Stateside's conversation with Amy Start and Scott Powell
Months of prolonged isolation and stress have many Michiganders looking for a little extra holiday cheer this season—and finding it in that perfect Fraser fir. Christmas tree sales are up this season, an industry that usually adds about $35 million to the state’s economy, according to Michigan Christmas Tree Association executive director Amy Start.
A major holiday performance happens this weekend in West Michigan. Students, teachers and parents at Mona Shores High School have spent thousands of hours preparing for the event, where they create a living breathing, and singing Christmas Tree — that’s five-stories tall, and holds more than 200 student singers.
It’s getting lots of national attention. In 2011, TLC featured the tree on its aptly-titled holiday show, “Extreme Christmas Trees.” This year, it’ll be highlighted on the Travel Channel.
The show is now in its 29th year.
Almost 300 hundred students from Mona Shores High School have been practicing for this show — held at Muskegon’s Frauenthal Center for Performing Arts — since Labor Day.
Captain Dave Truitt of the Christmas Ship committee in Chicago says selling cheap evergreen trees from the northern Michigan woods to families in Chicago was a tradition a century ago.
“People would come down and get telegraphs of what ships were coming. They would look to the horizon and one of them would have a Christmas tree tied to the top. And people would yell and scream and the church bell it would start ringing and it was the beginning of Christmas for the entire community,” Truitt said.
Captain Herman Schuenemann’s ship, the Rouse Simmons, became known as the Christmas tree ship.
“One of the reasons (Captain Schuenemann) was so popular besides being a very good guy, he was a good businessman. He had an amazingly simple sign on his large schooner,” Truitt said, “It said ‘Christmas trees cheap’.”
75-cents was cheap. On land trees sold for a dollar a piece.
This year’s trip marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the original Christmas tree ship. It was last seen above water November 23rd, 1912 before a big snow storm. There are still many evergreens in the ship’s hull at the bottom of Lake Michigan.
Check out the wreckage footage below (narration begins around a minute into the video).
In Jackson, hundreds of people braved near freezing temperatures this morning to watch a 75 foot tall tree be chopped down.
Tomorrow, the tree will take its place on the state capitol lawn to serve as this year’s official state Christmas tree.
A crowd of school children and curious neighbors watched as professional timbermen chainsawed through the thick trunk of the Concolor Fir, before gingerly guiding the huge tree between two homes with the help of a large crane.