How many lights does it take to decorate Gainesville’s 40-foot Christmas tree?

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Every year, thousands of multicolored LED lights — 2,500 to be exact — are draped around the tree, shining from dusk until dawn for the duration of the holiday season.

The Rotary Club of Gainesville introduced the tradition in December 1982.

The triangle of land on which the tree stands was dedicated to Mary John Dunlap Mitchell upon her death in 1934, and is maintained by the Rotary Club of Gainesville as a community beautification project.

Mitchell, whose home once stood across the street from the tree, promoted beautification projects around town and was active in the Gainesville Garden Club, which maintained the triangle of land before turning it over to the Rotary Club.

Today, the space is maintained by the Rotary Club of Gainesville, whose members regularly prune the native tree and provide “year-round landscape services to this triangular park space,” Rotary Club of Gainesville President Mike McGraw said.

Dale Jaeger, landscape architect and Rotary Club member, has been involved with keeping the tree up to par since 2010, after the tree caught fire in June 2009.

“One of the primary things that the Rotary Club has done is trying to protect the health of the tree long-term for its survival,” Jaeger said. “We got the tree pruned in 2010 and again in 2011, just to do it two years in a row and to get it in place. Since then, we’ve done it about every two to three years.”

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