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Take down that Christmas tree yet? Tacoma did Saturday

Nothing says “Christmas is over” quite like the sound of a chainsaw.

City of Tacoma Public Works crew members took their saws to the 65-foot Douglas fir in front of the Pantages Theater on Saturday, putting a definitive end to the annual Christmas display that’s been up since Nov. 29.

The biggest part of the job was disentangling the strings of 10,000 lights, wound around every branch all the way to the top.

“It’s going to take all day,” Public Works crewman Jim Dimond predicted early Saturday morning.

It’s time-consuming, but it’s not as bad as it used to be, said Dimond, who worked with crewmates Jorge Vega and Jeff Winget.

“Back before we had LEDs, it would take three days,” Dimond said.

The old-style bulbs drew so much power, there had to be individual power lines running to each branch, he said, meaning that there were as many as 200 power feeds running down the trunk. With LEDs, which take less power, the number of power feeds has been reduced to six.

Dimond said he gets a kick out of the number of people who come up to them as they’re dismembering the tree, outraged that they’re removing such a healthy specimen from downtown.

What they don’t realize is that the tree was not actually growing there. The city and Broadway Center for the Performing Arts “plant” a different tree there each year, burying the butt 8 feet underground, inside a manhole.

“People come up and say, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Dimond said. “That tree’s been there all my life.”

This year’s tree was donated by Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The lights and other decorations are stored by the Broadway Center, which manages the Pantages and hosts the annual tree-lighting ceremony.

The cost to the city for dressing the tree and then undressing and removing it came to about $10,000 this year, according to Joe Nollan, traffic operations supervisor in Public Works.

“The city has dialed back its holiday participation,” Nollan said. “I recall in the ’80s we spent weeks hanging all the decorations across Pacific Avenue.”

What happens to the tree after it’s taken down?

“The branches get recycled just like everyone else’s tree,” Nollan said. “The trunk gets handled as wood scrap, as do our old poles.”

Any sadness, twinges of regret while taking down the tree?

“No, not really,” Dimond said. “For us it’s just kind of another job.”

Staff writer Kari Plog contributed to this report.

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