IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WJMN) — Sixty-one feet of blue spruce left the Upper Peninsula to take up residence for the holiday season in Lansing on Saturday.
People have been driving by the tree on Aragon Street in Iron Mountain for years. On any other day, most wouldn’t give the spruce a second look. But on a cool fall Thursday morning in the Upper Peninsula, this same tree stopped traffic and drew a crowd.
At first it was just a few women and men with the official State Christmas Tree Crew and a giant crane gathered at the sight.
One of those men was Gerald Dugree, a certified master logger. He said he has made a career of logging trees, but Thursday was different.
“About a month ago, they called and asked me if I’d be interested in cutting the Christmas tree for the capitol and I thought about a little bit and decided that it would be an honor to do it,” he told WJMN, WOOD TV8’s UP sister station.
Where Dugree would normally use heavy equipment to clear whole areas of forest, this time it was just him and a chainsaw. Dugree said he wasn’t nervous, but this was different than his normal job.
“Never anything this big for a Christmas tree, but yeah, this is a very nice tree,” he said.
While Dugree and the rest of the Michigan Association of Timbermen and Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association made their final security checks, the Wolfenberg family took their final photos with the tree before sending it on to serve a new purpose.
Sarah Wolfenberg admitted being a little emotional, saying goodbye to a tree that has stood steadily outside their family business for the last 16 years.
“I prepped myself for this because I a few times got a little teary-eyed the last couple of days leading up to it, but it’s not sad,” Wolfenberg said. “This tree is going to bring so much joy to everyone that passes and sitting Lansing. It’s going to do so many good things. And trees don’t last forever.”
Wolfenberg said the family will likely put a small memorial where the mighty spruce once stood. She added that as any true Yooper would do, when you cut one down, you plant another. They haven’t picked a new location to plant new trees, but say this one might not be so close to their shop.
As the Wolfenberg family said goodbye to their tree, the beating drums of not one but two marching bands filled the air. Iron Mountain and Kingsford’s finest young musicians entertained the growing crowd with Christmas music and other tunes. Busloads of children from Iron Mountain Public Schools and Breitung Township Schools filled the empty field across the street from where the crane and tree stood.
Following announcements about the tree and the joy it will bring to all those who visit it in Lansing, Gerald Dugree was getting ready for his big moment. He grabbed his chainsaw and took position beneath the boughs of the spruce. The crane was firmly holding the top. With a few quick pulls of the cord, the chainsaw roared to life and Dugree got to work. It took just minutes to release the tree from the ground.
The crowd of children gasped with excitement as the crane pulled the 61 foot spruce towards a waiting flatbed truck. Then, just as quickly as the crowd appeared, it was just tree crews and the Wolfenberg family as the tree settled in for the 430 mile journey.
On Saturday morning, Boy Scout Troops 109 and 125 will be on hand to untie the tree in lansing. The tree will be raised into place at the intersection of Capitol and East Michigan avenues.
Sarah Wolfenberg said their entire family has been invited to Lansing to participate in the Silver Bells in the City parade on Nov. 22.
“We get to flip the switch and turn on the lights and watch the parade,” she said. “We get to actually lead our tree in a horse drawn carriage and welcome the tree to the city.”
You can learn more about the Silver Bells in the City here.