December 16, 2016
There’s a running bet at Downtown Lounge about the Christmas tree in the middle of Idaho Street.
When is someone going to hit it?
A couple weeks ago, the bar’s owner decided to revive an old town tradition from when he was a young boy in Glidden.
“I remembered that big beautiful tree in the middle of the intersection,” said Roger Hartwigsen, who is now 65 and also the town’s mayor. “I just got to thinking. ... I had a bunch of extra Christmas lights.”
He had seen recent news reports in other small towns that had trees in streets, so he went to Hoogestraat Christmas Tree Farm in Arcadia and bought a 12-footer.
The public works department bolted it to the center of the intersection of Idaho and Second streets, directly beneath a red flashing light that tells drivers to stop. They have to swerve a bit to miss it.
It’s decorated with Hartwigsen’s multi-colored lights which illuminate when the street lights turn on at night.
“I get a lot of comments about it,” Hartwigsen said. “I bet they’ve been 97-percent positive.”
Jacky Sklenar, who lives in Glidden with husband Nick and their three children, braved the cold this week with her 6-year-old daughter, Lena, for a Facebook photo with the tree.
“It’s the epitome of a small town,” Sklenar said later. “It’s charming. I love that it was plugged into the stoplight. Something like that would never happen in a bigger town. It’s what makes Glidden such a sweet and charming town.”
One woman complained that a car almost struck her when a driver was distracted by the tree.
But Hartwigsen’s only regret this year is not buying a bigger one. The Austrian pine would dominate a living room, but it’s smallish in the middle of a downtown intersection.
Hartwigsen plans to scout a bigger one for next year.
And that means the city might have to move its center-of-the-intersection stoplight and install a manhole to support the larger tree, said Robert Bock, the town’s public works director.
“It brings on more of the Christmas spirit,” Bock said. “Come to Glidden to see it.”