READING, Pa. (Reuters) - A scraggly Christmas tree in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, was adorned on Sunday with a single red bulb, in a ceremony reminiscent of events in the animated holiday classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The decoration marked the latest turn in a lemons-to-lemonade tale involving the tree, derided as ugly by some who plotted its demise but seen by others as a reflection of the hardscrabble, U.S. rust belt city itself.
“It’s not about the size and shape of the tree, but about the heart of it,” said local entertainer Dave Kline, 59, speaking at the ceremony, postponed from Saturday due to bad weather.
On a rainy day in November, members of Reading’s public works department aborted their mission to obtain a tree from a local farm over concerns their truck would get stuck, said Jessica Didow, a city spokeswoman.
Rather than waste the day, the workers instead cut a 45-foot tall Norway Spruce from a local ball field, she said.
Almost as soon as the lopsided tree, with its droopy, sparse needles went up, an outcry ensued.
One local resident said it was so ugly that birds would not land on it, local station WFMZ-TV reported.
The president of Reading’s City Council, similarly unimpressed, raised money to replace it, and a new, spiffier tree was purchased.
But even as the tree’s detractors planned its demise, others grew to love it.
One couple decided to use a photo of the tree as their Christmas card.
“I only send Christmas cards about once every 10 years,” Joanne Nolen said. “But we thought this one was worthy.”
After plans to displace the tree were scrapped over fears of complications from a snow storm - its would-be replacement getting its own pedestal a few blocks away - city leaders hit upon the idea of a single illuminated red bulb.
Like the tree in the famed Peanuts comic strip-based cartoon, Reading’s evergreen will not remain forlorn for long. A local minor-league hockey team has donated ornaments, and an area real estate agent has offered the use of a bucket truck to drape them on its branches.
The fully-decorated tree is slated to be unveiled Dec. 20.
Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Richard Borsuk