The official lighting ceremony of the National Christmas Tree began in 1923.
Saginaw’s own tree-lighting tradition at the historic water treatment plant, 522 Ezra Rust Drive, began not long afterward.
Mark Krawczak, equipment and asset management/safety specialist at the facility, pieced together stories from retirees and the families of co-workers to determine it began sometime in the 1930s.
The building has been operating since Sept. 29, 1929, and the plant serves more than 20 communities.
Krawczak said plant employees start the decoration process as early as September by pulling nearly 500 strings of lights from numbered storage totes that measure 18 inches wide and 2 feet deep.
“When they have their daily duties completed, the maintenance crews on the second and third shifts will string out the lights and see which bulbs need to be replaced,” he said. “At the end of October and early November, we start putting them up.”
Using a 15-foot ladder and a 10-foot pole, workers are able to reach most areas on the 32 trees. They then bring in a bucket vehicle for larger trees. The project is mapped out and the task is completed in about two weeks.
“We’ve been slowly converting the lights over to LED,” Krawczak said. “We have eight trees that are strictly LED trees and try to convert one tree a year.”
The actual lighting takes place in conjunction with Positive Results Downtown Saginaw’s Holidays in the Heart of the City event, and it draws several hundred families.
“We keep them up through New Year’s Eve,” said Krawczak. “Takedown is determined by the weather, if the ground is frozen and when we can get the lift.”