published on December 2, 2019 - 11:30 AM
Written by Associated Press

(AP) — At the heart of an annual California Christmas tradition lies a struggling deodar cedar tree in the city of Fresno.

Nearly a century ago, the tree was decorated by Willian and Mae Winning in memory of their teenage son after he died from a fall, the Fresno Bee reported Sunday. Neighbors decorated trees in front of their homes in solidarity with the grieving parents.

Today, the tree is one of hundreds decorated by residents each December along a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch of Van Ness Boulevard known as Christmas Tree Lane.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, let’s decorate our neighborhood.’ It has meaning,” said Dana Pratt, who bought the home behind the tree with her husband Greg in 2016. “A spirit-of-Christmas kind of thing – at least I think so.”

The Pratts have been working to slowly renovate the home and restore the tree, which has a sign commemorating its history in the city about 160 miles (257 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco. They hired an arborist who trimmed some of the tree’s dead limbs, which spooked neighbors who cherish the annual tradition.

Arborist Steven Stubbe said between 30-40% of the tree’s canopy was dead and the tree hadn’t been properly maintained. The plan is to install a drip line to help water the tree after the holiday season.

The lane opens Tuesday with one of its two walk nights, where the road is open only to pedestrians.

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