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Tale of How Rockefeller Center Got Its Tree

The first time Barbara Rickard drove up the driveway and saw the giant Norway spruce in the yard, her first thought was "it belongs in Rockefeller Center at Christmas."

This week the 74-foot tree, felled in about two minutes by her husband, Victor, traveled by barge from Stony Point, N.Y., down the Hudson River - the first step in its transformation from suburban shade tree to New York City's shining emblem of Christmas.

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But getting the tree to New York was not as simple as it looked. Logistics were complicated: This is the first time a Rockefeller Center tree has come by boat rather than truck.

Then there was Mr. Rickard, who didn't share his wife's visions of sugarplums dancing on the spruce. He liked the tree right where it was.

Enter David Murbach, Rockefeller Center gardener and Christmas-tree scout. He first spotted the Rickards' tree from the air and approached them two years ago.

"I went up [to Stony Point to see the couple] many, many times," Mr. Murbach says. "I'd stop by and say hello, work on him a little bit." The Rickards are getting a replacement tree and an undisclosed honorarium.

A Rockefeller tree must meet tough standards, Murbach says. "It has to be storybook perfection, the way a little kid would draw a Christmas tree," he says, "a wide, sloping triangle of a tree."

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