Massive tree resists installation: Story behind Palio’s Christmas tree in downtown Ann Arbor

Decorated Christmas tree. (Pixabay)

ANN ARBOR – The Christmas tree on Palio’s rooftop in downtown Ann Arbor aims to bring cheer to all this holiday season -- but how it got there is a different story altogether.

Following its first-ever tree lighting at the popular outdoor dining spot, Mainstreet Ventures staff decided to do it again this year in hopes of brightening the spirits of passersby.

“With the closures, there’s so much negativity that comes up in meetings,” said Kimmie Sheldon, director of marketing for the restaurant group. “(In a recent meeting), we all looked at each other and said it just doesn’t feel right not to do it. That drive north on Main Street when you saw it on the rooftop just gave you a feeling.”

Problem is, someone ordered an oversized tree that stood at 17 feet and weighed 300 pounds. When it was dropped off on Friday, hilarity ensued.

“So this tree is dropped off in the parking lot of Palio and we were like, ‘What are we going to do with it?’” said Sheldon, laughing.

The tree in question. (Kimberly Sheldon)

She made a call to the Main Street Area Association to see if they could prop it up on the street, but when Palio chefs and staff tried to tie the tree to a lamppost, it fell into the street.

“We decided to put it on the rooftop and it was so comical,” said Sheldon. “There was a guy who worked for a utility company at the stoplight on William and Main and I was flagging him down like, ‘Come help us!’”

After explaining that he could get fired for hoisting the tree with his truck, the man agreed to help their cause.

“He picked it up upside down and he almost got it onto the rooftop, but he couldn’t do it,” said Sheldon. “We took it through the back and got it up the stairs and finally got that bad boy up there.”

The tree hangs upside down as a utility worker joins the effort to help get the tree on Palio's rooftop. (Kimberly Sheldon)

After several attempts, some bloody knuckles, lots of tree sap and tears from laughter, the tree now stands at its intended spot. Too big for any stand, a contractor who works frequently with Mainstreet Ventures came and built a stand last minute.

“It was one of those 2020 moments,” said Sheldon. “You try to do something good and you can’t even get this tree up!”

She said now through Christmas, residents are invited to take a picture with the tree on the rooftop.

“There’s so much depression right now. This stuff is real,” said Sheldon, on a more serious note. “If this tree makes one person’s holiday a little bit brighter, then we’ve achieved our goal.”

Now, how the group plans to get it down is a different story.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.