“The best Christmas trees come very close to exceeding nature. If some of our great decorated trees had been grown in a remote forest area with lights that came on every evening as it grew dark, the whole world would come to look at them and marvel at the mystery of their great beauty.” –Andy Rooney
There is something quite magical about a Christmas tree. Tall and wide, short and squat, from the Rockefeller tree in New York to the one which graces your living room, they exude a beauty and magic that causes each of us to stop, focus, and allow a twinkle of the holiday spirit into our own during a very hectic time of the year.
In Old Town Winchester, a few feet away from Bell’s storefront, stands Winchester’s Christmas tree. 30 feet tall, it’s presence commands those young and old to pause for a moment.
But Winchester hasn’t always had a tree of this size and scale –
Thanks to the generosity, time and resources from several businesses the community tree appears.
It takes coordination to put up the Christmas tree in Old Town Winchester. From locating the tree, tying up the branches before cutting, cutting, transporting it from its original home to its new one, spraying the tree to help it retain moisture, putting it in place, trimming it, and decorating the tree – it’s a major process that involves staff from five companies, two governmental bodies, and the Sheriff’s department.
The unassuming leader directing this show behind the scenes is our own Stephen Shendow, third-generation clothier of Bell’s Fine Clothing. His involvement with the Old Town tree goes back several years to when he was President of the Old Town Winchester Business Association.
It was in the early 2000s when the OTWBA decided to first put up a tree.
“I simply got on the phone and asked for help… Shockey, Ricketts Construction, F&M Bank and others graciously offered their assistance,” he said.
The first donated fronted a house on Stewart Street, surrounded with a number of overhead wire obstacles. A skilled crane operator extracted the tree and place it in on a flatbed truck. The 40-foot tree made the journey to the pedestrian mall, where it was tethered with cables to large concrete blocks, standing by the Old Civil War Court House Museum.
“That was the last year for a large tree, until the idea was resurrected during the recent mall renovation,” said Stephen.
When the pedestrian mall renovation planning took place in early 2013, the City was encouraged to create a permanent in-ground “tree well” to receive the large tree trunk each Christmas season. The City supported the idea, and since then, Stephen has resumed his role as coordinator of the Old Town Tree.
Three Christmas trees later, the routine is old hat to all of those involved. The only uncertainty is where the tree will come from, but so far that hasn’t been an issue. The first year, a widower donated a large tree from his property in memory of his wife. In 2014 a tree was donated by a church, and this year the tree was donated by a local family.
Stephen likes to call it the Community Tree.
“The fact that you have these community leaders donate their resources to make it happen – if you had to pay for that time, effort… the community Christmas tree wouldn’t be possible,” said Stephen. “Volunteers working together is what makes this a great community.”