Tree and lights are ready

PAT FRIDGEN
Sam and Linda Stoler donated the tree that will stand in the center of Greencastle for the Christmas season.

Greencastle's Heritage Christmas tree is coming from State Line this year. Sam and Linda Stoler donated the 25-foot evergreen. It was cut down Monday morning.

Sam is not sentimental about the tree, which graced his back yard for the past 20 years. "We planted it, it growed, there it is." And as to the species? "Green."

Linda, however, formed an attachment. Early on she saw that it had a nice shape. "I've always wanted to donate it," she said. "It was definitely my idea."

Chamber of Commerce representatives came out to look, liked what they saw, and chose the tree to stand in Center Square in 2009.

Bob Wolff, 51, owner of GW Electric in Shady Grove, has been helping the Chamber more years than he can remember, to get the tree ready for the lighting ceremony the third Friday of each November. He receives payment for his services, though some of his time ends up being voluntary.

At the crack of dawn Monday he was at 340 East Ave. to cut down the tree with the traditional assistance of Foremost Industries. Foremost transported the tree to Greencastle Center Square and helped set it in place on the traffic circle.

In the past, Wolff would have cut out branches so the tree could fit against a pole.

"I came up with the brainstorm idea to take out the light pole," he said.

Now the appendage is taken to the borough lot and the tree set in a sturdy base. Then begins a series of steps to bring illumination to the downtown for the holidays.

Wolff checks each light individually. He guesses there are 1,500, but that maybe he should count them sometime. Dead bulbs are replaced. In the past his father Robert 'Gump' Wolff and Clarence Suffecool enjoyed helping with that task. When all is in working order, Wolff winds strings of lights around the tree, starting at the tip. "They used to be up and down. I decided it looks nice to wrap them, which takes a lot longer."

He also circles the square with white lights using the existing wires high above the traffic. Next he hangs wreaths on the poles and finally puts Heritage Christmas banners up and down Baltimore Street.

Each year he takes up to three days to accomplish the feat that so many people take for granted. Whatever the weather, Wolff perseveres. His most memorable year included rain.

"At lunchtime I went to the laundromat to dry my clothes."

For the approximate six weeks the lights sparkle in Greencastle, Wolff maintains strings that go dark due to wind or shortages or other causes. Then it is time to undo everything and put the square back to normal. He calls in a tree service to grind up the tree and dispose of it. The decorations go into storage in the Chamber basement.

The results of Wolff's labor will be visible Friday evening at the official tree lighting ceremony. It is set to begin at 7 p.m. with Todd Streett this year serving as the Town Crier.

Bob Wolff started at the top Monday afternoon, hanging lights on Greencastle’s Christmas tree. The annual downtown decoration project, from cutting down the tree to hanging the last banner on Baltimore Street, takes about three days.