NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – North Salem is about to replace its Community Christmas Tree, where town officials and local residents traditionally welcome Santa to town on Christmas Eve, for the fourth time.
Early storms last year wreaked havoc on the tree, donated by Esposito Nursery. The North Salem Improvement Society vowed to replace it with the most beautiful tree that could be found.
The hunt for the tree took society Trustee Peter Bliss halfway across New England, through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York without any luck.
“Then Cynthia Curtis called me,” said Bliss. “She’d been driving down Route 100 in Somers and spotted something. I went to see it the next day. It was spectacular. Most trees I’d seen were growing too close to each other. This one was in an open area.”
The tree, described by a neighbor as "the" tree, was on property owned by the Katonah Nursery. “Joe [Lopane] thinks the tree must be at least 25 years old. It was there when he bought the nursery across the street.”
“I took pictures and showed it to the committee. There was no discussion at all. It’s a Norway spruce, with very solid branches and needles. It has a conical shape. It’s almost perfect.”
Then the work began. “It wasn’t easy to move,” Bliss said. “John Dillon brought his spade truck. It has four spades and curved metal pieces that wrap around the tree. We needed a hole 90 inches in diameter, almost 7-and-a-half feet. The truck did all the work, though six people went along. George estimated that the tree weighed about 12,000 pounds with the ball.”
The town is getting it ready for the holidays. “The tree will be lit from about Thanksgiving to Jan. 15. We’ve got 4,500 LED lights for it. We used to spend hundreds of dollars on electricity for the tree. The LEDs will cost about $32 for the whole season.”
North Salem’s Community Christmas Tree is on a quarter-acre site on Titicus Road near Union Hall, deeded to the town in 1926 by Hobart Keeler for the purpose of providing holiday joy. “To me,” said Bliss, “the tree and the Christmas Eve celebration is the essence of small-town friendliness.”