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Draper Journal

Draper’s famous “Tree of Light” is a holiday destination

Nov 06, 2018 02:33PM ● By Jana Klopsch

The Tree of Light in Draper City Park. (Photo courtesy Maridene Alexander/Draper City)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

On Nov. 26, the willow tree in Draper City Park will once again become a festive, glittering beacon of the holiday season. Covered in white lights, the resplendent tree has become a must-see holiday tradition in Draper. Even without the lights, however, the Draper City Park willow has achieved a special symbolic and meaningful status in the heart of the community.

The willow tree has an unofficial Facebook page and photos of it are shared widely on Instagram. Throughout the year, locals visit the tree to make marriage proposals and take wedding photos.The willow tree has been the site of drum circles and candlelight vigils.  Some people come to simply gaze at it. 

As Draper City Public Information Officer Maridene Alexander explained via email, “At City Hall, we call the tree in the park the Tree of Light. Last year many people via Facebook and Twitter started calling it the Tree of Life from a Biblical reference.”  

A quick search on Wikipedia reveals that the “Tree of Life,” or at least a “sacred tree,” often symbolizes a connection between earthly and spiritual realms, and is an ancient archetype that appears in religions and philosophies around the world. In the Bible, the Tree of Life is described as being in the midst of the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Knowledge.  

For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Tree of Life represents the love of God. Although the Book of Mormon does not describe it as a specific type of tree, the willow in Draper City Park bears a resemblance to popular illustrations of it.  

Draped in lights, the tree symbolizes the light and warmth of the holiday season for people of many faiths.

The tradition of lighting the trees in Draper City Park began about 10 years ago when David Decker, the former Draper City public works director, decided that something was needed to encourage people to visit the parks during the winter. The willow tree, along with other trees in the park, was first lit with colored flood lights. Inspired by the lavishly lit trees in Temple Square, the city subsequently hired professional tree-lighting companies to decorate the trees by wrapping each branch in strings of lights.  

In an email, Draper Parks Director Stephen Linde noted, “For the 2012 season, Brite Nights took over and did a more detailed willow tree with bigger LED lights, which really brightened up the whole thing.” In 2013 Brite Nite added flashing lights called “gems,” which provide a twinkling effect.  

There are approximately 500,000 white lights on the willow tree and an additional one million lights on the other trees and on the bridge in the park. “The man hours that it takes to light up the large willow tree is approximately 700 hours and it takes about 940 hours to light up the whole park and the bridge,” wrote Alexander. Workers get started on the project during the first week of November.  

In 2017, the city spent about $31,000 to light up the park, making Draper City Park — and the magical Tree of Light in particular — a holiday destination for people across the state.  

The 2018 tree-lighting ceremony will take place at Draper City Park on Monday, Nov. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. Mayor Troy Walker will flip the switch to illuminate the trees and kick off the holiday season. Kids can get photos taken with Santa and live seasonal music will be performed. Draper City Park is located at 12500 South 1300 East in Draper.