The wishes of two Grayslake families will be shared with millions this holiday season as their 62-foot Norway spruce will be decorated and displayed at Chicago's Millennium Park as the city's official Christmas tree.
Selected from among 71 submissions, the tree grew from a seedling brought long ago from northern Wisconsin to a home on Grayslake's Garfield Boulevard.
It will be cut down Thursday morning for transport to Chicago, where it will be adorned with more than 50,000 lights. The switch will be thrown during the 104th Chicago Christmas tree lighting at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17.
The spruce was among several brought to the Olsen family property in Grayslake by sisters Arlene and Thelma Olsen. Many grew and flourished, but this tree -- most likely planted in the late 1930s or early 1940s -- is one of the few never pruned or removed, according to Darlene Dorfler, who donated the tree to Chicago.
The Dorfler family arrived on Garfield Boulevard in 1975 and were neighbors with the Olsens, who once owned several lots along the street. Arlene Olsen lived in the family home until 2012, when she died at 91.
"She always commented, 'It would be neat to see that tree lit up,'" said Ed Dorfler, Darlene's son.
The Dorfler family bought the Olsen property in 2013. The house was removed and the lot mostly cleared, but the old spruce in a back corner was left "because it was shaped so nice," Darlene Dorfler told Chicago's Department Of Cultural Affairs And Special Events.
"It's gorgeous, so we left it," Ed Dorfler said. "We all thought the tree was so nice it should be somewhere -- it should be decorated and lit up."
Dorfler said his late father, Frank, suggested Chicago or even Washington D.C., would be good spots. The idea became a reality after Darlene Dorfler saw a notice on the TV news regarding the search for Chicago's Christmas tree.
The requirements were that the tree be a spruce or fir, at least 55 feet tall, easily accessible to ensure safe removal, and located within 50 miles of the Loop.
Ed Dorfler's girlfriend, Donna Caringello, snapped two pictures for their application.
"She just pulled in and snapped two pictures with her cellphone and that was it. Nothing fancy," he said.
Submissions were received and reviewed throughout the summer and early fall, with input and assistance from BrightView Landscape Development. Ed Dorfler said he learned last week his spruce had been selected. The city announced the choice Wednesday.
"I'm watching (news) helicopters fly by since the release," he said Wednesday morning. "Our 15 minutes of fame."
Dorfler family members will join dignitaries for the tree-lighting ceremony later this month.
Ed Dorfler said it will be sad to see the old tree go, but he's happy for Arlene Olsen.
"If you believe in heaven, she'll be able to look down and see her dream," he said.