Miami’s Christmas tree tops NYC’s

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Posted on Sun, Nov. 24, 2002

Miami’s Christmas tree tops NYC’s

BY OSCAR CORRAL
ocorral@herald.com

How do you upstage New York City during the holidays? You get a bigger Christmas tree.

For longer than most people can remember, the massive tree at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan has laid claim to the title of most famous, if not biggest, Christmas tree in America.

That changed last week when a company planning a Holiday Village in downtown Miami wheeled a 110-foot Norway Spruce into Bayfront Park, dwarfing the Rockefeller Center tree by 34 feet.

Don’t believe ours is bigger?

We’ve got an affidavit to prove it. Egan Acres Tree farm, one of the largest sellers of Christmas trees, sent the company organizing Holiday Village a certificate bestowing the title of ”tallest Christmas tree in America” on our tree.

The sweet irony of the nation’s tallest Christmas tree illuminating a city that boasts palm trees and mojitos during the holidays is not lost on Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.

”It’s Miami, the last place you’d expect to bring a huge tree from the Northeast,” Diaz said. ‘People will say `Miami? Everyone is still wearing their bathing suits down there.’ But I think it’s great. It’s part of the renaissance of downtown.”

The soaring spruce is 55 feet wide, weighs 11 tons and is estimated to be 85 to 100 years old. It hails from a private residence in Yorktown Heights, N.J. (about 30 miles from the Big Apple).

It’ll take 40,000 lights — on 12 miles of wiring — to illuminate our tree.

The cost? $200,000 — but that includes the cutting, shipping and erecting.

It didn’t start out to be a competition with New York City, said Nelson Albareda, co-founder of Unipro, the company organizing Holiday Village, but he acknowledges it’s nice to outshine Gotham.

”I think South Florida lacks holiday spirit because of the climate,” Albareda said. “We wanted to offer something new that would make Miami shine.”

This is the first year for Miami to have a signature tree.

But the New York tradition dates back to 1931, when workers building Rockefeller Center placed a small unadorned evergreen on the muddy construction site. This year, for the first time, New York chose its tree based on a photograph sent in by the owners, Carmine and Mary Rizzo of Bloomsbury, N.J.

Of course, Bayfront’s tree isn’t enough to match Rockefeller Center’s intangibles during the holidays: ice skating, snow, cold weather.

But who says it takes a blizzard to spread some holiday cheer?

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