The borough had a big, bright December lined up for its once-proud Christmas tree, but Hurricane Sandy had other plans and just weeks from Oakland's lighting ceremony the tall tree in Veteran’s Park was destroyed.
The tree is annually embellished with colorful lights and lit for borough residents to enjoy, but the town was sent into a panic as the date of the ceremony approached and there was no tree to be lit.
Thankfully, Brian Papaccioli of Paps Landscaping came through with a Christmas miracle and gifted the town with a new, beautiful tree.
“The town lost their tree with the hurricane," Papaccioli said. "I’ve lived in Oakland all my life and I grew up here — I just thought it would be nice to help the community.”
Steve Wagoner, a member of the Oakland Public Events Committee, initially called upon Papaccioli when he realized the town was in desperate need of a new tree.
“At our meeting, I found out that our Christmas tree [was] lost in the storm…the people on the committee were talking about trying to get [a new tree] and they usually take time and money,” said Wagoner. “So, I called Brian Papaccioli, long time friend, resident, and contractor… and he offered to donate one.”
Papaccioli offered his time and labor for no cost to plant the new tree, a job that would have cost the town an astounding $4,000.
“This tree is a prime condition tree and I think it’s going to flourish, and it will be around for a long time and Oakland residents can enjoy Christmas and have a nice tree every year to look at,” Papaccioli said.
“Everyone thought that the new tree [looked] better than the old one, [like] it had been there for years,” said Wagoner.
The new tree, a stoic 20-foot Norway Spruce was planted on Dec. 1 and lit — according to plan — at Oakland’s annual tree lighting ceremony the next day.
"The tree lighting was extremely successful," said Oakland Mayor Linda Schwager. "The donation of the new tree is what Oakland is all about. When in time of need, this community comes together. I am so proud to be a resident of Oakland."
The members of the Public Events Committee were relieved after the ceremony had concluded, and celebrations were in order. Choirs from local schools and a martial arts performance lit up the crowd at Valley Middle School and truly made it a night to remember.
With the spirit of the town’s residents and a new tree in place, it is starting to look a lot like Christmas in Oakland.
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