If at first you don’t succeed, submit your gigantic tree again.
Last year, the Spangler family of Western Springs’ Field Park neighborhood in the contest to have their front-yard blue spruce featured as Chicago’s official Christmas. Though they reached the finals, they eventually lost out to a 70-foot evergreen from McHenry.
They hadn’t intended to re-enter in this year’s competition—until family, friends and, yes, the City of Chicago itself suggested it.
“Last year, we were all hopeful and excited,” Klaudia Spangler said. “This year, we were more matter-of-fact about it, and my daughter [Hope, 19] said, ‘then this is the year you’ll probably win.’”
And so they did.
The 55-foot, approximately 80-year-old blue spruce will become Chicago’s Christmas tree after being removed from the Village on Nov. 3, trucked into the city and grandly lit in a ceremony in Daley Plaza on Nov. 23.
“When we first moved here, I’d always envisioned lighting the whole tree,” Spangler said. “I’d always imagined the tree lit from top to bottom, but it just wasn’t feasible. So now I’m going to get to fulfill that!”
Half-drowning in a sea of publicity—“this is our 15 minutes of fame,” commented Don Spanger, Klaudia’s husband—the Spanglers, along with son Aiden, 16—spent much of Thursday giving interviews and looking through old photos, some very old (1930’s old) that show the tree as a five-foot-tall bushy sapling.
They were surprised when a TV news crew told them that the crew had already shot aerial footage of their home and tree via helicopter—and then stunned at the proportions of things, which they’d never really considered.
“We’re rarely ever 3,000 feet in the air,” Don Spangler laughed. “It actually gives you a better perspective on the size of the tree relative to the house.”
The Spanglers’ success came partially through long-distance support—including grassroots vote campaigns from family as far-flung as California, Switzerland and Croatia—and partially from just having a darn good tree, one that prompted a direct appeal from the City to re-enter it.
In the end, they were proclaimed the victors by over 700 votes. And even as they handled interviews and watched themselves on morning news, a work crew was outside beginning to tie up the topmost branches of the spruce.
When the tree is removed next Thursday, it will be hoisted into the air by a giant crane and set aboard a flatbed truck. It’ll be a somewhat bittersweet moment for the Spanglers, but one they’ve foreseen for some time now. The roots have been beginning to invade the foundation, and the damage sustained by trees in recent storms has been an ominous portent.
“It’s sad, and that’s what everyone says—‘aren’t you going to miss the tree?’” Klaudia Spangler said. “What I’ve been saying is that I’d rather have it fall and end up the center of attention in Chicago, than fall and end up the center of my house!
“If it’s going to go, how nice for it to go in such a grand fashion.”
While Western Springs can take great pride in one of its treasured trees rising to such a lofty ceremonial status, there remains a more local contest still at large, actually inspired by the Spangler tree: to determine which local evergreen will become the to grace .
Oct. 28, 1:17 p.m.: Chicago's 2011 Christmas tree will come from Western Springs, the city officially announced this morning.
The 55-foot tall blue spruce from the home of Don and Klaudia Spangler, Field Park residents on the 4100 block of Johnson Avenue, is scheduled to be removed on November 3rd via crane and trucked into the city for a Nov. 23 grand lighting.
This is the second year the Spanglers have entered their tree in the competition after , being eventually edged out by an McHenry 70-foot evergreen.
The tree is estimated to be 70-80 years old. Photos from the 1930's show the tree as little more than a bushy sapling.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Spangler tree won over finalists from Glenview and Northlake by over 700 votes.