The 75ft tall, Norway Spruce Rockefeller Christmas tree has been cut down in upstate New York and is enroute to the city to become the centerpiece for NYC festivities.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced Rockefeller Center to bar in-person crowds from seeing the famous tree-lighting ceremony while it figures out how it will permit visitors to get a glimpse of the illuminated spectacle.
After it seemed that New York was well past its dark period as the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, Governor Andrew Cuomo this week announced new restrictions on bars, restaurants, and gyms that are set to go into effect on Friday as the virus makes a resurgence across the state.
The 11-ton tree was cut down on Thursday from a home in Oneonta, New York, in preparation for its 170-mile journey to Manhattan where it will be displayed at Rockefeller Center during the holiday season.
The tree, which was donated by Daddy Al’s General Store, will be placed on a 115ft-long flatbed truck before it is delivered to its destination on Saturday, according to WNBC-TV.
It is estimated to be between 75 and 80 years old.
But there are concerns visitors could be severely limited because of Covid 19.
The famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink will open on November 21, but it will limit the number of people on the ice.
Workers in Oneonta, New York, on Thursday prepare to cut down a 75ft-tall, 11-ton Norway Spruce that was chosen to be the tree that will be displayed at Rockefeller Center this holiday season
The tree is estimated to be between the ages of 75 and 80 years old, according to the family that owned it
It will be adorned with some 50,000 multi-colored LED lights attached to 5 miles of wire
The rink will also close far earlier this season compared to previous years. The last day skaters can pay a visit to the rink is January 17.
The annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, which features the Rockettes, has been canceled.
There will also be no in-person crowds watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, though preparations are underway to stage a modified version that will be broadcast on television.
Last month, Bryant Park opened its Winter Village, though unlike previous years it institute safety protocols to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
After the tree’s arrival in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday, it will receive its usual glow-up, which will consist of some 50,000 multi-colored LED lights attached to approximately 5 miles of wire.
To top it all off – literally – a glitzy star made of Swarovski crystals will be placed at the tree’s apex.
A crane will hoist the 900-pound Swarovski crystal star atop the tree for the second straight year.
The star measures 9-foot 4-inches in diameter and has 3 million Swarovski crystals on 70 illuminated spikes.
Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind 1 World Trade Center, designed the star that millions will see sparkling on top of the tree.
The tree was placed on a flatbed truck and is due to arrive in Midtown Manhattan this coming Saturday
Al Dick (left) of Daddy Al’s General Store in Oneonta donated the tree to Rockefeller Center
Farewell, old friend: Al Dick’s grandchildren hug their tree for the last time before it is cut down and sent to New York City
Dick’s family pose for a photograph in front of the tree in Oneonta, New York, on Thursday
The tree, which is two feet smaller and one ton lighter than last year’s version, was selected by Erik Pauze, the chief gardener at Rockefeller Center.
He said he last paid a visit to Oneonta in 2016. Since then, he knew that was the tree he wanted.
‘I’m looking for a tree that’s gonna look great in Rockefeller Center,’ Pauze told WNBC-TV.
‘One that’s gonna stand up, have a nice Christmas tree shape like the one you want in your living room and look good.’
The tree’s annual lighting ceremony will take place on December 2. There will be no public access to the ceremony, though it will be televised nationally on NBC beginning at 7pm Eastern time.
It will likely remain on display in Rockefeller Center until early next year, at which point the tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will recycle it for use as lumber.
Unlike in previous years, in order to ensure social distancing, the was no public access for visitors to attend or get an up close look at the tree being cut.
This is the second time in recent years that a tree from the town of Oneonta has been chosen as the Rockefeller tree, with the last coming in 2016, which was grown by locals Angie and Graig Eichler.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio held out hope that a limited number of in-person viewers would be allowed to attend the tree-lighting ceremony.
Workers are seen preparing to cut down the tree in the upstate New York town of Oneonta on Thursday
The tree is seen above on Thursday being loaded onto a flatbed trailer before it is shipped to New York City
Traditionally, the cutting down of the tree is an event viewed by the public, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to do a scaled-down version
This is the second time in the last four years that a tree from Oneonta has been picked to be displayed at Rockefeller Center
The tree will be adorned with Christmas lights as well as a large star made of Swarovski crystals
An observer takes a photo of the tree before it is cut down by workers in Oneonta, New York, on Thursday morning
While he was quick to express his ‘childlike’ wonder over the lighting of the spruce, the mayor didn’t offer any concrete answers, simply suggesting that indoor events should be avoided.
‘We want that to be a great experience, especially in the middle of everything people are dealing with,’ de Blasio said on Tuesday.
‘This is something really special each year for this city, and I don’t know about you, but I still have a kind of childlike wonder when the lights go on in that tree each year.
‘I think people understand that we have to be really careful with the danger of a second wave, but we’re going to take extra precautions to make sure that if people are trying to go by to see it, that we can keep it to the right number of folks at any given time.’
The mayor assured: ‘We’ll get an update on how it will be handled, but we will take proper precautions.’
The tradition of lighting a Christmas street outside the Rockefeller Center officially began in 1933.
Workers prepare a massive crane that will be used to lower the tree once it is cut down in Oneonta, New York, on Thursday
The tree, which is two feet smaller and one ton lighter than last year’s version, was selected by Erik Pauze, the chief gardener at Rockefeller Center
It will likely remain on display in Rockefeller Center until early next year, at which point the tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will recycle it for use as lumber
Unlike in previous years, in order to ensure social distancing, the was no public access for visitors to attend or get an up close look at the tree being cut down
This is the second time in recent years that a tree from the town of Oneonta has been chosen as the Rockefeller tree, with the last coming in 2016, which was grown by locals Angie and Graig Eichler
Observers keep their distance and take photographs as the tree is cut down in Oneonta, New York, on Thursday morning
Last year’s tree-lighting ceremony (above) at Rockefeller Center drew a large crowd of thousands, but there will be no in-person viewing of this year’s festivities due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
This year, the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink will limit the number of people permitted to skate. It will also be open this year from November 21 until January 17 – far shorter than usual skating season of years past. People are seen above skating on the rink in this December 2019 file photo
It’s estimated that more than 125 million people typically visit Rockefeller Center during the holidays, but with tourism stalled amid the pandemic, it’s unlikely the usual frenzy will appear this year.
Iva Benson, an outside spokeswoman for Rockefeller Center’s landlord, Tishman Speyer, confirmed to DailyMail.com that the tree-lighting ceremony will be closed to the public.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment.
While this year’s tree measures at a towering 75-foot, the tallest ever spruce to stand in the center was seen in 1999, which was 100 foot tall. The tree that year came from Killingworth, Connecticut.
‘This year, we just feel the tree is vital,’ Tishman Speyer CEO Rob Speyer said, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic that has forced the cancellation of other holiday traditions like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Speyer said the company is ‘particularly proud to continue the joyous tradition this year.’
Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10pm starting on Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the United States that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago.
He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.
The US has recorded over 240,000 deaths and more than 10.3 million confirmed infections, with new cases soaring to all-time highs of well over 120,000 per day over the past week.
Health experts have blamed the increase in part on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other precautions.
The limitation on gatherings in private homes comes two weeks before families traditionally get together for Thanksgiving.
The announcement was met with dismay from hard-hit restaurant owners and their advocates.
Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, called it ‘a huge blow to the restaurant industry that is desperately trying to stay afloat.’
Cuomo spoke as rates of coronavirus infection continued to take off in New York and elsewhere.
Over the past seven days, New York has seen an average of 3,600 new infections and nearly 22 deaths per day due to COVID-19.
That average number of new cases has doubled in the past 14 days.
As recently as late August, the state was averaging around 600 new cases per day. Tuesday, it recorded 4,820, a new high since April. More than 1,600 people were in the hospital with the virus across the state Tuesday.
Cuomo shut down all nonessential businesses in the spring when New York was the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States and started allowing restaurants and other businesses to open at limited capacity when infection rates appeared under control.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured above on September 24) said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10pm starting on Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the United States that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago
Over the past seven days, New York has seen an average of 3,600 new infections and nearly 22 deaths per day due to COVID-19. That average number of new cases has doubled in the past 14 days
Even without the early closing time, restaurateurs have complained that the restrictions make it difficult to stay in business.
Cuomo’s announcement came days after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that bars and restaurants in his state would have to halt indoor dining at 10 p.m. starting Thursday.
Cuomo said further restrictions, including limiting restaurants to operating at 25 per cent capacity across the state, may be necessary if COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
The new closing time applies to all establishments licensed by the State Liquor Authority. Only carry-out service will be allowed after 10pm. Cuomo urged local governments to enforce the rules.
After 10pm, ‘If the lights are on and people are drinking, they get a summons,’ he said.
De Blasio supports the new rules, a spokesperson tweeted, saying they were necessary to fight back a second wave of the virus.