Looking back over the past few months and thinking about this crazy Conway Christmas tree controversy, I kept trying to figure out what didn’t add up. I looked at the stories done inside these offices and outside in cyberspace, and it was clear that although the truth of the matter was always sought, maybe there were biases on both sides in reporting the process that brought the brand new $130,000 tree to Downtown Conway.
But do you know who never got to speak about this event? Why, the tree himself (or herself ... or itself).
So I took my trusty notebook and headed out to Rogers Plaza to get the story straight from the source of all this animosity.
Log Cabin Democrat: It’s been quite a month for you.
Tree: You’re telling me. I’ve never been a part of something so divided. Usually a tree goes up, and it brings nothing but joy and happiness. I’ve seen my share of that, but I’ve also gotten some stink eyes from some people driving by. And there’s not much I can do but stand here and take it.
LCD: Do you have a name?
Tree: No. Most people call me “Tree” or “The Tree” or “The Waste of Money.” I’d like to have a name, but that may have been part of the no-bid process. I’m not really sure because, as you can see, I’m a tree. I don’t have a brain.
LCD: Actually you’re not even really a tree. You’re a large metal structure with hundreds of fake plastic branches hanging off you.
Tree: Tell me about it. I’m like the reverse Pinocchio. He wanted not to be wooden. I’d give anything to be a real, wood tree.
LCD: Why is that?
Tree: So I wouldn’t have to come back here next year and deal with all of this again. I’d be chopped up for kindling. Do you realize that every time they bring me out of storage for the big holiday rush, people will murmur about how much I cost or how there was no competition. Listen, it’s not my fault. You have a problem with me, go see the mayor. Although from what I hear, he may not even be around these parts next Christmas.
LCD: You do understand that some people are upset that a city that is still in a financial bind in some areas would pay upwards of $130,000 for you and your decorative friends? They are also upset that this one company, Get Lit, was the only group allowed to sell the city your services.
Tree: Of course I get it. How do you think I feel? It’s like being the only contestant in a beauty pageant. I’d like to have won on my own merit. It’s a problem, I know. And I know the price is pretty steep. It’s obviously flattering to be told that you are worth $130,000. But remember, I can always help out if the city needs some extra money. All I really do is just stand around all day. Give me a bell and a bucket. I bet I could bring in some donations.
LCD: Some people are also upset that for all this money and all this hoopla, things surrounding your arrival would have gone a bit smoother.
Tree: What do you mean?
LCD: I mean, well, not all the lights came on during the big ceremony.
Tree: I was told we wouldn’t be discussing that.
LCD: It really needs to be addressed. Days after that, there have been reports that some of your lights haven’t been functioning properly.
Tree: Are you accusing me of not doing my job? Cause I have done my job! I’m out here every day doing my job, standing there, being all joyful and stuff. You know what? This interview is over. I’m out of here.
LCD: Wait! Don’t leave. I just want to hear your side of the story.
Tree: Well, actually you called my bluff. I can’t leave. I’m a tree.
LCD: You’re not really a tree.
Tree: Yeah, we covered that. Look, no one is more embarrassed than me when some lights don’t work. It’s like giving a speech and not wearing your pants. The Get Lit guys said they would take care of everything, and I think we’re back and running well again.
LCD: So as the holiday season winds down, what do you hope people will take away from your first year in Conway?
Tree: I just want to make people happy. Seeing little kids point at me and smile is just the biggest thrill. There seemed to be a lot of people coming in to see me. I hope they spent some money here at the stores. I think that was one of the reasons I was brought here.
LCD: What are your plans for the next 11 months?
Tree: I’m kind of like a vampire. I get boxed up and take a long nap. However, I wouldn’t mind if they rented me out in the off months to some other places, like Disneyworld. I could see myself there during the summer.
LCD: And it could bring some money into the city.
Tree: See, I’m trying to help.
(Ricky Duke is the Editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)