Friday, December 23, 2016

Montreal's Christmas Tree

New York Times - "In Montreal, an Ungainly and Unloved Christmas Tree"

"The idea was to celebrate Montreal’s coming 375th anniversary with a Christmas tree bigger and grander than the famous one at Rockefeller Center in New York."


"How did a holiday celebration became a municipal punch line? Chalk it up to (perhaps too much) ambition, inadequate financing and Murphy’s law.

“We have good intentions,” said Jean-David Pelletier, one of the principals of Sapin MTL, the company that came up with the idea of rivaling New York’s tree. “But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and we had problems.”

Sapin MTL is in the business of home-delivering normal-size Christmas trees, and it proposed the big one as a promotional gimmick. Mr. Pelletier said the company had a more majestic, shapely tree in mind. It researched the typical height for recent Rockefeller Center trees — 74 to 76 feet — and found a 78-footer in Ontario that Mr. Pelletier described as “amazing.”

But its narrow height advantage vanished in early November when Rockefeller Center announced that its 2016 tree would be a 94-foot Norway spruce.

Mr. Pelletier and his partners then had less than a month to come up with a new, taller rival, and they appealed to the public, which suggested about 100 candidates. The balsam fir they chose came from the Eastern Townships of Quebec, near the border with the United States.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s authentic and it’s a real tree that you find in the forests of Quebec,” Mr. Pelletier said. “We’re not pretending this is the most amazing, beautiful tree in the world.”

Facing a Nov. 30 deadline for unveiling the tree, the Sapin crew had to hurry. The tree was harvested, placed on a special flatbed truck and brought to Montreal under police escort within 72 hours. But a tight schedule and a tight budget meant that some corners were cut — and so was the tree.

Somehow, the tree that reached the closed-off section of St. Catherine Street where the market is held measured just 88 feet tall, six feet short of the one in Rockefeller Center. Mr. Pelletier’s brother Philippe, another principal in the company, said a bit sheepishly on Friday that they had simply settled for the tallest tree they could find in time.

And there was no time or money to give it the extensive arboreal spa treatment that the New York tree gets; all the workers could do was reattach, sometimes rather obviously, a few of the larger branches that had broken off in shipping."

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