Skip to main content

Murray Journal

A new chapter in holiday heritage: Murray unveils high-tech tree and light show

Dec 01, 2023 11:33AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Miss Murray 2021 Morgan Workman at the 2021 tree lighting ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Miss Murray)

Murray City is entering a new era this holiday season with the unveiling of a dazzling high-tech yule tree and light display outside the new City Hall building. The artificial 70-foot tall tree is a noticeable upgrade from the traditional live trees the city has used in years past.

The switch comes as Murray looks to establish new traditions following the completion of the new civic center complex earlier this year. "We felt the city needed to have an attraction in the plaza area in front of City Hall to celebrate the holidays," Tammy Kikuchi said, Murray City's Chief Communications Officer. "It is also hoped that the lighting display will bring visitors to Murray and the historic downtown area."

Inspiration for the flashy new tree came from a holiday lighting display Kikuchi saw in Plaza de San Francisco in Seville, Spain. "During the holiday season, the square is wonderfully illuminated by a huge tree and animated lights that are synchronized with music," she said. "It will be a wonderful and lovely outdoor place for people to gather and create memories with family, friends and neighbors."

The new Murray display features the 70-foot main tree as the centerpiece, surrounded by four 20-foot tall synchronized "dancing" trees. Brightly lit arches that visitors can walk under complete the festive scene.

The tree lighting ceremony has been a staple of the Murray community for over eight decades, with the first documented lighting occurring in 1937. That year, the local Lions Club decorated the downtown thoroughfare known as the "White Way" (because it was fully electrified) with strings of lights and small trees. They also erected a large live tree in front of the original City Hall building.

Historical newspaper accounts show Murray has traditionally used locally donated live evergreen trees, typically in the 40 to 50-foot range. Blue spruce, blue balsam and Douglas fir have all made appearances over the years. Trees were occasionally transplanted from locations slated for demolition, such as the 42-year-old blue spruce planted in 1917 but threatened when 700 East expanded to six lanes in 1959.

Over time the city’s annual tradition includes lighting the street posts with festive light sculptures. The city once awarded Murray residents for having the best decorated yard. Of recent tradition, Murray City Fire Department brings Santa in on a large fire engine to flip the Christmas lights on.

So, what motivated Murray to break from tradition this year with a sparkling artificial tree? According to Kikuchi, much of it had to do with the lower maintenance requirements compared to a live tree. "There aren't really impacts to the local ecosystems since the tree is artificial," she said.

The city also wanted an impressive display to show off the capabilities of the new civic plaza. "Although the new City Hall has been open since June, many residents still don’t know about the new location and not many citizens know the extent of the trees that will be lighting the plaza," Kikuchi said. "When the tree(s) is up our citizens will have a view of it from the surrounding area."

Resident feedback on the switch to a high-tech artificial tree has been positive so far. "We are excited for this new tree(s)," a representative of the city's tree lighting committee said. "It’s going to be a spectacular sight and with the music it will be a multi-sensory experience."

According to Kikuchi, the tree lighting ceremony has always been about more than just the tree—it's an opportunity for the community to come together. "The lighting display will bring visitors to Murray and the historic downtown area," Kikuchi said. The event provides a perfect occasion for residents to gather with family, friends and neighbors and feel the holiday spirit.

“The city will be adding new items to the collection in subsequent years. We didn’t have enough in the budget to provide all the decorations that we hoped to have. Stay tuned. It will be great,” Kikuchi said. λ