Old Town Christmas tree tradition will get revamped

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In Old Town, thousands gather on the plaza for the lighting of Henry’s tree every year – but the famous tree will be retired after this year.

The new owners of Plaza Don Luis say there will be a tree next year and they will be keeping the tree lighting tradition alive, just in a more sustainable way.

Henry’s tree is a tradition that goes back to the ’90s, when the previous owners of the plaza built the frame that gets decorated every year.

“The tree itself is a crazy feat to pull off, it’s made up of 150 cut little trees put into the metal frame," Plaza Don Luis Co-owner Jasper Riddle explained. "The frame is anchored in the crown with a crane, then they place all the smaller trees in these little slots that come out of the frame."

It’s not an easy task putting Henry’s tree together.

“Watching it happen this year, it busted a water line and a gas line going in,” Riddle said. “Plus, you can only put limited decorations on the tree or else the smaller trees fall out of the frame of the tree. As much as it’s a great thing, at this point it could be a little dangerous and it could use some revamping or revitalizing.”

So, the new owners have decided to retire Henry’s Tree after this year. It’s a change everyone seems to have a different opinion about.

“I’m actually really sad because you don’t see anything like that anywhere else,” Debra Machemehl said. She visits from Houston Texas every year to see her son and take a family picture next to Henry’s Tree. “To know that this isn’t going to be here next year that it’s going away, it’s kinda sad.”

“My initial reaction was, why?” Belinda Pennington said, who lives near Old Town. “But I know there are new owners of the plaza now, and they have a right to do what they want to do on their property, so I respect that.”

“I have really enjoyed the tree we have enjoyed it as a family since we have been here in Albuquerque but I’m looking forward to some new traditions as well, I think it’s a great idea they are switching things up,” Albuquerque resident Katie Bolintineanu said.

But just because Henry’s Tree won’t be back next year, the new owners promise a tree will still get decked out next year on the plaza. KOB 4 asked to see a design of what they had in mind.

“We have a rough draft and, quite honestly, we don’t want to give out all the details yet because we want to wow everybody with what we are doing next year," Riddle said.

But they have a few options, whether it’s one big living tree, multiple smaller trees, or a whole Christmas market. Riddle says one thing is known for sure, the spirit of Christmas will be carried on in the new tradition.

“It’s about giving back to the community and giving back to those in need and that’s going to be the backbone of it," Riddle said.

The new owners are currently talking with the U.S. Forest Service about living tree options, but their next step is to reach out to members of the community to ask what you want to see in the plaza next year.