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Rockefeller Christmas Tree Begins Journey From Morris County

80-foot Norway spruce cut from Mount Olive man's property.

One foot for every year.

The Christmas tree for the 80th annual Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony is an 80-foot tall Norway spruce that came down on Flanders-Drakestown Road in Mt. Olive on Tuesday morning.

This tree's felling was the first in weeks to be celebrated, rather than lamented, as the 10-ton tree wasn't part of the damage sustained during the recent visit by Hurricane Sandy. 

Joseph Balku, the Mount Olive resident who owns the property the tree resided on, said that the Nov. 12 festivities were the culmination of a whirlwind two months.

"They called me two months ago," Balku said. "And three weeks ago they told me my tree was selected and I was happy to donate it."

The street Balku lives on still shows scars of Hurricane Sandy, the storm that ravaged the state two weeks ago. Broken trees, orphaned limbs and stacked lumber are still part of the landscape. Many residents in attendance for the tree cutting ceremony just received power back within the last 24 hours. Balku said the storm made him nervous, but the chosen tree had its limbs wrapped and secured before the storm.

"I think that made a big difference," Balku said. "It would have been a much bigger target otherwise."

Balku has been a resident of Mount Olive since 1972, and said while he was accustomed to seeing his tree as a part of his landscape and would miss it once it was gone, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to share it.

"It is something everyone will see," Balku said. "It is something the whole country can enjoy."

A row of onlookers braved the cold and rainy morning to watch what many described as "history."

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Lisa Fezenko said.

Fezenko was there with her husband Doug and daughter Nicole.

"Our son is going to be upset," Fezenko said. "We put him on the bus for school before we found out about this."

Balku spent most of the morning speaking with reporters and friends, but was as excited as a kid on Christmas when the time came to take down the tree.

"I can't wait to see the big chainsaw," Balku said.

The "big chainsaw" and metal wedges and hammers made short work of the 50 foot stump. The crowd gasped audibly when the spruce came free, hoisted up by a crane and held steady like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float by workmen with mooring lines.

"That is just so cool," said Mount Olive resident Lori Eckhardt.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held in two weeks on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Leslie November 14, 2012 at 08:14 AM
As the original commenter, let me be clear. I have no objection to the cutting down of trees for use in holiday displays. I was noting the majestic placement of this tree in the middle of a residential yard. It seems like it would be missed. If the tree was indeed so old that it needed to come down soon anyway, ok. Otherwise, I'm suggesting they take the trees from more discreet places, not a yard where a stump is left behind. That's all.
gina s. November 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Tree huggers please lighten up.....I think everyone deserves a little happiness right now and the sight of this tree in NYC brings so much joy to so many people. Just relax.....
Anna Tivade November 14, 2012 at 12:04 PM
To XJS and others, Please use your fake tree for as long as possible. Fake trees don't disintegrate and are bad for the environment. After my fake tree is completely worn out I plan on using real trees again.
The Good Guy November 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM
One day the earth will rid itself of the infection that inhabits it. The "idiocracy" of humanity is clearly demonstrated by the comments on this and many other articles. If you don't like something, change it, otherwise shut up.
Hookerman November 14, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Why are you speaking then?
Geo November 14, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Well put Anna..
XJS November 14, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Agreed. Hence I keep it for 5-10 years. The last one lasted 9.
Sir November 14, 2012 at 04:46 PM
They can grind the stump.
centurion November 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I sure do hope that EVERYBODY is giving the same amount of time to help those in need this Christmas season as they are commenting the tree.
Tom G. November 14, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Give me a break people. They cut down ONE tree per YEAR. People talking about "deforestation" and whatever else are being completely ridiculous. Spruce/pine are about the ugliest species of trees out there. I paid over $1,000 to have them removed from my yard.
Al Beronio November 14, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I have large spruces bordering my property...they are probably 60+ years old. One broke off (not uprooted) about half way up and the twin trunks came down alongside my house, frighteningly close to it. The size was enough to do serious damage! To all those suggesting that an already-downed tree should have been selected, or one growing in the wild, I have some observations. A downed tree of the necessary size would have been destroyed in the process if it was even appropriately shaped and sized to begin with. A tree in the wild would be mishapen because of competetion from surrounding trees. After watching the process of cutting and removal, can someone tell me how it would be realistic to expect to get the necessary equipment into the middle of a woods to effect the removal?
Tryclyde November 14, 2012 at 06:22 PM
@ Nancy: I was posting in response to Antonio, not you. @ Jennifer: I know it was the neighbor's son, when did I say otherwise? Antonio and I interpreted it in completely opposite ways, why did you lump us together?
mel garie November 14, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I would have loved to donate one of my large trees rather than have them fall on 3 of my cars, totalling 2 of them, or another uprooting and thankfully missing my house but taking out the power to all my neighbors, and still another distroying our garden fence and one of our boats.
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Come on. That was not specifically forseeable. Should we all cut down all our trees that are within reach of houses and cars?
JAFO November 14, 2012 at 06:56 PM
This has to be the most asinine thread in the history of the Patch.
KenD November 14, 2012 at 07:52 PM
@Jafo, what's sad is it isn't.
Albertina Cooper November 14, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Absolutely agree with you! If this tree HAD fallen during the storm it would have caused a lot of damage. I know my folks were in the running to donate their tree one year. The tree was ending it life span and with each storm became more dangerous to have so close to the house. Unfortunately an early October storm that year broke a lot of branches and took the tree out of the running. It just became another storm damage statistic. It really was a shame that it couldn't have been enjoyed by more people while it still had the "perfect" Christmas tree shape!
hopatcong resident November 14, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I think the tree lighting in the city is spectacular it brings families close together with holiday cheer. I think everyone needs some cheering up after the storm I know my family does especially after two trees fell on my house and riped part of my roof off and families like myself who had no lights, heat or water for weeks. And families who don't have anywhere to go home to. That tree is no ordinary tree for me its holiday spirit its seeing so many families come closer together for the holiday's. If I had the chance to donate one of my trees I would in a heartbeat cause I see how my kids faces light up when they see that tree and it never gets old. I hope all of you's posting and ur families have a great thanksgiving and Christmas
mel garie November 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
ya we did have all the trees that could potentially come down on our house taken down........
XJS November 15, 2012 at 06:44 PM
KenD, True Story.
rottten76 November 17, 2012 at 01:23 AM
WOW!!!! Really people :( Good for you Mr. Balku! I personally would consider it a joy and an honor to donate a tree that's near the end of it's life span to be seen by a lot of people in Rockefeller Center! It's a sad world we live in where some people are actually arguing and saying nasty things about a man donating a Spruce tree to be decorated for Christmas. What ever happened to the good old saying of "if you don't have anything nice to say..." Happy Holidays Everyone :)
Terry November 17, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Happy holidays to you, too, rotten! Now I have a strange urge to shop at the Coach Outlet...
Liberty November 17, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Congratulations, Mr. Balku! What a generous donation for such a wonderful event! Many thousands of people will be filled with joy at the tree-lighting and weeks after. (I'm sure it will be much happier at Rock Center than perhaps lying on your house in the near future.)
Robin November 17, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Yes JAFO it is the most asinine thread. But what's even more asinine is that I read it!! Bah! Humbug! to all you tree nuts. I love going every year to Rock Center to see that tree. Can't wait to go this year. It's a great tradition, along with the Saks windows.
Leisa Hudson Hamill November 17, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I read many of the comments left here and it would be nice to use an artificial tree, but I doubt they make them as large as the natural ones that are cut down each year (besides the cost of storing the darn thing, right?). Is it only me or don't they look much larger on television than they do in real life (MY BF at the time brought me to see one over 30 years ago and I was disappointed because I always thought it would be the size of a California Redwood!)? It would have been nice to have used one that had fallen during the storm, but I doubt anyone could find one that was undamaged due to the hurricane which would also be of the same type, size, etc. I also think I disagree (with someone's previous comment) that the tradition of "Christmas Trees" go back "thousands" of years (I read it's been almost 1,000 years because of its' association with St. Boniface) But it is nice to see that not even a hurricane or northeaster can stop a tradition that makes soo many people happy even in the time of calamity. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, .HAPPY KWANZAA, FELIZ NAVIDAD and whatever else I may have missed....so Happy Everything!!! :)
Sue November 18, 2012 at 05:23 AM
The Norway Spruce is a tree with a definitive life span. The Rockefeller folks cut the ones at the end of theirs. Read The Christmas Tree by Julie Salmon. You'll realize its soon-to-be-demise was inevitable and probably salvaged from Sandy by its wrapping. At least more people then just Mt. Olive visitors can enjoy its beauty and enjoy it as a symbolic reference to faith. Something we can all use today.
Tryclyde November 18, 2012 at 05:28 PM
The tradition of bringing evergreens into the home during the winter goes back more than 1,000 years.
Hookerman November 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Actually, it pre-dates the birth of Christ, and was originally for the purpose of celebrating the winter solstace. The practice became combined with Christmas traditions when Christmas was moved to 12/25.
David Hamilton November 29, 2012 at 08:35 AM
I like trees. But trees get cut all the time. This one is just another log, really, possibly, even, a liability in it's original location. BUT, I think the emotional aspect of this event is more a matter of THIS tree being a survivor of such an horrendous national catastrophe. It goes against the grain to see something akin to "the last man standing" getting whacked after having stood the 'test of storm'...........pretty ironic. Wow! It made it! "Timber"!...Doh! On one hand I LOL at the absurdity. On the other I appreciate what it does for the owner and the people who will enjoy it. The tree will build a house and give an old guy a moment of excitement and feeling of contributing to a bit of happiness for who knows how many people. Not a bad way to top off your golden years..........if it really bothers you, go out and plant some trees.........
David Hamilton November 29, 2012 at 08:37 AM
I like trees. But trees get cut all the time. This one is just another log, really, possibly, even, a liability in it's original location. BUT, I think the emotional aspect of this event is more a matter of THIS tree being a survivor of such an horrendous national catastrophe. It goes against the grain to see something akin to "the last man standing" getting whacked after having stood the 'test of storm'...........pretty ironic. Wow! It made it! "Timber"!...Doh! On one hand I LOL at the absurdity. On the other I appreciate what it does for the owner and the people who will enjoy it. The tree will build a house and give an old guy a moment of excitement and feeling of contributing to a bit of happiness for who knows how many people. Not a bad way to top off your golden years..........if it really bothers you, go out and plant some trees.........

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