The Highland Park tree lighting on Thursday honored old traditions while making a new one.
The 150-year-old Big Pecan tree that was traditionally lit with strands of lights for Christmas was cut down because of its age in October, but a ‘sister’ tree near the old one at the intersection of Armstrong Parkway and Preston Road that was grafted from the big tree in 1951, was adorned with 5,000 lights instead. The Highland Park High School Lads and Lassies choir sang carols and vendors offered snacks, face painting, a train ride and more.
“The new tree is not all that new; it’s 75 years old or so… It’s not as big as the one we had to take down, but then it’s just half the age, too, so we’re looking for great things out of this tree in the future, and we hope that we can celebrate with it for another 100 years,” Mayor Margo Goodwin said.
She said town officials decided to call the new tree the Landmark Tree and added that there was a big turnout for this year’s event, but that may be as attributable to the mild weather as anything else.
Goodwin said wood from the original monarch pecan tree is being kiln dried and they plan to make commemorative items with it.
Family members of Joseph Cole, the Civil War veteran who saved the sapling that would become the Big Pecan tree, including his great-granddaughter Patricia Purcell Bagnall and great-great-grandchildren Jamie and Anita Bagnall, attended the first tree lighting with the new tree.
“The (Big Pecan tree) was a symbol of Highland Park,” Jamie said. “It was bittersweet.”
Murray Holland attended the event as well, as he’s done since the 1960s.
“You have to,” Holland said when asked about continuing the tradition at a new tree. “It’s a very important part of the tradition that makes this town a nice place to live.”
Kim Holland said she’s attended for the last five years, too, and enjoyed the choir.