Artists from each of Milwaukee's aldermanic districts decorate 2022 Christmas tree

Milwaukee's 2022 Christmas tree: Although the tradition has been running for more than a century, this is the year of many firsts
Posted at 7:12 AM, Nov 18, 2022

MILWAUKEE — It's one of the oldest tree-lighting ceremonies in the country. For the past 109 years, the City of Milwaukee has kicked off the holiday season with a tree-lighting ceremony.

In previous years, the tree was on display outside of City Hall but this year it has a new location. Outside of Fiserv Forum, thousands of lights are perfectly placed along the 31-foot Colorado Blue Spruce. The Forestry Department spends hours to make sure all the details are perfect for the long-running holiday tradition.

"We don’t want you to see the details; we want you to enjoy the lights and I think we succeeded in that," said Aimee Balistreri, Urban Forestry Manager.

About 3,500 bulbs are being hung with variations of white and soft yellow hues, including glittering icicle lights.

"It should have a little more bling this year," said Balistreri.

Although the tradition has been running for more than a century, this is the year of many firsts, with a new location at the "Cheer District" and new decorations.

"We wanted this tree to be different from any other Christmas tree that’s on display across the country. In order to do that, we knew it not only had to look good and have that extra razzle-dazzle, but it needed to have a purpose," said tree designer David Caruso.

Caruso said this year he wanted the tree to showcase the diverse community. About 30 artisan ornaments will be hung, each designed and decorated by local artists representing a different aldermanic district.

"When families come to enjoy the tree, seeing that representation of not only the talented people we have in the city but also a really great visual demonstration of what makes Milwaukee so special. It’s gonna be so fun for families," said Caruso.

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But to truly understand how special this tree is and the rich tradition behind it we have to take you back - all the way back to the 1970s. That's when 93-year-old Erwin Boehme planted the tree outside his home. As a retired firefighter, he said he is happy his tree will continue to serve the community he loves, this time bringing joy to families. Erwin's father was also an arborist, so it's also a little way to pay homage to him.

It's through the brightly colored ornaments and dazzling display that this year's tree is shining a light on what makes Milwaukee great: The people in the community.

"It just brings people from every neighborhood here to celebrate with their children," said Balistreri.

"When we light up the tree, it is going to be so joyous to see everyone’s excitement and enthusiasm. Because to me, I really do want it to be the community's tree," said Caruso.

Celebrations start at 5 p.m. on Friday.

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