West Chicago resident donates 35-foot spruce for fest
If the Colorado green spruce that is the centerpiece of West Chicago's Frosty Fest celebration could talk, it would have quite a tale to tell. It's had an eventful life for a tree.
The spruce, donated by 89-year-old West Chicago resident Jean Day, was cut down in mid-November and transported with great fanfare to Fox Community Center to be installed and decorated for the tree-lighting ceremony that takes place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4.
The tree might marvel that it's here at all. When Day first saw the tree 36 years ago, it was so small and scrawny she doubted whether it was worth saving. The little spruce was moved two or three times before it was planted in a prominent place in her front yard on National Street.
Over the years, the tree grew strong and tall, reaching a height of nearly 35 feet.
"It was beautiful, shaped just the way it should be," Day said.
However, the tree's extensive root system was causing problems because of the its proximity to her house. The tree had to go and Day fretted over what to do next.
She thought of submitting a photo of the spruce to Chicago's contest to select the Daley Plaza holiday tree. Then Kramer Tree Specialists, which had promised to provide West Chicago's tree this year, approached her about donating it to the community.
Day had found the perfect solution to her dilemma.
"Hey, with my history, it's better here," she thought.
The lifelong West Chicago resident had a brother, Willis "Chick" Gladding who served as West Chicago's mayor from 1957 to 1961. Her late husband, Royal, known to everyone as "Mike," had owned Day's 66 Service Station on East Washington Street. Well-liked in the community, he was named West Chicago's Citizen of the Year in 1969.
After he passed away at age 59, Day moved to her current home and that's where her adventure with the tree began.
Kramer Tree Specialists cut down and transported the spruce with more goings on and photos than Day had seen in her front yard in a long time. The company had to take 10 to 15 feet off the bottom because it was too broad to fit into its spot at the Fox Community Center, said Joe Kramer, the company's owner and president.
The company hung the decorations the week after Thanksgiving and will take down the tree when the holidays are over.
"We're just so tickled by it," said Rosemary Mackey, marketing and communications coordinator for the city of West Chicago.
For years, the city had decorated a live tree right up until that tree was on its last legs (or roots), Mackey said. Last year, the city bought a tree and public works employees hung the ornaments.
This year, Kramer stepped up to offer to provide West Chicago with a tree after spending 25 years in the city, Joe Kramer said.
"It's just a way we can do something to thank the city that supports us," he said.
After the holidays, the green spruce will go the way of all cut Christmas trees.
"It will come back to our yard and become mulch and go back to the landscape," Kramer said.
But before that happens, the little spruce that grew big will be the center of a holiday celebration to remember. Like always, the Frosty Procession will start at 4 p.m. Saturday at Route 59 and Main Street and proceed west to the Fox Community Center, 306 Main St., where the tree will be lit.
The three winners of West Chicago's essay contest for first- through sixth-graders will help Mayor Mike Kwasman light the tree. They'll also ride in the sleigh with the mayor, his wife and first dog, Harry. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive on a vintage firetruck.
Like the mayor, residents can take a turn at a sleigh ride. The attraction is popular, and last year the line was backed up, said Krista Coltrin, marketing assistant and chairwoman for Frosty Fest.
"The sleigh rides are free through our historic residential district," she said.
Live reindeer also will be on hoof. The reindeer have come for the past two years, but ice sculptor Joe Gegnepain has not.
"He's going to be creating Frosty the Snowman," Coltrin explained.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will take up quarters at the American Legion Hall, 123 Main St., to hear Christmas wishes. Children will be handed stockings at the Legion Hall and the Fox Community Center to take to downtown businesses to fill.
Businesses will be open throughout downtown. Artists will give demonstrations at Gallery 200, which is showing its "Wonderful & Wearable" exhibit with items for sale.
Musical groups will perform in several locations: the Community High School Brass Ensemble and the Community Ringers of Lombard at the library; Wheaton Academy's Kantorei a cappella ensemble on Main Street; and the West Chicago Community Choir and Pueri Cantores of the West Chicago Children's Choir in the American Legion Hall.
West Chicago Park District's School of Dance also will be at the Legion Hall, where the park district will offer well-attended crafts for kids, Coltrin said.
"It's a very, very nice community event," she said.
Mrs. Day's spruce tree will be proud.
West Chicago Frosty Fest and tree-lighting ceremony
When: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, with tree-lighting at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Downtown West Chicago; tree-lighting at Fox Community Center, 306 Main St.