Thursday, November 02, 2000

Downtown crisis: no Xmas tree

By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This could be it: The year the Grinch finally steals Cincinnati's Christmas. The problem? The Downtown Council can't find the city's official Christmas tree for Fountain Square, and time's running out.

        The tree has to be on the square by Nov. 20 so crews have time to decorate it for a Nov. 24 lighting ceremony.

        “It's never gone this late before,” said Todd Bucher, the DTC senior event manager. “In the past, I've always had it wrapped up before Halloween. It's getting pretty stressful now.”

        Not that he hasn't been trying. In the past 20 days, Mr. Bucher has taken more than 100 phone calls and driven his new Chevy pickup 635 miles with nothing but talk radio to keep him company. He has inspected 99 trees but is no closer to lighting up the square.

        “I found five that would be perfect,” he says, “but they all had accessibility problems, mostly underground gas lines that would get in the way of digging them up.

        “We use only live trees and replant them after Christmas, so we have to take it out with a 10-foot root ball. If utilities run through that radius, we can't take the tree.”

        So what's the alternative?

        “There is no alternative. Come hell or high water, we'll find a tree ... I'm working every day 'til dark to find it. We won't consider an alternative.”
        To donate a tree, call 579-3111. The tree must be a short-needle spruce, have a 10-foot digging radius clear of utilities, be accessible by crane and be no taller than 25 feet.


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