National TV: Decorated spruce from Shelton called ‘a breathtaking tree’
While people in Shelton and the surrounding region likely were focused on the tree, entertainers were front and center during the “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” TV special on Wednesday evening.
The live broadcast featured performances by some of the country’s best known musicians, such as Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, the Goo Goo Dolls, and Jewel.
They sang mostly holiday classics with a few current hits mixed in.
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Click below to see photos of the 2013 Shelton tree lit up in Rockefeller Center:
The first hour from 7-8 p.m. was shown only on WNBC-TV in New York City, accessible on most cable-TV systems in Connecticut, while the second hour from 8-9 p.m. aired nationally on NBC stations all around the country as well as overseas.
“Thousands and thousands of people have packed Rockefeller Center for a spectacular evening,” Al Roker, one of TV show’s co-hosts, said of the crowd.
Tree planted in Shelton yard in 1950s
This year’s tree came from Shelton, having once graced the front yard of John and Louise Vargoshe on Kazo Drive, a short residential street that runs between Isinglass Road and Huntington Street (Route 108).
The 76-foot-tall Norway spruce is about 75 years old, weighs about 12 tons, and is 47 feet in diameter. It is believed to have been planted in the 1950s after being used as a live, indoor Christmas tree by a previous owner of the Vargoshe home.
“People have always said the tree would be perfect for Rockefeller Center,” John Vargoshe said. “I always said if we hit the Lotto I would hire someone to decorate the tree. In a way, it is like we won the lottery.”
Once transported to Rockefeller Center, the Shelton tree was decorated with almost five miles of multi-colored lights (more than 45,000 LED bulbs) and topped with a crystal star.
In New York City, visitors can now view the lit tree each day from 5:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.; all day (24 hours) on Christmas Day; and from 5:30 a.m.–9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The last day to view the tree is Jan. 7, 2014.
‘Today Show’ cast hosted live show
The “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” show was hosted by the cast of NBC’s “Today Show” — Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales.
Guthrie noted that tens of millions of viewers likely would watch the tree-lighting ceremony around the world on NBC stations. She called the event “America’s biggest holiday party.”
“You’re having a good time?” Roker asked the crowd at one point. His question was answered with cheering and shouts of “Yeah!” from spectators.
The TV broadcast included many shots of the audience, especially close-up views of people singing and swaying to the musical performances.
“As you can see by looking through this crowd, the holiday season brings us together,” Guthrie said.
‘Everyone is looking up’
The live entertainment was a build-up to the lighting, which occurred at 8:56 p.m., near the show’s ending. It was preceded by a 5-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,” Lauer said, but now is the time for the tree “to take center stage.” Lauer called the Norway spruce from Shelton “a breathtaking tree.”
In addition to the performers mentioned earlier in this article, also appearing were Ashanti, Lauren Alaina, Ariana Grande, Leona Lewis, Audra McDonald, and Rockettes from Radio City Music Hall.
They were sometimes aided by choirs, choruses and dance troupes, including at one point dancing elves carrying wrapped presents.
Many holiday favorites performed
Some of the songs performed on the show included “All I Want for Christmas is You,” “Blue Christmas,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World” and “Let It Snow.”
There also was a brief appearance by Miss Universe, who is from Venezuela, and a few promotional spots for NBC’s live version of “The Sound of Music” to air on Thursday evening.
This was the 81st annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting.