City succeeds in final search for holiday tree

Ryan Wangman, Reporter

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Much like Whoville in the wake of the Grinch’s visit, the city of Evanston needed a miracle to save the holiday. Without a holiday tree to place in downtown Evanston’s Fountain Square, the city conducted a sylvan search for its first and final time.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said Fountain Square will be redesigned next year with a permanent evergreen tree to be planted in its center, so this will likely be the last year city officials need to find a tree.

In the past, the Evanston community donated trees to the square, but this year, every potential tree offered as a donation was too hard to remove from its location or wasn’t attractive enough, forcing the City to actively hunt for a tree, Wynne said.

“We were certainly hoping that we would find the right tree,” she said. “When it was getting to the deadline, we were hoping to find (any) tree. If (it was) 19 feet? Fine.”

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, a business non-profit in charge of orchestrating the lighting of the tree, said the holiday tree traditionally has to be at least 20 feet tall and has to look presentable in a 360-degree radius, as the entire tree is visible when placed in the center of the Fountain Square.

With the holiday season fast approaching, city officials called a press conference to spread publicity about the pressing need for a tree.

“In a couple days we had tree offers from 73 people from all over, from as far as Naperville,” Coakley said. “Ultimately, we found a tree right here in Evanston on Main Street. It just took a little extra PR to get the right tree for us.”

Wynne said the City found its 20-foot tall holiday tree shortly after the press release was sent out. Everybody wins in the tree donating process, she said.

“The property owner (gets rid of) a tree that they don’t need anymore or that might be causing problems,” Wynne said. “The city gets a tree for the celebration, and then of course it’s mulched and then recycled back into mulch underneath trees in Evanston.”

The new holiday tree will be installed in Fountain Square on Dec. 5, and the tree lighting will take place on Dec. 9. It will be Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s last tree lighting, as she will not seek re-election for a third mayoral term this upcoming April.

Twitter: @ryanwangman