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Metro Newsroom

‘Pride of America’ Tree to Anchor Light Up Louisville

Tuesday November 14, 2006

 – Largest tree in event’s 25+ year history arrives Tuesday –

– Army helicopter airlift planned from New Albany to downtown –

At 65 feet tall, 40 feet wide and weighing four tons, the city’s official holiday tree arrived by helicopter airlift today. The Norway spruce is 25 Tree over Louisvillefeet taller than any tree to have the honor of serving as the centerpiece for Light Up Louisville since the event began in 1981.

“Our biggest and brightest Light Up will be anchored by our biggest and brightest tree,” Mayor Jerry Abramson said.

The tree was donated by Scotty and Debby McCorkle of New Albany, Ind., who said the tree has grown too close to their home and needs to be removed. The couple donated the tree to the community in honor of those serving past and present in the U.S. military.

After Light Up officials and Metro Parks arborists assessed the tree, it became evident the tree is too large to move by flat-bed trailer. Officials contacted several military organizations for assistance with what was called “Operation Sleigh Ride.”

Metro Parks’ arborist Mike Blankenship, who served with the Army 101st Airborne and is familiar with rigging armored vehicles to helicopters, suggested the use of a Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. Working with Louisvillian Ken Slye, a retired Chinook pilot, the city has arranged for the Army’s 159th Aviation Battalion HLH, from Fort Eustis, Va., to deploy a CH-47D Chinook to relocate the tree as a training exercise.

Tree over LouisvilleOn Monday, the Army unit scouted the tree in southern Indiana and its new home in downtown’s Jefferson Square at 6th and Jefferson streets. The unit and city crews arrived at the McCorkle residence to begin to remove the tree on Tuesday morning. It was airlifted Tuesday afternoon to Waterfront Park and will be trucked to Jefferson Square this evening. Police will manage traffic and block intersections as needed during the move.

Metro Parks arborists and LG&E crews assisted in with the cutting and securing of the tree for Operation Sleigh Ride. A 50-ton crane donated by ABCO-Bramer will move the tree into place at Jefferson Square. Also assisting are the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration and Louisville Metro Police, Public Works and General Services Administration.

Dubbed the “Pride of America,” the tree will be topped with a U.S. flag and trimmed in tens of thousands of red, white and blue LED high output/low energy lights provided by Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores.

The tree will anchor the city’s family-favorite holiday tradition, Light Up Louisville, held the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. This year’s Light Up is the biggest ever featuring a parade, holiday music, food and entertainment, and the lighting of nearly 2 million lights in downtown Louisville.

The Pride of America tree will have a special lighting ceremony following the Light Up Louisville parade and before the arrival of Santa Claus. Members of the U.S. Marine Corps will be stationed at the base of the tree during Light Up Louisville to accept donations of new toys for Toys for Tots.

The tree will remain at Jefferson Square until Jan. 2 Crews will then remove and transport the tree, in sections, to the Louisville Zoo where it will be recycled into mulch for use as bedding and grounds trimming.

For complete Light Up Louisville event information, visit: