CHICAGO (CBS) — The calendar says early September, and it may feel like mid-October, but the City of Chicago is already planning ahead for December.
The city is already hunting down the official Christmas tree that will grace Daley Plaza, beginning around Thanksgiving.
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But this year, the search is a little different. A new Web site goes online Wednesday for a Chicago Christmas Tree Contest.
At the site, visitors can send in pictures of their candidate trees, and people will eventually vote for the final tree.
There are some rules for trees that will be accepted. The tree must be a spruce or fir at least 55 feet tall; pine trees are not sturdy enough and thus are accepted. The trees must also must be accessible to insure safe removal, and no more than 100 miles from downtown Chicago.
Contestants entering their trees for consideration must provide three photographs – one from a distance and two up close – as well as the names, addresses and contact information for the owners of the tree.
The owners of the winning tree will also win the privilege of flipping the switch to turn on the lights for the tree during the week of Thanksgiving.
Last year, the city picked John Colomer of McHenry and his family, and used their 70-foot blue spruce, which was standing in a lot that was set to be cleared for development and had to be cut down anyway.
A single tree was used in Daley Plaza last year, and in 2009. But in years before that going back more than half a century, the city erected an 85-foot conical tree composed of scores of smaller trees. The tree the year before last was made up of 113 smaller trees.
But a 2008 report by CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reported showed the city paid more than $300,000 for city workers to build the frame, decorate the tree, and dismantle it over the course of six weeks.
Following Zekman’s report, the city decided to scrap the compound tree for a single one.