It’s one of Manhattan’s most famous holiday traditions: the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. People flock from all over the world during the festive season to gaze upon and take pictures of the giant decoration. And this year, it traces is roots to the Valley.
The 78-foot-tall Norway spruce has stood majestically in the front yard of Albert Asendorf’s house in Gardiner for at least 58 years; his family moved there in 1957, and he remembers it already being on the property at the time. He also recalls playing and climbing on it with the other neighborhood children, and subsequent generations doing the same.
Asendorf considered removing the massive tree (it’s 47 feet in diameter and weighs in at 10 tons) for fear it might topple and damage his home. But rather than simply taking it down, he decided to research the Rockefeller tree selection process first.
He tells the New York Daily News that, in May of last year, he found the appropriate Web site, inserted the spruce’s stats, and then played the waiting game. In August, officials visited him and inspected the potential plant. More waiting ensued interspersed with a few more visits. Then, just last month, he was notified that his tree made the cut — literally.
On Wednesday, November 4, with a crowd of about 150 cheering Gardiner residents, the approximately 80-year-old tree was removed from his front yard.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Asendorf tells the Poughkeepsie Journal, referring to the mixed emotions of the day. “Maybe when I’m driving down the street [and don’t see it, it will], who knows?” Still, Asendrof is glad that his tree, which is expected to arrive in Rockefeller Center on November 6, will bring Christmas cheer to thousands.
The annual tree lighting ceremony, an 83-year Big Apple tradition, takes place on December 2 from 7-9 p.m., and will be broadcast on NBC. Though it is free and open to the public on a first come, first serve basis, Asendorf was given tickets that ensures him and his family a spot at the evening’s festivities, where he will see his spruce decked out in five miles of colored lights and a Swarovski crystal star.
Besides warming hearts during the holidays, the tree will help to literally give warmth to those in need. For the ninth consecutive year, the tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, after it comes down in January. In the true spirit of Christmas, it will be made into lumber and subsequently used to construct homes for underprivileged families.