Commonwealth Journal

November 27, 2013

New-look Fountain Square welcomes its first Christmas tree

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

A new-look Fountain Square deserves a new-look Christmas tree.
The official 2013 downtown Christmas tree went up on Tuesday, albeit in decidedly less-than-festive conditions. City of Somerset workers floated the tree into its new home on top of the Fountain Square centerpiece under a cold, persistent rain.
Yet the holiday spirits of those tasked with bringing Christmas alive in the center of Somerset weren’t dampened by the weather.
“We really enjoy it, and we’re looking forward to giving back to the community as much as we can,” said Ian Owens of Owens Garden Center, a family-owned business located off Ky. 461 that donated the tree this year.
The most recent edition of the downtown Somerset Christmas tree stands about 17 feet high, with a width of about 10 feet, noted Owens.
If that seems a little smaller than usual, it is — past trees have reached about 20 feet in height. However, there’s a good reason for that, said Owens.
“Proportionately, it will be a nice fit, considering the size of the fountain,” said Owens. “It has a nice width compared to the height.
“A lot of times when you get trees taller than 18-foot, it gets into issues of being too woody,” he added. “It wouldn’t be as full as this tree would be.”
Plus, the less weighty tree would be easier on the custom-made platform designed to hold the tree aloft, fitted onto the new fountain on the square. Tiffany Bourne, Community Development Director, said that it would prove safer, with wires going into the fountain to support the tree rather than stretched out across the square where people are walking.
The tree actually came from Jefferson, North Carolina, a place called “the Frasier Fir Capital of the World,” according to Owens. His family’s store carries holiday products in the fall, including hand-made wreaths and garlands, and acquires Frasier Fir trees — “the actual, true Christmas tree” — from North Carolina.
“They have Christmas trees like we have corn and soybeans,” he said. “It’s astronomical. You can go down there and see thousands and thousands of Christmas trees on the side of the road.
“It’s fresh-cut; that tree was standing last week,” he added. “It was one of the nicer trees they had. ... Really nice and full, with a nice height as well.”
Decorating the tree will be the Somerset Garden Club, spearheaded by Dale Crockett, Suzanne Rutledge and Phyllis Coffey — and they have a new vision in store for the old familiar tree.
Gone are the classic colorful balls which beautified the tree for years upon years — this year’s tree will have a decidedly minimalist approach, losing the ornaments and going instead with lights only on the body of the tree.
The lights are updated as well, going with an LED model over the bigger bulbs of the past. They’ll be multi-color lights, totaling about 5,000 in number.
“They’ll be better for energy costs and we’ll be able to use the lights for several years,” said Bourne. “... In the past, we’ve probably had half that number of lights.”
The Somerset Garden raised money to acquire the new lights, and have also made provisions to keep the lights in safe storage, to hopefully keep them working for as long as a decade.
“It’s a big undertaking,” said Crockett. “We really admired Tiffany in the past when she’s done this. It’s really too big a job for one person.”
The extra helping hand the club will provide also includes a new feature for the top of the tree: a silver LED shining star. In the past, the tree has gone without a topper.
“It’s really hard to put something on top,” she said, “but they’ve done a good job researching it and figuring out a food way to wire it on so it will stay.”
Bourne said the community is “really lucky” to have the Somerset Garden Club and the Master Gardeners, for all they’ve done to help beautify areas like the Fountain Square.
Added Crockett, “We’re really excited about doing (all of this).”
The 2013 Christmas tree in sponsored by the Somerset Garden Club, Owens Garden Center, TTAI, Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Somerset Morning Rotary Club, Friends of the Bar Association, Monticello Banking Company, Pulaski County Government, and the City of Somerset.
The tree will be lit in a special annual ceremony on Saturday, December 7, immediately following the Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, which begins at 5 p.m.