- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - It was a twisting, winding path that led back to a favorite Williston Christmas tradition, the lighting of a 30-foot-or-taller spruce tree.

It all began when two young children, a sister and a brother, picked out a little Colorado spruce to plant on the homestead of Delores and the late Lyle Skaare. The tree was nurtured with care, but ultimately gifted to a family member’s house on Rose Lane in Williston in the mid-1980s.

The Williston Herald (http://bit.ly/1PaUO7f ) reports the gifted tree decorated the home and the lives of the children who, in turn, decorated it every Christmas with big multi-colored lights. They even went so far as to put a star on top - though the tree quickly outgrew their reach.

Unfortunately, even as the tree continued to grow, the city’s own tradition of lighting up a 30-foot Christmas tree for the holidays fell by the wayside, sometime in the 1990s. With a shrinking workforce, there wasn’t room for too many discretionary projects. The last tree lit up by city hall was sometime in 1992, recalls Niel Bakken, foreman of street lighting. It then moved out to Harmon Park, sometime around 1994.

That first year, it blew a transformer, Bakken recalls with a smile, and the city had to put in a much larger box.

No one was sure exactly when the last tree was lit up for a Williston Christmas. But the tradition was not dead, yet. It was just waiting for the right moment to return. The Skaare tree kept growing and growing until one year - this year in fact - it was so large the now grown occupant of the house, Dustin Skaare, became concerned. This tree was really too large to be by such a little house.

It was now 34 years old and 42 feet high. Surely worthy of a special end.

Skaare thought first of the city of Bismarck, but this year the capital city put up an artificial tree. He decided to ask Williston officials what they would think about a 42-foot-tall spruce tree for Christmas. It took some time to work through the proper channels, but ultimately, the answer was yes, let’s bring back this tradition.

The project required a little help to become a reality, however. Public Works could cut the tree down, but moving it was an entirely different matter. That took the expertise of several local companies to execute safely. Dacotah West Crane brought the crane to lift it onto a JMAC truck for transport and then lowered it into its new place on 26th Street.

The base for the city’s old trees was still hanging around. It had been cleaned out a summer ago, Bakken recalls, at which point there had been some discussion about throwing it away. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

McCody Concrete, meanwhile, gave the city a few 1-ton cement “present” blocks, which are part of the anchoring system. Strata Corporation did the underground drilling required to connect the anchoring system securely into the earth.

Those twinkling lights - all 3,150 of them - came from public works, along with a green star for the top, in honor of veterans. The lights, by the way, are all LEDs. They will draw less than a single amp all together. That means there should not be any problem with blown transformers.

Public Works director David Tuan said they will be looking for more such trees to cut down in the future and invited those who might have a tree that’s become too large for its space or has some other issue to give him a call at 701-577-6368. The city will evaluate and keep a running list of suitable trees.

Tuan is very proud of the project, not just for all the cooperation involved, but because it is reviving a long-standing tradition in the city.

“It’s a cool project for the city, and it’s in a good spot,” he said. “Even people who are just passing through town will see it.”

Mayor Howard Klug flipped the switch on the twinkly lights Monday afternoon, sporting a fancy, antiquated top hat that couldn’t cast a shadow on the twinkle in his eye.

“I’m proud that Williston is finally getting back to normal where we can enjoy some of the old traditions like the tree. Drive around and you see more house lights, Christmas singing, etc.,” Klug said. “It’s not just go, go, go. We have a chance to enjoy the season for what it is and these symbols here - especially with the veterans star and the lights we did, with the cooperation of everyone who came together. This calming down of oil gave them an opportunity to give back to Williston.”

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Information from: Williston Herald, http://www.willistonherald.com

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