of colored lights and a giant crystal star. Hundreds of onlookers watched as 74-year old twin brothers Bill and Bob Varanyak, who donated the tree, drove a spike into the trunk. Then a crane raised the spruce over the plaza next to the skating rink and the gilded statue depicting Prometheus bringing fire to mankind.

"They're going to lift it up and put it in a hole in the ground," decided 5-year-old Kevin Keneally, who came from Piscataway, N.J., with his 3-year-old sister and their mother to glimpse the tree and see the Radio City Christmas show down the block.

Lift it they did; but instead of going into a hole, the tree was placed in a 5-level metal support system. First, workers spun it around to determine its best side, while a few sparrows quickly tried sitting on its branches.

"I hope it doesn't break lose!" said King Thomas. "I've lived in New York all my life, but I've never seen this."

Thomas, a Homeland Security employee, photographed the massive spruce as it dangled from metal wiring attached to the crane.

The tree came from the Varanyak family in Hamilton, N.J., which now owns a nursery.

The twins' father, Joseph Varanyak, got the tree as a gift and brought it home on that long-ago Christmas. Replanted outdoors after the holiday, it became enormous. Before she died eight years ago, his wife, Mary Varanyak, had predicted it would make it to Rockefeller Center one day.

Using scaffolding to reach the green heights, workers will decorate the tree with 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights on 5 miles of wire, topped with a massive crystal star. The lighting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 3.

While the first official lighting was in 1933, the first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was put up two years earlier by workers building the complex during the Depression - in the mud of the Art Deco complex under construction.

In addition to an early Christmas memory, Kevin left with a souvenir. He clutched a pine cone that a worker handed to him across the security fence.

"I'm gonna hang it on our Christmas tree," he said.

Click here for New York and Tri-State News

Report a typo || Send a story idea || Send news photos/videos
Follow us on Facebook || Twitter New York News || Twitter Breaking News