In the end, the tree chosen by the Basking Ridge Fire Co. to fill the town center in downtown Basking Ridge was a slightly Sandy-damaged evergreen that had been the number two candidate even before the storm arrived.
On Saturday morning, volunteers from the fire company and first aid squad cut and carefully transported the tree from the home of Steve and Maggie Aloisio on Annin Road to the center of Basking Ridge.
It was trucked to the center of town, in the tree's usual honorary spot on a small square in front of The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge, where it was anchored and strapped into place.
The tree was originally 40 feet high, but was cut down to 30 feet to make it easier to transport, said Firefighter Todd Middleton, who said he personally had viewed about 50 candidates for tree-of-the-year. It also had some branches broken when Sandy whirled through the area in late October.
The tree chosen had been an alternative to Middleton's first choice, but that tree fell over during Sandy. The call was put out for a replacement, but after viewing trees ranging from about 12 feet to 75 feet high, Middleton said the fire company decided to stick with its original second choice.
The fully-rounded tree would have had to have been removed from the Aloisio property within about a year anyway, since it was growing right up against the house, Middleton said.
Each year, the fire company seeks out a donated tree from Basking Ridge and nearby to place in downtown Basking Ridge. A public Christmas carol sing-a-long is held each Christmas Eve around the tree, and in front of the Presbyterian church.
The fire company tradition has been to set up the tree right after Thanksgiving. "Basking Ridge Fire and EMS thank the Aloisio Family for stepping up to assist in keeping the tradition," Fire Co. spokesman Jack McGrath said on Friday.
In previous decades, the fire company also used to place smaller evergreens at locations along South Finley Avenue where there now are lampposts, Middleton said.