GARDINER - Thanksgiving is still weeks away, but in the town of Gardiner it was already beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Monday.
That's because a 78-foot Norway spruce on Route 44/55, a few doors down from Lombardi's Italian Restaurant, has been selected to become the symbol of the season as the next Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
According to neighbors, a work crew has been on site for the past week. The approximately 80-year-old tree, which weighs 10 tons, has been wrapped in netting in preparation for the tree cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Word has gotten out in town about the tree, which sits squarely on the lawn of homeowners Albert Asendorf and Nancy Puchalski.
A state trooper has been placed on traffic detail on Route 44-55, since the tree has become the newest local tourist attraction.
A small group of workers drove over from the center of town on their lunch break Monday to snap some quick photos of the about-to-become famous spruce.
"It's just so exciting that a tree from Gardiner got chosen to be the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree," said Carol Sutfin, a customer service employee at the Heritage Energy office in Gardiner. "It's really quite an honor, you know."
Asendorf and Puchalski, who've been domestic partners for 22 years, submitted a request to have their spruce considered for Rockefeller Center. As part of the deal, they've agreed not to give interviews until Wednesday's tree cutting ceremony, according to a spokesperson.
John Becker, who lives across the street, is expecting TV crews to use his front porch to record some of the ceremony. He grew up next door and has fond memories of that tree. According to Becker, all of the kids in the neighborhood used to climb the tree.
Back in the 1950s, when Becker was growing up, the tree was about 20 feet tall. He said that he couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed thinking about it.
"That tree made a lot of people happy in this area, and, now that it's going to Rockefeller Center, it's going to make the whole world happy," Becker said.
To see a photo of the tree, visit recordonline.com