Shelton tree in limelight at Rockefeller Center lighting
Vargoshe family members will be sitting near their 76-foot-tall Norway spruce when it is lit Wednesday night at Rockefeller Center.
Millions of people will watch the tree-lighting ceremony, to be televised nationally on NBC from 8-9 p.m. There also will be local coverage on New York City’s WNBC-TV from 7-8 p.m.
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Click below to see photos of the 2013 Shelton tree lit up in Rockefeller Center:
The Vargoshe family will be in a VIP area close to the now-decorated tree in the plaza in front of 30 Rockefeller Center.
“We’ll get a good view of the tree,” said John Vargoshe, the father. “It will be exciting to see the tree lit up, with the big build-up leading up to it that night.”
Vargoshe, his wife Louise, and their sons Nathan and Noah will be joined by a few other close family members at the 81st tree-lighting ceremony.
They expect to be somewhat out of the limelight, although Rockefeller Center representatives have lined up interviews with some local TV stations.
Many top-tier entertainers on show
Most of the attention will instead be on the tree and the entertainers to be featured on NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” broadcast.
Performers Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, the Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande and Jewel will sing current hits and holiday classics during the show.
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Click below to read updated stories on the tree-lighting ceremony:
The hosts will be Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie of “The Today Show.”
The tree has been decorated with almost 50,000 multi-colored, energy-efficient LED lights and topped with a crystal star.
Quieted down since announcement
After an intense week or so in the spotlight, life has mostly quieted down for the family since the tree left their Kazo Drive property on Nov. 7.
“We’ll occasionally see cars driving by looking at the stump, but things have just about gotten back to normal,” Vargoshe said.
Where the majestic spruce once stood in their front yard, the Vargoshes have put up an artificial tree with decorative lights for this holiday season. “It’s a joke, really, to mark where the tree was,” he said.
About 10 days ago, the family did make it to Manhattan to see their tree, which was still covered in scaffolding at the time. A banner was in front the tree, identifying it as the 81st Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
“We kept a low profile,” said Vargoshe, indicating they didn’t tell any of the other visitors they encountered that the tree had come from their yard.
“We just enjoyed walking around and seeing people take pictures of it,” he said. “That was neat.”
‘Big crowds’ expected to view tree
Since news leaked out about the tree at the beginning of November, the Vargoshes have heard from some old friends — including high school classmates — and long-lost relatives.
They’ve enjoyed the interaction.
Vargoshe also has been able to share some family history with some of those who got in touch. He noted a distant relative with the same last name once ran a chicken farm near Huntington Center.
He was informed Rockefeller Center has conducted a test to make the tree’s lights work. The test was successful. “They’ve been getting ready for the big crowds,” Vargoshe said of Rockefeller Center officials.
Rockefeller Center officials said about 2.5 million people view the tree personally during the holiday season.
In New York City, spectators can 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.
Longtime residents of Shelton
The Vargoshe family has lived in the Kazo Drive house for 21 years. They donated the tree, which weighs about 12 tons and is 47 feet in diameter, to Rockefeller Center.
They have often referred to their home as “the house with the big Christmas tree in front.”
Norway spruce, which is about 75 years old, was planted by a previous owner of their home. The Luchtenberg family had displayed the tree inside their home as a live Christmas tree, then planted it in the front yard after the holiday. It is believed this took place in the 1950s.
The Vargoshes 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.
John Vargoshe works for Yale New Haven Health System, and Louise works for Bridgeport Hospital. Nathan, 15, is a sophomore at Shelton High School and Noah, 12, is in the seventh grade at Shelton Intermediate School.
Shelton tree also was selected in past
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.
In other recent years, the trees have come from Flanders, N.J. (2012); Mifflinville, Pa. (2011); Mahopac, N.Y. (2010); Easton, Conn. (2009); Hamilton, N.J. (2008); and Ridgefield, Conn. (2006).
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is a tradition that dates back to 1931, when construction workers erected the first tree on the center plaza block, where the tree now is raised every year.
According to the Rockefeller Center website, the tree selected has traditionally been a Norway spruce that is in the later years of its life cycle, measuring at least 75 feet tall and 45 feet in diameter.