If the weather is dry over the next week, workers should start setting up Conway’s new Christmas tree — said to be the largest in the state — on Nov. 18.
The Conway City Council voted in August to buy the 54-foot artificial tree for about $130,000 using advertising and promotion tax money raised through a 2-percent prepared food tax.
According to the tree’s maker, Get Lit, LLC, the tree might even be the largest artificial tree in the Midwest, depending on how you define "artificial" and "tree." For instance, El Dorado, Ark., has a tree made by running lights from the ground to the top of a broadcast tower that’s taller, Get Lit chief operations officer Summer Hull said on Monday, "but as far as an actual artificial tree, as far as we know, Conway’s going to have the biggest in the Midwest."
Conway’s prepared food tax (sometimes called the "hamburger tax") is a type authorized by Arkansas law specifically for municipal advertisement and promotions. The uses of the money it generates are specifically laid out in the law (A.C.A. § 26-75-606) as only for advertising and promoting a city to encourage tourism and building, operating or maintaining city-owned convention centers, family entertainment facilities (such as theme parks) or public parks.
The law also forbids the use of advertising and promotion tax money for capital improvements, general operating budgets or for any civic group of chamber of commerce.
Mayor Tab Townsell said on Monday that the tree is intended to attract shoppers to downtown and to Conway in general.
"We think that anything that raises our profile, that becomes a point of interest during the holiday season has a strong potential to bring people to Conway who will then spend money," Townsell said.
The tree will be put together on top of a fountain in Rogers Plaza, a downtown park being built at the intersections of Van Ronkle, Oak and Court streets. When finished, its internal structure will be a hollow cone with a 27-foot-wide base to which artificial tree limbs, ornaments and more than 19,000 lights will be attached. Get Lit advertises the tree on its website as having been "wind tested to 90 mph!" City officials expect it to last at least 10 years.
The post-holiday plan "for the meantime" is to store the tree in an unfinished part of the Conway Expo Center, Townsell said.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)