“This is a really nice one,” said city arborist Mike Kelley, who has worked for Sparks for the last 24 Christmases. Kelley has been around for all but one of the 25 Sparks Hometowne Christmas events, so when he judges this year’s Douglas Fir against the others, he knows what he’s talking about.
“These guys make sure we get a nice one,” Kelley added.
The tree is a yearly gift from Sparks’ sister city of Garibaldi, Ore. The tradition began in 1982 when Sparks local Norm Nielsen lamented to a friend from Garibaldi that he missed living where Christmas trees grew. The friend, Patricia Bash, said she would cut one down and bring it to Nielsen in Sparks.
The gift eventually started a city-wide excursion from Garibaldi to Sparks, where Oregon locals would hop the “Christmas tree express” and join Sparks for the holidays. Citizens of Garibaldi would often travel to Sparks for the Hometowne Christmas Parade and, in return, the city of Sparks sends a delegation to Garibaldi every summer for the town’s July Garibaldi Days parade.
Today, the tree is delivered on a large flatbed truck in the early morning of the Monday after Thanksgiving. Logger Dave Stein has been choosing and cutting the tree for more than 30 years.
“We got this tree where we were getting trees 30 years ago,” Stein said about the tree delivered to Sparks on Monday. “This one’s grown up since, so we’re on the second rotation now.”
Stein said that when he looks for a tree to bring to Sparks, he looks for the best one that he can get to. Once the tree is selected, it is carefully cut down by a team of people and placed on a truck driven by Terry Freeman to be hauled the 575 miles from Oregon’s central coast to Nevada’s high desert. Last year’s trip was met with a lot of snow, Freeman said, but this year was smooth sailing.
This week the 58-foot tree will be decorated with LED lights and ornaments for Friday’s lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m.