Where's the largest Christmas tree in Shelby County?

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We went searching for the tallest Christmas tree in Shelby County. We came back with two familiar dazzlers.

By Todd Martin

Searching far and wide – from the knobs to the horse farms, from Pleasureville to Finchville – and soliciting suggestions from readers, we've boiled down the biggest Christmas trees in the county to two.


Why two?

Well, a real and a fake, of course.

Just east of Simpsonville sits Al Smith's spread on the corner of Fields Lane and U.S. 60. Although probably more famous for the giant arrow (made from a telephone pole) that adorns his yard, Smith always drapes his flag pole in lights, forming a towering, 40-foot tall cascade of lights.

That covers the fake one.

The real one sits right in the middle of Shelbyville and is one of the biggest local draws of every holiday season.

The center of attention for the Celebration of Lights, the tree, which is actually on county property, outshines everything downtown, except maybe the new judicial center.

Real tree, check.

There may be bigger ones we haven't found – suggestions led us out to Thompson Haley Road near Bagdad, onto Hearthside Circle in Hi Point and out to Webb Road west of Simpsonville.

In fact, the downtown iconic tree nearly lost out to an immense fir on Cherokee Drive in Town ‘N Country in north Shelbyville, but that one wasn't decorated, not a light on one bough.

To top this vote you need lights at a minimum and preferably some decorations to boot.

And you probably joined the new wave on showing your massive Christmas spirit – LED lights.

These energy-efficient lights cost more up front, but they burn longer and use a fraction of the amount of electricity that regular lights use.

"We used to use regular lights, last year we had some lights from China and they were pretty," Smith said. "But now we're using LED lights. It was quite the shock when you got that first electric bill with the old lights."

Staggering display of lights

Since 1995 Smith has been stringing lights from the top of his flagpole, which faces U.S 60 in the circle of a long driveway.  Sixteen strings of lights run from the top to the ground and five more run around the mammoth circle. With 120 lights per string, that's more than 2,500 shining beacons of Christmas.

"We just wanted a big Christmas tree outside," said Smith when asked about inspiration.

The tree has multicolored lights this year, but that's not always the case. In fact, it changes yearly based on the theme of the decorating he and his wife, Goldie, chose.

"Last year we did red, white and blue lights because a relative of my wife's was coming into town before he was shipped off to Iraq," Smith said. "He took pictures and showed everybody over there what we did to honor them. He said they really liked it."

Smith said decorating the tree isn't too much trouble.

"I have a bucket truck I use to get the lights up to the top," he said. "I used to use a ladder until I went to the doctor one year and said I was having some back trouble. He said, 'No wonder, I saw you up on that ladder hanging those lights. It's a wonder you don't have a lot of other pains.’”

The tree outside is just the star on top of Smith's decorations. The man knows a thing or two or 12 about trees.

"We have a Christmas tree in about every room; there's seven or eight up already," he said. "We'll have about ten or fifteen up before it's all over with."

And that big tree outside, it's not only enjoyable from a distance, Smith said.

"When you get up close to it, it plays music, like Jingle Bellsand songs."

An ever-growing presence

If real trees are really your thing, then look no farther than downtown Shelbyville's monster.

And although the tree technically belongs to the county, it is decorated by the Shelbyville Department of Public Works.

"We've tried to change it up a little the last couple years," said Jennifer Herrell, the city engineer and public works director. "There didn't used to be that many lights on it."

In large part, that was because of an electrical panel to which the tree is connected. Too many lights, down goes the circuit.

"So we switched to LED lights two years ago," she said. "That way we can connect more lights without flipping the breaker."

And how many lights are there?

Herrell said the city put up 12 50-foot strands of lights and two more 25-foot strands.

"About two years ago, it was twenty ten-foot strands," she said.

That's more than 200 percent more lights, a total of 450 feet more of lights.

And that doesn't even count the roughly 150 huge ornaments on the tree. Of course, they have to be big. You can't put grandma's handmade snowman on there, because it would get lost in the tree.

Of course, it takes a little extra time and effort to decorate a tree of that size as well.

If you think an evening on putting ornaments on that 9-foot monster in your living room is long, how about taking two full working days, with two men.

And your stepladder won't cut it either.

"We use the bucket truck to decorate the top," Herrell said.