'America’s most famous Christmas tree’
With millions of people watching live on NBC stations, the Christmas tree from Shelton was lit at 8:56 p.m. on Wednesday night at Rockefeller Center.
“It takes your breath away every time,” said Savannah Guthrie of “The Today Show,” who was joined by Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Natalie Morales in hosting the live “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” show.
This year’s tree is a 76-foot-fall Norway spruce that came from the front yard of the Vargoshe family on Kazo Drive in Shelton.
The property has been owned since 1992 by John and Louise Vargoshe, who have two sons — Nathan, 15, a sophomore at Shelton High School, and Noah, 12, a seventh-grader at Shelton Intermediate School.
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Click below to see photos of the 2013 Shelton tree lit up in Rockefeller Center:
The Vargoshes were in a VIP area during the TV program, which was broadcast live for two hours. It was on from 7-8 p.m. on New York City’s WNBC-TV, and from 8-9 p.m. nationally on NBC affiliates.
Many top-tier entertainers
The show featured performances from the Rockefeller Center plaza, in front of the then-still-unlit tree, by many famous entertainers, such as Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Jewel, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
The tree is covered by almost 50,000 multi-colored lights and topped by a crystal star.
Lauer called it “a magical night all about spreading holiday cheer,” and Guthrie referred to the decorated Norway spruce from Shelton as “America’s most famous Christmas tree.”
“I’ve been doing the tree-lighting for 30 years and it never gets old,” Roker said.
Tens of thousands of people packed the midtown Manhattan venue to watch the 81st annual Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony in person.
Segment on the Shelton family
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.
“She’s going out with a bang’
During the segment, Louise Vargoshe talked about how the tree has played a role in the family’s life, such as being used for hanging 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.
Family donated the tree
The Vargoshes donated the tree, which weighs about 12 tons and is 47 feet in diameter, to Rockefeller Center.
The family filled out an online application to donate their tree early this year, and were first contacted by Rockefeller Center in the early spring and told their tree was under consideration.
This is not the first time a tree from Shelton was chosen for the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In 2007, an 81-foot-tall Norway spruce from the backyard of Joe and Judy Rivnyak of Soundview Avenue was selected.