Volunteers are putting the finishing touches on the 30-foot tall Holiday Tree on the Statehouse grounds in downtown Columbia this week. The tree is a Pennsylvania white fir decorated with over 10,000 lights and 900 ornaments.
The South Carolina Garden Club has decorated the tree every year since 2003, with help from the power utility South Carolina Electric & Gas. The Optimist Club handled the duties prior to 2003.
The tree is the centerpiece of the 44th annual Governor’s Carol-lighting to welcome the holiday season, which will be Monday, November 28 at 6pm.
“There are very few trees that grow the right size and are sturdy enough to put lots of lights and ornaments on,” said Jane Suggs, who leads the decorating effort for the Garden Club.
The tree is mostly finished now, with a few finishing touches to go. Those include more than 20 presents that go underneath the tree and several lighted wreaths to adorn the Statehouse itself. It takes five days for volunteers just to decorate the tree, alone.
Suggs said the process actually starts much earlier– a tree is chosen over the summer, while new ornaments and packages are made and old ones are repainted throughout the year.
There are several tricks involved in making the tree look picture-perfect. 10 smaller fir trees are installed at the large tree’s base, to help flesh it out and hide any bald spots. Another trick involves placing larger ornaments at the top of the tree so they appear to be the same size as those closer to the ground.
No state money goes into the effort, only Garden Club donations. However, the state did design the gigantic stand needed to keep the tree upright. The stand is meant to hold the tree up even if Category Five hurricane winds blow through the city.
“It’s something that you’re doing for the citizens of South Carolina,” Suggs said, “It gives me joy to have something that turns out beautiful. It takes a lot more effort than you’d think it does.”
The Carol-lighting next Monday night will include performances from area choirs and bands. The event was nearly canceled last year due to a lack of community involvement, but an effort by Columbia leaders helped keep it alive.