Good Tidings

The Downtown Redding Christmas Tree with Jim Calhoun…

There’s something new in store for a Redding holiday tradition that’s marking its 101st year this month.

The 70-foot fir tree proudly standing at its historic location at the corner of Market and Yuba streets is sporting new snowflake ornaments, courtesy of Viva Downtown. “We thought we’d gussy it up a little more this year,” says John Truitt, Viva’s executive director.

The tree also is festooned with cheery lights, thanks to a boom truck and linemen with Redding Electric Utility. The final results will be unveiled during the official tree-lighting ceremony scheduled for Friday, Dec. 4th.

Lights and decorations are just part of the tree’s story, however. The tale starts much earlier in the year when Jim Calhoun, the supervisor of REU’s tree-trimming crews, joins with Ted James, manager of Sierra Pacific Industries’ Lassen district, to locate a suitable candidate to mark the Christmas season.

Photo courtesy of Redding Electric Utility

The tree, always a white fir, is selected from Sierra Pacific forestland at about 4,000 feet elevation in the Viola area. Any higher up and snowfall becomes an issue, Calhoun says, and the ideal tree needs to be close to a logging road to accommodate the needed equipment.

Unlike conventional logging operations where a felled tree simply crashes to the forest floor, the process of harvesting Redding’s tree is more surgical precision than Paul Bunyan exercise video. To protect the tree’s branches, a cable is attached to the tree about two-thirds of the way up (a Headrick Logging crew member in a 70-foot aerial lift is assigned this task) and secured to a crane (donated by Dura Crane of Anderson).

The suspended tree is then carefully placed, trunk forward, on a truck-and-trailer rig (provided by Headrick Logging) and hauled into town. “We do it on a Sunday so there’s less traffic on the road. The CHP escorts us,” Calhoun says. Limbs are tied down to ensure the load slides unscathed under Highway 44 overpasses.

Photo via: Viva Downtown
Photo via: Viva Downtown
Photo via: REU

“It’s a fun day unless it snows a lot, then it can be pretty rough. The year it snowed a foot, we had all kinds of problems. We had to use the crane to get the trucks back on the road,” Calhoun says. The public is invited to the tree-cutting operation, which is held in early November. Sierra Pacific provides hot cocoa to help ward off the chill, adds Kristy Lanham, a community relations manager for the Anderson-based forestry company.

“We don’t know what to expect with the weather but we always know we’ll get a great tree,” says Truitt, who adds that Viva Downtown is grateful for Sierra Pacific’s donation and REU’s help with a tradition going back for 101 years.

Sierra Pacific has been honored to provide the community tree for more than 15 years, Lanham says. “This is by far a very special partnership with the City of Redding and especially for the community. The excitement behind it is a long-standing tradition,” she adds. Sierra Pacific also donates a large tree for the Veterans Home of California on Knighton Road.

Once in downtown Redding, the tree is installed in the 14-foot-deep tree stand that was created last year through a $60,000 project spearheaded by Viva Downtown. Partners in the effort included the McConnell Foundation ($40,000), the Redding Chamber of Commerce ($10,000) and $5,000 each from the Midtown Mall Benefit Corp. and the Community Foundation of the North State.

The Redding Christmas tree had stood in the middle of the California Street parking structure for the previous 40 years. Construction on the $67 million Block 7 housing and retail complex forced the tree back to its historic location.

“This tree belongs to everybody,” Truitt says. “I hope everybody comes and takes a look. Take a picture of your family with the tree and make it a holiday tradition.”

About Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a Redding-based writer with 37 years of experience. A longtime San Francisco Giants fan, his interests include golf, fishing and sharing stories about people, places and things. He can be reached at [email protected]

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