Something was flying over downtown Augusta Saturday morning, but it wasn’t a bird, a plane or a caped superhuman.

It was a spruce tree that was plucked from a property on Civic Center Drive just an hour earlier and trucked across the city to Market Square Park. The evergreen was lowered by crane into the ground there and will soon be lit up for the holiday season.

“Try not to break it,” Bruce Chase, the city’s recreation director, instructed the crane operator before the tree was brought downtown. “Just be delicate, because it’s such a beautiful tree.”

This year’s tree is notable for two reasons.

For one, it’s about 60 feet tall, making it the tallest evergreen the city has raised for the holidays in the three years that Chase has been doing it.

“It’s the biggest tree we’ve had, so it’s been the biggest challenge we’ve had,” Chase said, referring to the logistics of planting so large a spruce in downtown Augusta. Traffic had to be blocked on Water Street for about a half hour so the crane could unload it.

The tree was lowered into a 4-foot hole and secured with a corrugated plastic sleeve and lumber wedges. When one of the people helping raise the tree asked “where’s the tree stand” as a joke, Chase responded with faux shock, “I knew there was something I forgot!”

This year’s tree will also be a memorial to John Charest, the city’s longtime public works director. He died on Christmas Day in 2011 at the age of 65, and his name is also attached to the city’s public works building.

“I wanted to donate that tree in John’s name,” said his sister, Anne Dutil, who lives on the Civic Center Drive property where the tree was chopped down Saturday morning.

She was using her iPad to videotape its removal and raising, so that she could send it to their relatives who live out-of-state. Also attending the removal and raising were Charest’s widow, Dawn Charest, and two of his other sisters, Doris Brown and Joan Theberge.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, the city will hold a lighting of the tree at 5:05 p.m.

The city and the Augusta Downtown Alliance are holding a number of other activities that afternoon in the area around Market Square, including a Santa Claus visit, a scavenger hunt, hay wagon rides, live reindeer, music, dancing, crafts, food and opportunities for kids to write letters to Santa. There will be a Christmas tree raffle throughout the day and fireworks immediately following the tree lighting.

Asked how it felt that her brother would be remembered through the lighting, Dutil simply said, “Nice.”

“John would not have liked the attention,” added her sister Doris Brown, implying that he was too modest for such a memorial.

Several area companies provided free labor for the tree raising Saturday, including Chavarie Tree Service and Lajoie Brothers contractors.

“We are ecstatic about it,” Chase said of the donated tree and labor. “When you can get people in our community that are about our community, we love it.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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