Wednesday, December 5, 2012

West Palm Beach Does It Again!

     Well, once again, the story is out of the Palm Beaches--West Palm Beach to be specific.

     This time, however, the story is not about a flubbed election, hanging chads, butterfly ballot, or squabbling candidates. This time, the story is holiday history. Palm Beach County, in addition to the odd election snafu, has a history of unusual Christmas trees. Here's a picture of this year's contender:

     Constructed in downtown West Palm Beach along Flagler Drive, this 35 foot Christmas tree is breathtaking. The day I was there, camera in hand, people were walking around it in awe. How did they do that? Built by Team Sandtastic, a professional sand sculpture company, the tree took 400 tons of sand. And on December 6, they're even going to light it up in a tree lighting ceremony. How's that for ringing in the holiday season?

     Part of Sand and Sea-son's Greetings holiday celebration sponsored by the City of West Palm Beach, the big tree is only part of the story. Spread out around downtown are several smaller sculptures. Maps are available on the fencing surrounding the tree. There's also an "aqua trolley" available to help people get around to see everything, including a sand Santa's workshop in front of City Hall.

     The Sand and Sea-son display is running through the month of December.

     Of course, this is only the latest in local Christmas tree lore. 

     Still going strong is the 100 foot tree constructed on Old School Square along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. This behemoth has been going up every November for twenty years. While it's man made, it's still impressive. The tree literally towers over the school and every building nearby. It's hollow and for a small donation, one can walk inside to see holiday displays.

     The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority has added a holiday carousel and an ice skating rink to the fun. Ice skating! In Florida!

     You can enjoy this tree until the beginning of 2013.

     Neither of these two fantastic trees were the first in Palm Beach County holiday history, though.

     In 1971, Generoso Pope, founder of the National Enquirer, along with his wife, Lois, erected a huge living (or recently living) tree on the property of the newspaper for the employees. When Pope noticed that people were slowing down as they drove by the newspaper's headquarters on Federal Highway in Lantana, a tradition was born.

     The tree always came by rail from the northwest and every year a larger tree was chosen. 

     It entered the Guiness Book of World Records in 1979 as the "World's Largest Decorated Christmas Tree" when it hit 117 feet. The Christmas displays gradually took over the grounds of the newspaper and grew to include toy trains, faux gingerbread houses and traditional holiday displays. It became THE display that just couldn't be missed and became a highlight of the holiday season for thousands of residents and tourists alike. 

     By 1987, the tree was 126 feet tall, and over 1 and a half million people toured the grounds that year alone. The last tree was erected in 1988. Pope passed away that year and the paper was later sold.

     If you get a chance this December, head over and take a look at the two fantastic trees still standing in the Florida sun. Make sure you get your picture taken next to the tree or trees of your choice. We thought the National Enquirer tree would always pop up every December and never bothered to have our picture taken by it. The Delray Beach tree has a good start, but who knows how long these two will be around?

    UPDATE: Wellington's own Cassadee Pope, now a contestant on The Voice, performed at the tree lightning held at Clematis by Night December 6. All reports are that she was fantastic, as usual. Congrats to Cassadee on her continuing success on The Voice and good luck heading into the finals!