ELMA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Canalside crews have been spending all week preparing for the tree lighting. They’re tightening the light bulbs, placing the ornaments, and making sure the tree is standing upright in its stand.
“We’re always trying to find the perfect tree,” said Don Hilliker Jr., a tree farmer from Treehaven, located on Jamison Road in Elma.
He says the one by the waterfront is far from perfect but it is perfect for its location. The Grand Fir tree stands 45ft. tall with sturdy branches and firm, fragrant needles. Hilliker remembers planting the seedling for this tree longer than four decades ago. That was a long time after he first started planting trees though; that came in 1946 when he was 15 years old.
“I just love the outdoors. Being outdoors is what I want to do.”
So for forty years, he’s been heading outdoors caring for this tree.
“The first few years, it’s every year that you’re out there, shaping them, fertilizing, trimming them,” said Hilliker. “Once they’re up and they establish a form, they don’t require quite as much work.”
The seedling is hybrid, coming from two different trees in Idaho. It peaked around 55ft. tall – Hilliker shaping and trimming it before sending it off to Buffalo to stand before thousands of people.
“We put it on a hill so when you’re skating, it’s really towering over you,” said Matt Lasota, the General Manager at Canalside.
He says they were picky when choosing their tree and had a few qualities which the evergreen must match to be selected.
“We knew we wanted a big one and one that fills in from the front,” said Lasota. “And we also made sure it had a nice color and scent.”
While Hilliker says this tree still isn’t perfect, when he sees it, he thinks it perfect symbolizes Buffalo.
“They have a lot of resiliency.”