by Caroline Golmic, Aflac
When Scott and I first started planning “Let There Be Lights” weekend on behalf of the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce, we were trying to think of what could help make the evening epic. When we walked past the Community Plaza, Scott immediately started dreaming of having a huge tree lit in the circle amphitheater.
We looked at some artificial trees online that were 17 to 20 feet and quickly realized they were far out of the Chamber’s budget. The next day, we started calling around to all of the local Christmas tree farms to see if anyone had large trees. The only local farm that carried a tall enough tree was Grupps Christmas Tree Farm in Harmony. Jack Grupp invited us out for a personal tour of his farm. When we explained that we were looking for the “awe factor,” he took us to the largest tree on his farm, standing 29.5 feet! Jack gave us an incredible price on the tree because he knew it was going to play a big role in our Light Up Night.
Our next hurdle was, “How are we going to transport a 29.5 foot tree from Harmony to Ellwood City?” I spoke with Randy Gatto from the Borough’s Street Dept. to pick his brain and without hesitation he said he would lend the borough’s trailer and a driver from his crew. Tree, check. Transportation, check. Now, how do we get this thing to stand?
Borough Manager Bob Villella is on our Let There Be Lights weekend committee and has been integral to our fundraising. He and I were meeting to discuss some of our ideas for the weekend and Mark Linville from the Electric Dept. was sitting in on the meeting to ensure we had a plan in place for all of our lights. When Mark heard about this tree, he immediately volunteered to make sure our tree would stand and also would help in decorating the tree. He and his guys built a huge stand for the tree and were true to their word in making the tree stand. They then used bucket trucks to hang lights and decorations.
Lights and decorations! How and where do we get enough to decorate this massive tree? My husband, Scott, had mentioned to a good friend of ours, Ron Geddes, that we were on the hunt for Christmas lights for this tree. Ron’s response was, “I’ll take care of it.” That night, Ron called us to come over to his home and filled our trunk with 7,500 lights he had purchased for the tree! He said he did it because it was for Ellwood City. My husband and I provided a sponsorship via our Aflac business and purchased additional lights and decorations for the tree.
The icing on the cake happened at an Ellwood City Revitalization meeting a few weeks ago. Lenore Bazzichi asked the Ellwood City Revitilization board if they’d be willing to pitch in to help purchase the tree from Grupps Farm and sure enough, Brian Bush spoke up and said he would sponsor the tree from his businesses, Mr. B’s Lawn Service, Look At My Homes LLC, and American Guardian Protection Inc.
What makes an enormous Christmas tree being lit even better? Fireworks of course. We wanted the lighting of the tree to be exciting and thought having fireworks would make that happen. Frank Condell from the Volunteer Fire Dept. has been a huge help in connecting us with Zambelli Fireworks. He has been the middleman and will be on-site that evening to ensure everyone’s safety. Fireworks aren’t cheap, though! Mike Mooney from WesBanco really stepped up to the plate and provided sponsorship for our fireworks this year.
So, somehow, in a two month time frame, we found and purchased a 29.5 foot Christmas tree, had it transported, stood upright and decorated, all because a number of people working and living in our community were generous with their time and money and were willing to help make this dream a reality.
“What Ellwood City builds, builds Ellwood City.”
Light Up Night is being held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4. We can’t wait to see the tree light up at 6:30! The community can truly take pride in this tree, because the community made it happen.
Some fun facts about the tree:
- Weighs 800 pounds
- Stands 29.5 feet tall
- Decorated with 10,000 lights (up from the previously quoted 7,500)
- Decorated with over 500 ornaments
- Tallest tree ever sold at Grupps Christmas Tree Farm