New downtown Christmas tree ready to anchor annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony

By Downtown Manchester Special Services District
Manchester - posted Wed., Nov. 27, 2013
Tree donors Dianne and Jeff Hedrick pose by the 20-foot Balsam fir selected as the new downtown community Christmas tree. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Downtown Manchester received an early Christmas gift this holiday season – a new downtown Christmas tree.

In October of 2012, Storm Sandy caused significant damage to the community Christmas tree located on the lawn of St. James Church, lopping off its top and leaving a very large “bush” in its place.

The damaged tree gamely fulfilled its duties during the 2012 holiday season. Dubbed the “Charlie Brown Tree,” it served as the centerpiece of the annual Downtown Tree-Lighting Ceremony and remained a colorfully-lit (if shorter) beacon to those who walked or drove down Main Street throughout the month of December.

Alas, the damage to the tree was too great. It was removed in the fall of 2013 and the search for a new tree began.

The Downtown District put out a call for a donated tree, and more than 50 individuals responded. The trees were evaluated based on size, shape, condition, access and distance from the downtown. Site visits were made to some of the most promising prospects.

Although there were many trees that would have made a beautiful community Christmas tree, only one could be chosen. The tree that was selected is a 16-year-old, 20-foot Balsam fir. It was donated by Jeff and Dianne Hedrick of Glastonbury.

The new tree has a warm family history. It was given to the Hedrick family 16 years ago as a condolence gift by their neighbors who own a Christmas tree farm in Coventry. The Hedricks had just lost a beloved family dog named “Crackers.” The neighbors thought that watching the tiny tree grow would be a comfort. Through the years, the same neighbors kept an eye on the tree to make sure it stayed healthy, giving it an occasional trimming. As the tree grew larger, the Hedrick family began to decorate the tree, which was located in their front yard. It became a symbol of the holiday for the small neighborhood where they live.

Diane and Jeff Hedrick began their married life in an apartment just off of Main Street in downtown Manchester. When they read about the need for a new downtown community Christmas tree, they thought that their former hometown might make a fine new home for their fir tree, which had grown so vigorously that it was becoming too large for its location.

The generosity of the Hedrick family was matched by the generosity of two Manchester groups: Cruisin’ on Main Street and the Manchester Rotary Foundation. Although the tree itself was donated, the cost of moving the tree, as well as site preparation and site repair, still had to be met. Cruisin’ on Main Street and the Manchester Rotary Foundation stepped forward with donations of $2,845 and $1,000, respectively.

On Dec. 5, “Crackers” the Christmas tree will herald the beginning of a new holiday season in downtown Manchester when it is lit-up at the annual Downtown Christmas Tree-Lighting Ceremony taking place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the lawn of St. James Church, at 896 Main St. The Downtown Manchester Special Services District and the community are grateful to those individuals and groups who gave downtown Manchester its early Christmas gift.

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