“It usually takes about five hours of us driving around to find a tree,” Freeman said as he and Stein laughed about their adventures in Oregon finding the perfect tree for Sparks.
The tree has been a traditional gift from Sparks’ sister city, Garibaldi, since 1982.
“They at first did it with a pickup truck,” Freeman said with a chuckle, recounting the first tree’s journey to Sparks.
Rolling in on a logger’s truck, this year’s 6,000-pound tree was hoisted into its place on Victorian Avenue near 10th Street Monday under the eye of Stein, Freeman and a handful of Sparks maintenance workers.
The live tree swung in mid-air after leaving the truck, attached to two cranes, as workers carefully guided its trunk into the sidewalk. Even after its trunk was lowered into an 8-foot hole in the sidewalk, the tree stretched 50 feet above the ground.
City maintenance crews then pulled out boxes of brightly colored lights and balls to hang on the tree throughout this week. The tree’s official lighting ceremony will take place Friday from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
The tree delivery is a tradition older than the annual Sparks Hometowne Christmas Parade. It allegedly began 27 years ago when Sparks local Norm Nielsen lamented to a Garibaldi friend 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.
Representatives from Garibaldi have been joining the Sparks Hometowne Christmas parade ever since. According to an Oct. 14 article in Garibaldi’s newspaper, the Headlight Herald, more than 40 people from the small town have signed up to come to Sparks this year.
On Saturday, the 23rd annual Sparks Hometowne Christmas parade will travel past the tree from east to west on Victorian Avenue and run from 1 to 3 p.m.
In return, the city of Sparks sends a delegation to Garibaldi every summer for the town’s July Garibaldi Days parade.
However, the Freemans and the Steins will not be participating in the parade. After delivering the tree, the two men and their wives will head back to Oregon.
“There is still work there to do,” said Teresa Freeman, Terry Freeman’s wife.