Mayor Tab Townsell asked the crowd at Rogers Plaza if they believe in Christmas amid a backdrop of holiday lights and smiling children, and the resounding answer was "Yes."
Conway can now confidently claim it is the home to Arkansas’ tallest Christmas tree after the city lit the 54-foot faux-evergreen’s 20,000 LED lights Saturday evening.
The $130,000 tree, which was paid for with advertising and promotion tax money, was built around the fountain at Rogers Plaza over several days.
"We believe the squeals of joy when this tree is lit ... we think that’s worthwhile," the mayor said.
Mary Louise Rogers, wife of the late Earl Rogers, and her family pulled the lever with Townsell to bring light to the tree.
The Rogers family donated the land in front of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce for Rogers Plaza. In April, when the chamber officially announced plans for the plaza, Mary Louise said she and her husband both loved Conway, and she "bugged Earl, saying ‘We’ve got to make a park.’"
With rainy days and the size of the project, the Christmas tree did not get finished until about 5:30 Saturday night, minutes before the 6 p.m. flip-of-the-switch to turn on the lights.
The first employees from Get Lit, LLC — the company who built the tree for the city — arrived Thursday morning around 10:30 with the steel pieces to build the skeleton.
By 1:30 Saturday afternoon, Conway’s Christmas tree was still under construction as workers continued to affix branches to the skeleton.
Get Lit, LLC CEO Jason Hull said Conway’s tree was a lot of work, but his team was determined to finish it out in time for the evening’s events.
"Every single person on our staff has put an unbelievable effort into this project," he said. "We don’t quit until it is done."
Hull said Get Lit got the go-ahead from the city a little later than would have been ideal. City council voted to waive competitive bids and go with Get Lit at their regular meeting Aug. 27.
"For something like this there are a lot of logistics," Hull said.
There were also other projects Get Lit was responsible for that were already in front of Conway’s massive tree.
Additionally, Conway’s tree features a newer design that Hull described as being "more branchy."
The trees made by Get Lit do not try to emulate a natural tree, which could be patchy, but rather the "perfect image" of what everyone envisions when they think of a Christmas tree.
Hull said the Get Lit team would stay for the tree lighting and then head home after the time-consuming project is complete. Although it was exhausting, Hull said it is a very gratifying time of year.
"Most people don’t get to actually make Christmas," he said.
The people at Rogers Plaza seemed to enjoy the tree as the children counted down to the moment the lights turned on.
The evening wasn’t free of glitches as some sections of the tree were turning off and on, but the mayor — and everyone else — heard the squeals of joy when Arkansas’ tallest Christmas tree was lit up.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. 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)