A look back at Chandler's Tumbleweed Christmas Tree, a 66-year-old tradition

The city of Chandler's annual Tumbleweed Christmas Tree Lighting will kick off on Dec. 3, a tradition that has lasted for 66 years.

Standing at over 30 feet tall, it's hard to miss in downtown Chandler - a white, glistening tree adorned with strings of lights.

But it's not pine needles here. It's a tower of tumbleweeds.

It's a family matter for Guillermo Valenzuela and his relatives, as they've been working on the tree for a combined 40 years.

Guillermo Valenzuela with the Chandler Parks Department

They start around October, harvesting over 1,000 tumbleweeds at construction sites or fields. Then they start assembling.

"We’ll double them up, triple them up if we have to make them fit, to give us that conical look," Valenzuela said.

It's secured by a pole base of zip ties and chicken wire.

""We spray 25 gallons of fire retardant on there, 25 gallons of paint," he explained. "As a second coat of paint is put on and it’s still fresh, we start tossing our 50 pounds of glitter on there and try to make it sparkle, keep that shine to it."

It's the LED lights that really bring that holiday sparkle.

"This is a big community tradition," said Hermelinda Llamas, special events coordinator for the city of Chandler.

In 1957, Chandler resident Earl Barnum decided to assemble something unique for the city's holiday celebration, and in the process, it tumbled into something special.

"Everybody does a douglas fir, or a pine tree or there’s something else that they make of it across the board, and it’s just a unique theme indigenous to the desert," Llamas said. "And we are in the desert, so at that time it was super appropriate, and it just stuck!"

From the late 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, people just kept coming back for more, according to Llamas.

"We’ve got generations that come out to this event every year, from grandparents to their children, to their grandchildren," she said.

It's these kinds of memories that hundreds get to make each year, taking their pictures near the tree and enjoying this annual gift from the city.

"It’s just a big pride for the community, for our city, for our staff, and we really look forward to it every year," Llamas said.

Festivities start at 4:30 p.m. and last until 9 p.m., with the tree lighting happening at 8 p.m.

Event details: https://www.chandleraz.gov/explore/special-events/tumbleweed-tree-lighting-ceremony

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