TUSTIN — There was a crowd on hand for hours at Kettunen Center near Tustin last Tuesday (Nov. 1) when a giant of a tree was cut down, lowered to the ground, loaded onto a truck, and headed for Detroit, where it would serve as the city’s first Michigan-grown Christmas tree.

The tree, a 60-foot Norway spruce, was estimated to be 50 years old. Once the tree was down, a ring-count showed that figure not far off.

It was fun for young and old alike to watch the proceedings, with Santa sitting in the cab maneuvering the crane, and carefully protecting all the trees big and small nearby, along with other plantings in the area.

In reality, the tree looked skinny as it stood there before it was lowered by the crane, rather than the big sprawling Norway pine folks had figured on seeing. Also in reality, a crew moved in the night before and several men shinnied up the tree. They proceeded to bale it nice and neat so it wouldn’t be damaged on the way to the ground or loaded on the truck and moving to Detroit.

This day, the day the tree came down, onlookers were surprised just before the trunk was severed from its location for close to 50 years, to discover there was a man still in the tree. He was perched there for a long time, waiting to attach the cable to the tree securely, so it could be gently lowered without damage.

And so it was he clambered down just before the last saw cut happened.

The tree was lowered, then positioned on a bed of boughs that would help fill in the bare spots once it was in its pre-Christmas location and decorated. Its own boughs, mind you. A sort of comforting thought, some shared.

Another surprise for those watching came at loading time. The long arm of the crane was relocated to bring the tree beneath wires, then the semi sent to do the job, the one already loaded with the huge tree’s boughs, had a folding semi body that, much like an accordion, just folded back nearly to the cab allowing ample space for positioning the tree and securing it for the long trip.

John Grix, director of Kettunen Center, said, “I can’t think of a better use of this special tree than to provide joy and Christmas spirit to the thousands from Detroit and throughout Michigan who will enjoy its tremendous beauty. Kettunen Center is currently celebrating its 50th year and it seems fitting to share this lovely tree with Detroit.”

The tree was planted a half-century ago by Michigan State University forestry professor Ira Bull as part of a teaching arboretum. Kettunen is Michigan’s statewide 4-H volunteer leader training facility and conference center. It is owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation.

The tree was bound for the Detroit 300 Conservancy, the nonprofit agency that manages Detroit’s Campus Martius Park, which had launched a search in August for a Michigan tree without success.

The Michigan Christmas Tree Association pledged support, and ultimately located the tree. A representative from that organization was on hand to witness the major project.

Grix also noted that, “It’s like a page out of the children’s book, ‘The Giving Tree,” a magnificent tree that has given us so much over the years, helping create a beautiful sanctuary for our staff and guests. It’s a fixture here and will be missed, but, unfortunately it has long outgrown the arboretum. When we learned of the Detroit Christmas tree search, we couldn’t think of a better use for it.”

The tree was scheduled to arrive in Detroit on Nov. 2, and it was expected it would take a week to decorate.