Tree From Flanders, N.J. Makes Storm-Damaged Community Proud

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The long awaited countdown is over. The Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center was lit up in a brilliant display Wednesday night.

The 80-foot Norway spruce shined brightly during the 80th annual tree lighting celebration in the heart of Midtown.

Cee Lo Green, Rod Stewart, and Mariah Carey performed during the ceremony before the lighting. All the waiting was well worth it for the people lining 50th and 49th streets in Rockefeller Center when the 45,000 lights went on, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports

The tree, which is 50 feet in diameter and weighs 10 tons, came from the Flanders, N.J., home of 76-year-old Joe Balku.

“It does look beautiful, and it looks almost as good as when it was in my yard,” Balku said after the lighting.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports

Balku said he lost several trees in his yard during Superstorm Sandy, but the Norway spruce survived to become the symbol of the holiday season.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Balku said Wednesday.

The tree was removed from Balku’s yard two weeks ago and transported on a 115-foot-long flatbed truck to Rockefeller Center, where it was adorned with 45,000 lights and topped by a Swarovski star.

Balku said he’ll miss the tree but not the pine combs it used to dump on his property.

“We had to rake up every year,” Balku said.

Many of his neighbors were expected to be on hand for the tree’s big moment.

“We’re all very excited about it,” one neighbor said. “It’s a nice thing to happen to our town after all this devastation.”

The tree will remain lit until Jan. 7 and will later be turned into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

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