For the Vargoshe family of Shelton, it was the moment they had been waiting for.
The world would get its first look at their 76-foot-tall Norway spruce on display in the plaza at Rockefeller Center, decorated with more than 45,000 holiday lights.
Sitting in a VIP box with her family, Louise Vargoshe said she was nervous about whether people would like the tree.
“When they flipped that switch, it was breathtaking,” Vargoshe said. “It looked phenomenal. I actually was crying when it was lit.”
That moment came just before 9 p.m. on Dec. 4, with millions of people watching live on NBC-TV stations. It was at the end of a nationally televised one-hour special called Christmas in Rockefeller Center that featured some of the country’s best-known musicians, including Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson and Jewel.
An additional live show had aired during the previous hour on New York City’s WNBC-TV station, and the local broadcast included a brief segment on the Vargoshe family and their tree.
Matt Lauer, a co-host of the TV show, used a similar word as Louise Vargoshe to describe the Norway spruce from Shelton. On the national broadcast, Lauer called it “a breathtaking tree.”
At center stage
The Christmas in Rockefeller Center program was hosted by the cast of NBC’s Today Show — Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, and Natalie Morales.
The live entertainment was a buildup to the lighting, which occurred at 8:56 p.m., near the show’s ending. It was preceded by a five-second countdown, choreographed to the Christmas carol Joy to the World.
“Everyone is looking up,” Roker said as the countdown began, in a reference to the tall tree in front of them.
“We’ve had great weather with great performers,” but now is the time for the tree “to take center stage,” Lauer said.
The Norway spruce had been in the front yard of the Kazo Drive property of the Vargoshe family before becoming, as Guthrie told the TV audience, “America’s most famous Christmas tree.”
Louise Vargoshe said the entire experience of being at Rockefeller Center for the TV show and tree-lighting was a thrill.
“It really was an unforgettable night,” she said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
She was joined by her husband, John Vargoshe, and their two sons — Nathan, 15, a sophomore at Shelton High School, and Noah, 12, a seventh grader at Shelton Intermediate School. A few extended family members also were with them at the lighting.
Mayor Mark Lauretti was in the crowd, with his wife, Anndee, and son Anthony. He said Rockefeller Center was jam-packed with people for the ceremony.
“It was exciting” Lauretti said. “An element of pride goes with this — especially having a second tree picked from Shelton.”
The 2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree also came from Shelton.
The one-hour show that aired on the New York station included about a 90-second segment on the Vargoshes, made in advance and narrated by Roker.
For over 20 years, the tree that was cut down and trucked on Nov. 7 to Rockefeller Center “has been at the root of the Vargoshe home” and had “became a landmark,” Roker said.
Once John and Louise Vargoshe had their two children, the tree “became an integral part of the family,” according to Roker.
During the segment, Louise Vargoshe talked about how the tree has played a role in the family’s life, such as being used to hang a baby swing. Some old family photos highlighting their children with the tree through the years were shown.
She discussed the sense of loss she now feels with the tree gone and her children getting older, noting the family is beginning to think about colleges for their older son.
But the joy of sharing the tree with so many others also was mentioned. “She’s going out with a bang — everyone gets to see her,” Louise said of the tree, estimated to be about 75 years old.
See the tree through Jan. 7
Visitors may now view the lit tree in New York City each day from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; all day (24 hours) on Christmas Day; and from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The last day to view the tree is Jan. 7, 2014.
The Vargoshe family plans to spend a weekend in Manhattan to view the tree again and take in all the sights later during the holiday season.
On Jan. 8, they may travel to Rockefeller Center to watch as the tree is taken down. Plans calls for the tree to be milled onsite into lumber that will be given to Habitat for Humanity, with some parts turned into mulch that also will be put to use.