Festival of Trees Part II – The Short List

We know that you love our lengthy, rambling reviews of Salt Lake’s Christmas trees, but sometimes the essence of a tree can be surmised in a few short words. Keeping this in mind, here are some weseeslctrees.com awards from the 2014 Utah Festival of Trees.

The Most Coked-Out Tree Award – Swire Coca-Cola, USA

coke

The So Sweet it’s Like Smacking Your Dentist in the Mouth Tree Award – Tie: Santa’s Office Sweet and Christmas in Candyland

Santa's Sweets

candyland

The Mead ® Trapper Keeper This Trapper’s Tree is a Keeper Award – Utah Trappers Association (Nice Job, Amber.)

Utah Trapper Association

The Ass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Chimney Award – It Came Just the Same

grinch ass

The Best (Possibly Accidentally) Pro-LGBT Tree Award – Google Fiber Provo

google fiber provo

The Best Use of Decorating Materials Found in the Garbage Outside of a Starbucks Tree Award – Starbucks Wonderland

starbucks

The Presents Under the Tree that are Most Likely to Give Christmas Nightmares Forever Award – Creator Unknown

creepy dolls

The Festival of Trees: An Introduction

This week, weseeslctrees made our way to Sandy to see just what kind of Christmas trees Utah’s Festival of Trees had to offer. For those of you unfamiliar with this annual charitable event, here’s a quick primer:

  • This is the 44th year the Festival of Trees has been held.
  • Every penny raised by the festival goes to help children at Primary Children’s Hospital.
  • This year’s festival has over 800 trees of all sizes, as well as other holiday décor.
  • Individuals, organizations, and corporations decorate and donate every tree at the event.
  • Every tree is for sale, with many auctioned off during the opening night gala.
  • The most expensive tree at the auction this year reportedly fetched $25,000.

As soon as we breached the inner doors of the South Towne Expo Center, we could only stop and stare in amazement at the indoor woodland wonderland around us. No mere saplings when it comes to surveying scores of Christmas trees, weseeslctrees’ seasoned seasonal scouts were quickly taken aback by the sheer scale of this event.

grand hall cropped

This picture does no justice to the size of the event until you realize how far those lights go on, and that each gap between lights represents about 2 rows of trees.

The hall contained hundreds of trees in all shapes, sizes and colors,  lined up in rows wide enough to accommodate a never-ending river of battleship-sized strollers, nattily-dressed teens on wholesome dates, and parents trying to corral their kids as they pinball off of every knee in sight, shirttails flying as they squeal in delight.

(Seriously though, the place was packed. Why aren’t all of these local Christmas tree fans reading Salt Lake’s premier Christmas Tree Blog?)

Each tree was accompanied by a placard showing the name of the tree, the designers, and information on the trees availability for purchase, including the names of those who had already purchased trees to adorn their homes or offices. Many of the trees were dedicated to the memory of loved ones lost, decorated in the fashion he, she or they would have enjoyed the most.

In short, the entire experience was nearly overwhelming. Themes and colors engaged our senses at every turn. Simply capturing photographs of noteworthy trees meant trying in vain to stop the relentless queue of people, heads turned to the right, staring slack-jawed at each new tree design. It was a loud, overcrowded, bright, distracting, wonderfully perfect example of holiday cheer that weseeslctrees was ecstatic to be a part of.

Now that the scene has been sufficiently set, it’s time for a few reviews. We’ll start with two trees, one tall and one small, that each won a weseeslctrees exclusive award named for two of Utah’s favorite, famously-sized residents.

The Gary Coleman Tiniest Tree Award Winner

smallest tree

“Angel”

At 4 feet tall, “Angel” was the smallest of the full-sized tree division entrants. It was so short, that even when placed on its rotating pedestal, “Angel” was still several boughs shorter than most of the trees at the festival.

The creators of this tree packed a lot in to the diminutive design, covering nearly every inch of the tree with halos, wings, snowflakes, globes, and decorative sticks.

This white-on-off-white-on-white color scheme left us feeling like this was the Christmas tree version of that fancy porcelain statuette in your Grandma’s curio cabinet that your rambunctious cousins broke playing red rover in the living room that one time at Easter. The delicate design and fragile appearance made us glad it was on a pedestal so nothing could send this “Angel” crashing down to earth.

The Shawn Bradley Tallest Tree Award Winner

tallest tree

“An English Christmas”

Of all the traditionally-designed trees in the room, weseeslctrees’ favorite also happened to be the Festival of Trees’ tallest entrant. Listed conservatively at ten-feet, but considerably taller than others at claiming that height “An English Christmas” towered as an example of the classic style of tree décor done just right.

Bright red berries, mistletoe, and poinsettia petals intermingled with globes and other unique ornaments, each in amounts that simply complemented the other design elements. Soft white lights and decorative ribbon subtly flowed from the top of the tree down to the tree’s faux-granite base, which nestled into the luxurious red felt tree skirt just as cold feet nestle into slippers that have been warmed by the fire.

This stately tree left observers feeling as if, for just a moment, they had left the hustle and bustle of the festival and entered the tastefully festooned parlor of an English country manor just as the holiday season began in full.

These are only two examples of amazing trees from our adventure that we think SLC should see. Keep checking weseeslctrees in the next few days to see more from our trip to the Festival of Trees. Continue reading

City Creek Center

Ringing in the season as one of the first major institutions to erect a Christmas display is downtown’s own City Creek Center. Located smack-dab in the middle of the city, this “mixed-use development with an upscale open-air shopping center managed to put up two separate holiday installations, one on each end of the 20-acre mall, before most of the city’s other merchants hung a single wreath.

City Creek 1

The west side of the shopping center features a massive tree that reaches the second level of the mall on its quest skyward. The ornamentation of the tree is simple and understated, no easy feat on such an imposing example of seasonal décor.

City Creek 2

We can further examine the tree’s detail in this shot taken using weseeslctrees’ innovative image-zoom process. In this exclusive close-up, which we captured by walking closer to the tree and taking another photograph, we are able to see the merry ménage-a-trois of bristly pinecones, tart berries, and golden orbs of varying sizes.

For everything the decorators of this Tall Tall Tree*  did right to translate the venue’s style and sensibility to their tree, there are two glaring omissions that leave this elegant evergreen a little lacking. We are speaking, of course, about the lack of lights and a tree topper! We’ll see if these accessories are added as the season progresses, but without at least one of the missing pieces making an appearance, we’re afraid this tree isn’t even the king of Christmas in its own shopping center.

City Creek 3

It’s no surprise that Kris Kringle himself is the highlight of City Creek’s Christmas decorations, and Santa’s Lantern lives up to its name as it lights up the faces of every person that sees it as they approach. Brightly-lit trees ring the enclosure, in which we imagine the jolly old elf himself will sit and listen to the hushed voices of children whispering their Christmas present requests to the keeper of the naughty or nice list.

At this point we need to call a Zack Morris time-out so that we can tell you a funny story that happened while we were getting this Santa’s Lantern photo. As we pedaled up to the structure, we noticed two girls decorating the interior of the building and decided to ask them a few questions. One of us knocked on the glass, and then we stared in disbelief as the two girls looked up and immediately started slowly backing away towards the furthest corner of the room from us. We actually watched these girls try to hide from us in the back corner of building comprised of nothing but floor-to-ceiling windows. Maybe our Christmas treerection was showing and these holiday decorators were not interested in what they saw. Okay, time in.

City Creek’s pre-Thanksgiving unveiling of their Christmas decorations is a bold statement for such a modest mall. Their design style borrows the existing polished but reserved motif of the surroundings and applies it well to their holiday décor. Apart from a few missing ingredients, this double display is a great beginning to a promising season of Christmas cheer.

*  This is a link to a music video by an amazing singer/songwriter/banjo player/sonic gymnast called Tall Tall Trees. He is in no way affiliated with weseeslctrees.com, City Creek Center, or Christmas trees in general (as far as we know). I just really like his music and wanted to share it with you. Also, as you’ll see if you watch the video, he never forgets HIS lights.

Reader Submission: Alsco IT Department

This reader-submitted tree was sent by the IT department at Alsco. It is the second tree to appear on weseeslctrees.com from the company this holiday season (http://weseeslctrees.com/2013/12/03/alsco/). Thanks for the submission, and thanks to everyone at Alsco for loving Christmas trees as much as we do!

Image

Weseeslctrees.com loves ingenuity when it comes to Christmas trees, and this tree is nothing if not ingenuous, showing creativity and joy for the season in both the design and execution. The IT department really went above and beyond in order to orchestrate this tree, a fact the end result clearly shows.

Consider all the effort that had to go into creating this submission: looting a supply closet for design inspiration and construction supplies, moving personnel off vital network security duties to hand-make the decorations and lovingly drape them among the precisely strung lights, finding the weseeslctrees.com review of the lobby tree through a link on a (presumably blocked) website, and finally submitting their own far superior departmental offering for us to review. This all points to the kind of initiative and productivity that shatters the image of a stereotypical IT guy, shackled to his roller chair by the very cords that power his world.

If these are the kind of l33t tree designing skills being found in tech-support departments around the city, it won’t be long before the IT world tells SLC “All your trees are belong to us.”

The Evolution of the Chase Tower Tree.

Oftentimes, weseeslctrees.com has the chance to see a tree in various stages of set-up as we compile pictures for our reviews. Today, we are able to give our readers that same opportunity to see the intensive process of a professional-grade tree install at a busy downtown office building.

Vigilant weseeslctrees.com readers may recognize this tree from a previous post, in which we commended the design as a poignant symbol of the cleansing of Christmas from rampant commercialization. It turns out there was more in store from the building managers of 50 West Broadway, and we’re happy to be able to show you each step of this treevolution.

Original, December 6

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A tree, naked if not for a modest tree skirt, stands next to a mop inside a bucket. Our initial review (http://weseeslctrees.com/2013/12/13/tree-and-mop-location-unknown/) called the tree “quiet but powerful,” and applauded the designers for shaking off the garland shackles of  department store Christmas ideals and instead stripping the totem to its bare essence. In our eyes, this design needed nothing to be considered finished, but it would only remain in this unfettered state for just under a week before beginning to emerge from it’s Christmas chrysalis into its butterfly stage.

Second Configuration, December 12

Image

In a move toward a more traditional design, nominal amounts of both white and colored lights appear on the tree, hurriedly splashed across as if done buy a guerrilla tree decorator in a rush. The true impact of this addition will be seen shortly, but the fact that no other ornaments or decor adorn the tree allows the minimalist statement to still be heard, if not as loudly.

Final Form, December 18

Image

A well-placed accoutrement meant to enhance the viewer’s overall experience combined with the visual impact of the design finishes off the modifications to this tree. The heater for the comfort of the observers is self-explanatory, but is the inspired touch of the wet floor sign that really draws the eye.

Symbolizing the recently completed cleansing of Christmas (by the mop), and warning of caution as we approach the holiday itself, this final addition gives context to the sparse strands of lights already hung on a tree that was stripped of its commercial leanings only moments ago, showing the futility of pushing against the rising tide of Christmas commercialization.

A tannenbaum neophyte may view this tree as the lazy decorations of a humbuggy building, but that is clearly not the case when it comes to an offering that relies on so much quiet depth to convey its message. Only when one views this multi-stage art installation masquerading as holiday decoration as the versatile and emotional canvass it has been transformed into is one able to truly make out the most honest face of Christmas shown so far this season.

Grand America’s Newest Flower Patch

Being the local business aficionados that we at weseeslctrees.com are means that we keep our ears open for any marketplace news from the downtown area. When we heard that Grand America had finally acquired the long-contested Flower Patch property with which it shares a lot border (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57241353-78/flower-lake-salt-america.html.csp), we decided to take a look at the two companies’ Christmas trees and see if we could spot any indicators as to what this purchase has in store for each party.

The Grand America

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Obviously, the Grand America has a regal tree design that falls directly in line with the rest of the hotel’s decor. One of a few trees we found inside the building, this one is tucked away just off of the lobby, and is an example of a very traditional style. The motif in play seems to be quiet elegance, an unsurprising choice from a luxury hotel that is owned, in part, by an oil baron. As often found in trees of this style, the richly colored ornaments mixed with the generously applied lights and a subtle but effective tree skirt form a nicely coordinated effort without any individual style or panache.

The Flower Patch

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Neatly book-ending our study in tree dichotomy is the quaint little tree at the Flower Patch. Where the Grand America tree was corporate and unfeeling, this tree is the perfect combination of the individuality of the store ambiance and Christmas cheer. It’s an offering that shows the delicate grace and uniqueness of the flower business along with a fun nod to the season’s traditions.

Based on what we’ve seen here, we at weseeslctrees.com predict that big changes are in store for this little patch of flowers. It’s hard to bloom in such an imposing corporate shadow.