rockefeller_center_xmas_tree_web.jpg

NEW YORK (AP) — A 74-foot Norway spruce from Pennsylvania has been hoisted into place at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan for its starring role in a big Christmas tradition.


­But before the small-town spruce grew up and headed to the big city, it was residing in Mifflinville, Pa.

It fact it can be a long road from seedling to the shining icon that graces home living rooms.

Consider that the 65-foot white fir selected as the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was cut down in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As part of the 4,500-mile tour on Nov. 16, a Navajo medicine man offered a safe travel blessing for the tree and the Forest Service members and volunteers traveling with it to Washington, D.C., where it is scheduled to arrive on Nov. 28 with a lighting ceremony at the front of the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 6.

In other tree news, a 61-foot mighty blue spruce that didn't start its life with much promise nearly a half-century ago was delivered as Michigan’s official Christmas tree.

Found in the middle of a two-lane highway in 1955, the tree was donated by Jerry and Beverly Kilburn of Houghton Lake. Beverly Kilburn, 73, said her father noticed the tree lying in the middle of Old 27 after apparently falling off a truck. “He went out there and got it — and that orphan tree turned into the state Christmas tree,” she said.

Elsewhere, the drought in Oklahoma this year left Purcell Christmas tree farmer Bill Raisey with no choice but to fold up his operation. The 83-year-old said the heat and drought was the worst he had seen in 20 years of farming trees and that the drought killed so many of his Christmas trees — more than 1,000 — that he is unable to recover.

In Atlanta, Ga., they called it “the Drought that Stole Christmas” after the 60-foot, 11,000-pound white pine selected for Macy's at Atlanta's Lenox Mall snapped while being hoisted atop the department store. It's not the first time the store has had to get a backup tree: The 2004 tree also broke.

Meanwhile, the Eutis-based Florida Christmas Tree Association says “Nothing says Christmas more than a real tree.” The group adds on its flchristmastrees.com website that purchasing a home-

grown Florida tree uses less fuel in transportation, supports the farmers of the state and boosts Florida's economy; also that a tree that is moist when brought into the home, and kept moist by adding water through the base of the trunk, will not be a fire hazard.

Tree politics? Inevitable. Growers across the country are upset that the federal government just halted a new industry-sponsored Christmas tree promotion program financed by fees on the industry at 15 cents per tree sold. After conservatives argued it would amount to a tax on a holiday tradition, the White House said the USDA would suspend the start of the fee and revisit the issue.

 “People get the idea that we're cutting down a rain forest or believe it is better to buy a plastic tree made in China, made out of petroleum, that's not recyclable,” said Dan Wahmhoff, a grower in southwestern Michigan. “If it burns it will put off fumes that will kill you. Yet people think that's better?”

Wahmhoff hopes the delay is temporary. “That would be stupid,” he said of killing the promotion program. “More stupid than calling it a tax in the first place.”

Photo:  Stock photo

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.