Topic: Christmas tree in Garden Place Hamilton
The 25 metre tall tree is one of the largest artificial Christmas trees in New Zealand. It took over 3 weeks to put it up. It has 10,000 individual branches,over 3500 coloured baubles and 120,000 LCD lights on it. Dozens of volunteers worked alongside contractors to get the tree ready on time.
Councillor Di Maio says the project to put up the tree has been a combined business and community effort, and now that it is up in Garden Place and being decorated, it is something that everyone can enjoy." We believe our timing for the tree couldn't have been better. Obviously there is talk of harder financial times ahead for many, but by establishing a focal point for celebration at Christmas and by creating something that people can take pleasure in, there is a real chance of spirits being lifted. Dozens of volunteers worked alongside contractors to get the tree ready on time."
According to Councillor Di Maio, he had the idea to put up the Christmas tree for a number of years, but it was difficult achieve it mainly due to the financial cost. When it was removed from the Annual plan, Councillor Di Maio, with the backing from Roger Hennebry and Gordon Chesterman, decided to go ahead with the idea by seeking sponsorship from businesses either in cash or kind. He says "I had a great response; they understood the spirit behind the idea and came forward to make it happen. Many of the sponsors such as Porters, who supplied the cranes and other heavy machinery. The work they did, went beyond much beyond what they would have paid in cash donation. It was totally a tread in dark" .The tree and the baubles were ordered from China after advance payment. A-Z firm helped with erection of the tree.
Councillor Joe spoke about the interesting challenges they faced on the way. "We had to unpack 10,000 individual branches each packed in their plastic bags. Each branch had to be taken out and fluffed out. They were then transported to the top and hung from the frame. Next step was to hang 3500 baubles in different colours which were 100, 200, 250 and 300 mm wide. Then we had to find a string that was strong enough to hold 100 kgs of weight. We went and brought special fishing strings which could hold that weight. 7-8 people were required to carry each string and then it was hosted on the top with the forklift. I stood at the bottom feeding the string. After which each string was bounced till they were in straight line. Then 120,000 LCD lights were connected. The electrician had a problem on hand i.e. the power supply in Garden Place was not enough, so a transformer had to be used underneath the tree to power it. It took three electricians working for almost a week to complete the job. There were 4 tonnes of concrete blocks holding up the tree and securing it with belts. It was a great learning experience as well as a great feeling as people were backing it up all the way "
The Christmas tree is contracted to go up for the next 3 yrs, though it may not be at the same place. The present location was selected as the whole event was recorded free by the TVNZ weather cameras. It will be pulled down on 6th of January. There were festivities and entertainment including concerts, singers, dancers and a range of other performers for two weeks around the tree leading up to the lights going on at 9pm. They were attended by 3000-4000 people; Garden Place has never seen so many people gathering togather like this before.
Councillor Di Maio says in future he will start planning early and involve the schools and parents. "There is a tremendous amount of talent in the New Zealand Community which is untapped. I want to bring the young ones and old ones together for this event so that it becomes a family affair, something for all to look forward to. We want to make a statement that Hamilton is no longer just a cow town, but where events happen "
He further said "I believe the Christmas tree is an unclassified event and has an opportunity to expand to become a number 1 event. It can be improved by pulling the business community together including the shop keepers who have traditionally decorated their shops for Christmas. It is one event that can pull people from all cultures together to celebrate."
Check out the time lapse video: contributed by Waikato Times - Photographer : Peter Drury