The city of Syracuse is pulling out all the stops for this year’s tree lighting ceremony Friday, which for the first time ever features an artificial Christmas tree.
Gone are the days of chopping down and hauling 45-foot tall evergreens to Clinton Square in Syracuse to be installed as the city’s Christmas tree. The heartbeat of the city’s holiday celebration has been replaced by a 42-foot tall artificial tree with more than 10,000 multi colored LED lights on 400 panel branches. City officials admit they’ve heard some grumbling from central New Yorkers about the change, but parks department commissioner Julie LaFave doesn’t think the switch will dampen attendance at the yearly event.
"I think it reminds them of their own tradition in their own life what they do with their own family. It sparks memories of days past. People take their Christmas pictures here to be sent out to their family," LaFave said. "So it’s a part of everyone’s lives. It’s a different tradition and we’ll continue it in a different way."
One person who is for the change is Kevin Henry who works for the city parks department.
"It definitely saves the city a ton of money. This is an operation that used to take 40 people, between the skilled trade staff, the parks department, the police department closing down the street," said Henry. "This year we’re putting the tree up with four people. That is a cool process."
Another change is that, for the first time, the tree will be adorned with 1,200 ornaments.
"We have the ornaments are coming in four different colors. Green, Red, Gold and Silver, and three different sizes, four inch, six inch and eight-inch balls, and they're shatterproof so they should last a long time," LaFave said. "We figured if we are going to make this tree shine and beautiful and get people excited about it, people put ornaments on their own tree so why should we not do that?"
The lighting ceremony remains the evening after Thanksgiving, and along with the dance and music performances, ice skating and hot cocoa, there will be a special emcee. Mayor Ben Walsh pulled some family strings to get his cousin, Syracuse native Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob Squarepants, to help turn on the lights.
"It’s good for our parks department, it’s good for our employees, and it allows us to keep the tradition going, which is the most important thing," Walsh said.