Chandler workers prep tumbleweed tree for Christmas event - East Valley Tribune: Chandler

Chandler workers prep tumbleweed tree for Christmas event

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Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 5:30 pm | Updated: 9:38 am, Sun Nov 25, 2012.

It’s beginning to look like a tumbleweed tree Christmas.

This week, Chandler Parks Department workers have been touching up and prepping the 30-feet tall tree at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park to gussy it up in time for a long-running tradition — the 56th annual Tumbleweed Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights ceremony.

The tree lighting, to be held near Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard, is expected to attract at least 5,000 people.

The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1, with the tree lighting expected about an hour later, said Russ Lassuy, a Chandler parks maintenance tech.

Earlier this week, workers were stuffing more tumbleweeds, also known as Russian thistle, in the tree, and filling in holes around the steel frame.

The tradition of the tumbleweed tree started in the late 1950s, when Chandler resident Earl Barnum first floated the idea after seeing something similar in Indiana, according to information from the city. Residents built the first tree using tumbleweeds they gathered around town.

This week, workers are planning to spread glitter on the tree and paint the steel frame; early next week, it will be covered with lights.

"We’re working on it, and trying to make the tree look more symmetrical," Lassuy said. "By the time we put the star on top, the tree will be about 33 feet tall."

Between 1,500 to 2,000 tumbleweeds are collected each year for the tree.

Then, the tumbleweeds are sprayed with 25 gallons of white paint, 20 gallons of flame retardant and dusted with 65 pounds of glitter. The tree is later adorned with approximately 1,200 holiday lights.

Barbara Young, a manager in Chandler’s Recreation Department, said, "It’s pretty spectacular. People who work on it have to go farther out of the city to collect the tumbleweeds. Because of all the growth, tumbleweeds are getting harder to find."

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