SIDNEY — Turning a balsam fir planted in a yard more than a decade ago into the capital city’s Christmas tree was a matter of only 12 (or so) volunteers, 9 miles’ driving, two willing donors, two chilly hours, a crane and a bucket truck.

On Monday, the 40-foot tree will be dressed in a mantle of 5,000 lights, and at 5 p.m. Saturday its lighting will cap off A Riverfront Holiday, an afternoon of festive winter holiday events in downtown Augusta.

To get to this point required the intervention of Peter Morrissey, who found the tree in the woods and replanted it in the yard of his Shepherd Road home.

“It’s nice and full. It’s a beautiful tree,” Anita Morrissey said.

Added Peter Morrissey, “It’s hopefully going to give people some joy.”

Both Morrisseys stood in their yard and watched as their fir was cut down.

Logistically, Anita Morrissey said, the maneuver was interesting.

Contributed photo by Jamie Cates Cory Constable, of Brownie’s Landscaping, trims the bottom branches off before cutting down the fir tree that’ll be Augusta’s city Christmas tree on Saturday morning in Sidney.

“They had that huge crane they attached to the top, and then they backed the truck up and they just kind of slowly, slowly, slowly maneuvered onto it,” she said.

Peter Morrissey transplanted the tree to his yard from the woods.

“I liked the shape of it,” he said, standing in his yard, waiting for the Augusta police to come and escort the cut tree to downtown Augusta.

Initially, he thought that was about 20 years ago, but when he counted the rings of the trunk of the felled tree, there were only 15.

Those rings tell the story of the tree’s annual growth, and confirm Anita Morrissey’s assessment that the tree grew quite a bit over the past five years. Some of the rings in the outer band were close to a half-inch wide.

The Morrisseys have other balsam firs planted on the property. Although they look like they would make fine Christmas trees, Anita Morrissey said her husband will not let her cut any. Instead, they cut their own at a Christmas tree farm.

Bruce Chase, director of the Augusta Parks and Recreation Department, said the city received several nominations for trees after it posted its request on Facebook for a tree near the end of September.

“There’s one in Readfield and one in Pittston,” Chase said, but this one won the day because Peter Morrissey is one of the reenactors at Old Fort Western in Augusta, the country’s oldest surviving wooden garrison that dates back to the French and Indian War of the 1750s.

“It was kind of the collaboration between the two groups, both city entities,” Chase said. “This one came up and looked beautiful.”

Transporting the tree was made possible by LaJoie Brothers and Brownies Landscaping & Excavating, both of which volunteered time, equipment and expertise.

When the tree arrived in Augusta at about 9:20 a.m., the volunteers reversed the process, lifting it via crane and suspending it above the 3-foot-deep hole in the lawn of Market Square on Water Street so it could be guided into place.

Several Augusta Parks and Recreation workers stretched out under the low, spreading branches to shim the trunk in place with lengths of wood boards before the strap connecting it to the crane was released.

By then, the Morrisseys had made their way to Augusta to see the tree set in place, the end of a process that had begun two hours earlier.

Anita Morrissey said her husband never pruned or shaped it.

“It just grew that way,” she said. “It was just a happy tree, and it looks really nice.”


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