BIRMINGHAM (AP) – An upscale Detroit suburb’s decision to put up a $30,000 artificial Christmas tree outdoors instead of decorating a live tree has attracting some criticism and prompted debate about the holiday tree-trimming tradition.
The 35-foot-tall artificial blue spruce in downtown Birmingham’s Shain Park is outfitted with 22,260 multicolor lights on its 298 branches, the Detroit Free Press reported. In past years, Birmingham decorated a live tree nearby that apparently didn’t look good enough.
Decorators “spent a lot of time trying to get that tree to look beautiful. We tried,” said John Heiney, director of the city’s Principal Shopping District. The live tree has gaping branches, an uneven shape and large bumps on the trunk, and Heiney said: “We used to hear comments, `Oh, is that the tree?”‘
Melissa Vedder, 36, of Birmingham, said she disliked the idea of an artificial tree.
“I think it’s horrible, and it’s honestly tacky,” Vedder said. “It’s going to be outside. Why would you put a fake tree outside? It’s just absolutely ridiculous. I hate buying a fake tree to put inside. The kids have allergies; I have to have a fake tree. But outside? A fake one? I can’t even imagine.”
The state of Michigan, Detroit and some other communities use cut-down live trees for their annual holiday displays. Some other communities don’t decorate trees. Birmingham’s artificial tree was paid for by the city’s Principal Shopping District, the Department of Public Services and a $2,000 donation from a local business.
“They’re just so good at making them look so realistic now,” Heiney said.
The artificial tree, which stands about 50 yards from the old tree, is to be lit during a ceremony Wednesday night. The city plans to keep the artificial tree for 10 years, and by that time there’s hope that another tree in Shain Park will have grown large enough to serve as the city’s official tree.
“There are a couple good candidates,” Heiney said.
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