Whose Christmas tree is often bigger than Rockefeller Center and the White House?  You got it, Santa baby - Kansas City. crowncentertreeThe Mayor's Christmas Tree at Crown Center, lit the Friday after Thanksgiving, is often the largest in the nation. But what makes the Mayor's Tree so cool is what happens after Christmas. A company in Pomona Kansas strips the limbs and bark, and cuts the tree into wooden planks that are then turned over to those creative spirits at Hallmark. In January, they begin to sketch out ideas for ornaments to be made from the wood of that very special tree. “Wood is, by nature, a nostalgic material that lends itself to old-fashioned designs,” says Kevin Horvath, an art director at Hallmark who is responsible for turning the 100-foot tall tree into about 3,000 individually decorated ornaments. The idea of a special Mayor’s Christmas Tree ornament began in 1981. At that time, the ornaments were chosen from the delightful, but mass produced line of Hallmark holiday decorations. They were distinguished with a simple inscription that read “Mayor’s Christmas Tree.” However, in 1987, the idea of making the ornaments from the previous year’s tree came to be. That first wooden one was a Christmas tree and all 3,000 ornaments sold out in about a month. The next year, 1988, my only child was born.  My son was just a few weeks old when we bundled him up against the cold for his first visit to Crown Center, a trip we make every year about this time. We now have a storage box filled with his lifetime’s collection. He jokes about their value on e-Bay, but I know he knows their value is much more. Other than on e-Bay, the ornaments sell for $12.50 and can only be purchased at the Customer Service Center on the second floor of Crown Center. The new ornament goes on sale the day after Thanksgiving. Of course, the unique design and collectible nature of the ornaments adds to their appeal. But it’s what happens to the money that really touches the Christmas spirit of many who wait patiently for the day after Thanksgiving each year to add to their collection. Proceeds of the ornament sales benefit the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund, a charity that, since 1908, has helped feed, clothe and provide housing to those Kansas Citians in need throughout the year. My Christmas wish is that my son gets it – that the true spirit of Christmas represented in that box, kept in storage 11 months of the year, stays in his heart for a lifetime. diana_meyer_2Diana Lambdin Meyer (@mojotraveleris a freelance writer based in Parkville and author of the travel app “Kansas City Uncovered.” She regularly writes about shopping and off-the-beaten path escapes on her blog www.mojotraveler.com.
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