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NJ Tree Becomes Rockefeller Christmas Tree

80-foot Norway spruce cut from Mount Olive man's property.

One foot for every year.

The Christmas tree being used for the 80th annual Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony is an 80-foot tall Norway spruce that came down on Flanders-Drakestown Road in Mt. Olive on Tuesday morning.

This tree's felling was the first in weeks to be celebrated, rather than lamented, as the 10-ton tree wasn't part of the damage sustained during the recent visit by Hurricane Sandy. 

Joseph Balku, the Mount Olive resident who owns the property the tree resided on, said that the Nov. 12 festivities were the culmination of a whirlwind two months.

"They called me two months ago," Balku said. "And three weeks ago they told me my tree was selected and I was happy to donate it."

The street Balku lives on still shows scars of Hurricane Sandy, the storm that ravaged the state two weeks ago. Broken trees, orphaned limbs and stacked lumber are still part of the landscape. Many residents in attendance for the tree cutting ceremony just received power back within the last 24 hours. Balku said the storm made him nervous, but the chosen tree had its limbs wrapped and secured before the storm.

"I think that made a big difference," Balku said. "It would have been a much bigger target otherwise."

Balku has been a resident of Mount Olive since 1972, and said while he was accustomed to seeing his tree as a part of his landscape and would miss it once it was gone, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to share it.

"It is something everyone will see," Balku said. "It is something the whole country can enjoy."

A row of onlookers braved the cold and rainy morning to watch what many described as "history."

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Lisa Fezenko said.

Fezenko was there with her husband Doug and daughter Nicole.

"Our son is going to be upset," Fezenko said. "We put him on the bus for school before we found out about this."

Balku spent most of the morning speaking with reporters and friends, but was as excited as a kid on Christmas when the time came to take down the tree.

"I can't wait to see the big chainsaw," Balku said.

The "big chainsaw" and metal wedges and hammers made short work of the 50 foot stump. The crowd gasped audibly when the spruce came free, hoisted up by a crane and held steady like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float by workmen with mooring lines.

"That is just so cool," said Mount Olive resident Lori Eckhardt.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held in two weeks on Wednesday, Nov. 28. While Hurricane Sandy originally disrupted many ways of getting into New York City, NJ Transit has provided up-to-date information about how to get into NYC from Freehold.

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