As fall starts to slip away, this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is getting ready to embark on its journey from Vestal to the heart of Manhattan.
The 2023-24 season’s tree, weighing approximately 12 tons, is a Norway Spruce standing 80 feet tall, with a diameter of 43 feet. The tree was cut in Vestal on Thursday morning, where it was hoisted onto a 115-foot-long trailer at 204 Murray Hill Road in Vestal. The donors of this year’s tree are the McGinley family, and it was selected by Erik Pauze, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener.
In an interview with Rockefeller Center’s magazine titled “The Center Magazine,” Pauze shared how he discovered the tree while venturing in the Binghamton area.
“I found the tree in Vestal, New York, when I was on my way to look at another tree, not too far away,” Pauze said. “I had driven to the other tree and took a slow road back, and saw this one … I went back this spring and decided to knock … The McGinley family told me that not too long before I knocked on the door, someone told them, ‘that looks like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.’”
According to Rockefeller Center’s website, Pauze has been responsible for selecting, nurturing and transporting the Christmas tree each year for the past three decades. He specifically looks for Norway Spruce trees because of the number of lights the tree can hold on its branches.
“The Norway Spruce is great for the scale it can achieve,” Pauze said to the magazine. “[I]t can hold the lights on its branches, and it stands there nice and proud as the tree should. It’s so tall, and it has the perfect shape. I knew when I saw it that it was going to work … I just had to trim the branches up to [five] or [six] feet. It’s a nice shaped tree, and it looks beautiful. When you stand in the street, and look at it against the blue sky, it really looks awesome.”
He added that his work centers on choosing a tree that can bring happiness and a sense of wonder to those who come to witness the lighting ceremony, especially the children whose eyes light up at its sight.
Once the tree is safely secured on the flatbed truck, its journey to its final destination in Manhattan will begin. Arriving on Nov. 11 and carefully put into place by a crane, the tree will be ceremoniously lit on Nov. 29 in a ceremony that dates back to 1933. Marking the start of the holiday season in New York City, the Vestal tree will stand until Jan. 13, 2024.
Gabriel Nam, a freshman majoring in mathematical sciences, said that he looks forward to going back home and seeing the tree in person.
“I’m from the city, so I can’t wait to go back home and tell my friends and family that this tree came from less than a mile away from my school,” Nam said. “I can’t wait to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a piece of Vestal, become the brightest star in the city that never sleeps.”