A 40-foot Christmas tree installed Tuesday morning in downtown Little Rock replaced one about 15 feet taller that was set to be sent to Arkansas' capital city before it was vandalized on Pacific Northwest timberland, the supplier said.
By around 11 a.m., crews had lifted the white fir into place and securely fastened it into its base at the intersection of Main Street and West Capitol Avenue. The tree was shipped in from southern Oregon.
Onlookers walked past the display, snapping photos of what city leaders hope will be a new holiday tradition in the city’s downtown area. Nearby, crews continued work on sidewalk improvements to the public space.
George Jones of Jones Forest Products in Grants Pass, Ore., told Arkansas Online by phone Tuesday that he originally intended to supply a 55-foot tree for the Little Rock display.
But the company discovered during preparations for shipment that the evergreen, already chopped down, had been used for target practice, Jones said.
Jones said he was deeply saddened by the vandalism, noting the lengthy process it takes to produce a tree of that height and scope.
“It was very unfortunate,” he said.
That type of damage was the first he had experienced during his time in business. He filed a report with area authorities, and no arrests had been made as of Tuesday.
The next tree closest in size stood at a height of 40 feet. It was loaded up and shipped out last week for its nearly 2,230-mile journey to Arkansas’ capital city, Jones said.
Multi-colored lights and a tree-topper designed by Pine Bluff-based glassblower James Hayes will soon be added. A lighting ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Monday.
The topper, visible from a downtown glass window, was being stored at the Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery off Main Street as of Tuesday.
Private donations from individuals and businesses footed the bill. The Downtown Little Rock Partnership has raised nearly $35,000 toward the project.
“By adding a tree of this size, we hope that even more people will come down and enjoy the beauty of the tree,” said Gabe Holmstrom, the partnership’s executive director.
Any leftover funding will go toward next year’s expenses, Holmstrom said.
Jones said those behind this year’s installation have already reached out with their hopes to double the holiday display’s height. Next year’s lofty goal: an 85-foot tree.
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Photos by Brandon Riddle
Photos by Brandon Riddle