DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - It’s beginning to look like the holiday season in Delray Beach, where the city’s new 100-foot Christmas tree is now standing. But the price tag on the tree has people asking questions.
“This is an iconic tree," Mayor Cary Glickstein said. "It’s a signature event for the city."
The city is known for its hollow, gargantuan, artificial tree, the only one of its kind in the country.
The new tree has been set up in Old School Square, but preparations continue for the area inside of it and around it.
“We want it perfect for everyone who is coming to visit it," said Mike Williams, a volunteer who helps set up the tree.
However, the tree the city previously used was falling apart in recent years.
"It was rusty. We used to have to tie branches together," Williams said.
It came from Parrot Jungle, where Mayor Cary Glickstein said it was used for about 30 years prior to spending two decades in Delray Beach.
"It needed significant repairs both during construction of the tree and as we took it down," Glickstein said. "As we found rust, as we found broken pieces, those were repaired. It was in the tens of thousands dollars every year."
He said the deteriorating tree was unsafe. A structural engineer would no longer certify the integrity of the tree.
“It was getting to the point where it was just dangerous," he said.
The city commission decided to spend $800,000 on a new artificial tree, which is made of aluminum and came from a manufacturer in Oregon.
"The new tree costs $800,000, which is a lot of money by any measure, but when we think about how long it will last and how important it is to the residents of the town that have enjoyed this tradition for 20 years, the number didn’t seem so large," Glickstein said.
The tree's aluminum build makes it easier to put up and more resistant to ware.
“We think this will last the city another 50 years," he said.
Some say the money could've been better spent elsewhere.
"It’s a little bit of a waste of money at this time in our economy and it’s a little bit insulting to people, why aren’t these resources being allocated to help people?" said Michael Anderson, who lives in Delray Beach. "I don’t know how that helps people."
Others feel holiday tradition is priceless.
"Of course the cost is great, but it brings so many people to the city and it’s really good for the city of Delray and it’s a fun tradition so I’m all for it," said David Jenkins, who lives in Delray Beach.
The tree has been also been relocated this year. It was in front of the Cornell Museum right next Atlantic Avenue, but now, it’s next to the Old School Square amphitheater. Mayor Glickstein said that helps preserve the area in front of the Cornell Museum and it's also a more secure location from the public safety perspective.
The tree lighting is scheduled for Nov. 30.
Walking through the Christmas tree is free, but a $1 donation is suggested to the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative, which puts on the holiday events. Some of the other activities around the tree charge a fee.