LED’s spruce up Durham’s giant Christmas tree

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From a front yard at 72nd and Izard streets in Omaha to being the star of the show at The Durham Museum’s annual Christmas at Union Station, Dan and Carmelita Graeve’s blue spruce has come a long way.

Six miles to be exact. The tree is estimated to be nearly 50 years old and 40-feet-tall.

The Graeve’s tree, which was picked out of 57 others, now shines a little brighter, and more efficiently, than past trees at the long-standing Omaha tradition. OPPD is helping make that possible.

EE_Durham_lit upThis is the first year the giant Christmas tree features all LED lights. A move that will make the tree safer and more energy efficient, according to Durham officials.

“This year, thanks to OPPD, we upgraded to LED lights,” said Jessica Brummer, director of marketing and public relations at Durham.

It takes more than 2,200 feet of lights to make the tree glow. LED lights use 90 percent less energy than standard lights and can last up to 10 times as long.

Brummer said the tradition dates back to the 1930s, when Union Pacific employees would ship a large tree from the Pacific Northwest and bring it to the station. Once the station closed, the museum continued the tradition with locally donated trees.

U.P. employees still harvest the tree and haul it to the museum on a flatbed truck with a police escort. The crews removed the museum doors, drag the into place and suspended it from the ceiling by a winch system in the attic. It takes a team from Omaha arts and crafts store Mangelsen’s nearly a week to decorate the tree.

The official lighting ceremony, attended by thousands each year, was held Nov. 24. This year’s tree contains a star that reads “150” and is decorated with goldenrods, the Nebraska state flower, in honor of Nebraska’s 150th year of statehood.

“This is our favorite time of year,” Brummer said. “We look forward to seeing all the families that come out this time of year. It’s a wonderful tradition.”

The Durham has a number of family-friendly events this year:

  • Family Nights with Santa, Tuesdays, Dec. 5, 12 and 19, 5 to 8 p.m. OPPD will have a booth at each Santa night to educate families on the efficiency and safety of LEDs. Durham guests will also receive a flyer of tree facts and LED info, compliments of OPPD.
  • Holiday Concert Series, Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesday evenings, Nov. 25 through Dec. 23.
  • Noon Year’s Eve, Saturday, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jason Kuiper

About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He formerly worked as a staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald.

Andrew Roger

About Andrew Roger

Andrew Roger is a multimedia contributor to The Wire and digital media coordinator at Omaha Public Power District. Andrew produces powerful videos and photos to highlight OPPD’s impact in Nebraska.

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