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‘The World’s Largest Decorated Christmas Tree’

By Michelle Quigley

From 1971 until 1988 a spectacular Christmas tree — some years the world’s largest Christmas tree — towered over the National Enquirer headquarters in Lantana.

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A 1988 Palm Beach Post story describes how Enquirer owner Generoso Pope began the 18-year tradition:

Pope, who died of a heart attack Oct. 2, 1988, inadvertently started the holiday tradition in 1971 after moving the tabloid to Lantana from Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Missing Northern Christmas traditions, Pope ordered a 45-foot tree for employees. But motorists on Dixie Highway soon noticed the tree and started jamming the roads around the Enquirer for a peek.

Over the years, as the crowds grew, so did the height of the tree and the size of the Spectacle of Lights. When the tree reached 117 feet in 1979, it was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Decorated Christmas Tree.”

The last National Enquirer Christmas tree was lighted on December 15, 1988. The tree began its life in Beaver Creek, Ore., where it grew to be 126 feet tall before it was stripped of its branches to make the 3,600 mile train trip to Lantana where it was reassembled and decorated with more than 15,000 lights, 1,200 colored basketball-sized balls, 250 red bows, 180 3-foot candy canes and snowflakes, topped with a 6-foot lighted silver star, and surrounded by elaborate animated displays and model trains.

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A full-page ad in The Palm Beach Post from 1973

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The tree is lifted out of the boxcar.


Crane lifts the 105-foot tree in 1976.


The 1980 version of the National Enquirer Christmas tree is put in place.


The tree goes up in 1981.


The 1987 tree is unloaded.

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A worker directs the crane operator while other volunteers lift bundles of limbs.


Jeff Sites of North Carolina has a tattoo depicting the tree — including a list of the years he helped set it up — on his forearm.


Mike Wirkkala removes the last of about 1,800 bolts supporting branches on the last National Enquirer Christmas tree in 1988. Wirkkala worked for Divarnik Custom Cabinets of Lake Worth, which dismantled the tree for 11 years.

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Reflections of the tree just after its lighting in 1981.


The model train exhibit in 1984


Kids getting a closer look at the train set in 1979.

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This castle was part of the elaborate toy train display.

Palm Beach Post staff file photos

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Posted in Flashback blog December 3, 2009 at 12:58 pm.

43 comments

43 Replies

  1. chugabug Dec 3rd 2009

    That’s awesome! Brings back memories. I took my NOW 27-yr.-old son there…… when he was 2. It was one of the last years and I’m sure everyone misses it. Thanks for the trip down “memory lane”.

  2. the tree was the best thing to happen to lantana since the tb hospital but next to railroad tracks was not good. The enquirer is now not as good as a newspaper.

  3. Jim Wethington Jr Dec 4th 2009

    I truly miss that tradition… My childhood was better for it.
    My kids are missing out… Nothing better than a trip from Martin County to Lantana to see the lights and then dinner at A Bit O’ Nostalgia…..

    Man do I miss it..

  4. Janet Dec 4th 2009

    I remember this tree from my childhood vividly! I went for quite a few years and remember the last year I saw it (1988). It’s something that I wish I could bring my kids to see. I certainly do wish that the Enquirer still set this wonderful display up!

  5. Former PBC Resident Dec 4th 2009

    What fond memories. We used to drive up from Broward to see the tree when I was a kid and then soon moved to Boynton/Lantana in the early 80s – when it was still nice place to live. You could see the tree all the way to I-95. Say what you want about the Enquirer, at least Pope used to contribute to the community in some way.

  6. I sure do miss so many things about Lantana…this is one of the many. I remember as a kid, seeing the lights, the train, and the display. What a wonderful sight to see. A huge loss since the tradition was taken away….

  7. carl graham Dec 7th 2009

    I remember visiting 2 years in a row.
    Driving family from Miami to see display and tree.
    Highlight of the season, spectacular.
    Thank you national inquirer.

  8. Visiting the tree and displays in Lantana was a yearly tradition…one that I miss…but Delray Beach now has a 100-ft tree each year, and that is even more fun, and a tradition my kids will enjoy remembering.

    The Enquirer has long since moved from Lantana, but that site is now a good charter elementary school, name Chancellor.

  9. karla Dec 8th 2009

    i worked there for several years during the end of the tree and display time. it was so fun watching all the people rushing around and getting the tree on and off the train in record time. the last year the huge train display was there was so magical. you could just see the kids eyes light up. i think mr. pope enjoyed it as much as anyone! would love to know what all the folks who worked there during that time are doing now. I worked close with bobby stevens at the time too. he was so much fun.

  10. Joe Papierz Jr Dec 9th 2009

    I wish the National Enquirer or someone else would bring back the huge tree and accessory displays Christmas tradition again. I sure miss it.

  11. oh ty !!

  12. Carolyn Jul 20th 2010

    We would drive up from Miami to see the tree. I have a memory of a motorcycle group being involved in putting up the tree. I also remember the giant ornaments. What a sight!! Thank you for bringing back the fond feeling I have for that tree!!

  13. Big Hans Sep 27th 2010

    I was lucky to visit here with my Grandmother when I was a child. I remember the awesome train layout the most. I have wondered what ever became of the train display.

  14. bigjoe Oct 8th 2010

    id give anything to have it back! it was my chilhood every year from day one! i was born and raised in lantana and wish my son could experience the once in alifetime experience it brought me! for many years i also played santa clause at the enquirer havin little kids sit on my lap and takin pictures with me telling me what they wanted for christmas. The old days of parking cars for visitors for a 5 spot and hearing happy and sad request from little children are long gone and now the grounds are home to little kids and their classrooms but to me the memories of looking out my bedroom window and seeing the magic from those lites and that sitten in awww at the size of the ornaments will be burnt in the back of my mind till the day i die! wow the stories i could tell!! lol my first kiss was under that christmas tree!!!! the memories!!!!!

  15. to all the people reading this…..there may a way for you to relive your childhood…..there may be a another similare event coming about for the holidays of 2011. Please watch the news at the end of the year for details….. I amsoooo excited…

  16. Heather Nov 28th 2010

    This is a real jump back into my childhood! Since they stooped having the tree in Lantana Christmas in south Florida has never been the same!

  17. If they bring back another 100+ foot real tree, that would be awesome. Probably won’t happen, because people in Palm Beach County are too lame. You need eccentric people like Generoso Pope to have things like that. Simpleton, paper pushers like Mayor Frankel have no charisma.

    Palm Beach County needs risk takers and eccentrics.

  18. I use to take my son who’s now 28 years old, what fond memories. We would drive from North Miami to Lantana, my Mom would come with us. The place was so magical and special. Thank you Mr. Pope for your generosity and the wonderful memories I will have to cherish forever.

  19. I WENT IN 1987 FOR THE FIRST AND LAST TIME. PALM BEACH COUNTY ABATE HAS A TOYS FOR TOTS RUN EVERY YEAR AND BACK THEN WE WENT TO ENQUIRER TO DROP THEM OFF. WHAT A SITE THAT WAS! I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS GONE TIL NOW! I HAD TO MOVEW BACK TO INDIANA.

  20. bmarie Dec 10th 2010

    so cool to see everyone else who remembers this! as a true florida native this was my absolute favorite favorite holiday adventure! wish my kids could have seen it. thanks mr. pope for making my holidays!!!!

  21. Theresa Dec 12th 2010

    I miss seeing the tree talking about it, and trying to describe what I saw and felt does it no justice. It was part of my childhood and I miss it I was sad to see it go. We were fortunate to have those memories.

  22. Beckey Dec 13th 2010

    Wow! That sure does bring back some fond memories (born and raised in W.P.B.) My grandparents, parents , brother and I would go see it every year. They stopped the year my son was born so he’s never seen it. It was truly magical and I wish the county would bring it back!!!

  23. chantell Dec 16th 2010

    do they still have this

  24. Palm Beach Post Staff Researchers Dec 17th 2010

    Chantell,

    The National Enquirer discontinued the Christmas tree tradition after owner Generoso Pope’s death in 1988, so no, they do not have it any longer.

    Michelle Quigley
    News Researcher
    The Palm Beach Post | HistoricPalmBeach.com

  25. Michelle Dec 20th 2010

    I was under the impression that the trains went to Hoffman’s Chocolates, but that could have just been an assumption? I always looked forward to seeing this tree every year, and I was disappointed when it ended.

  26. Eric M Dec 21st 2010

    Like many of you that have posted comments, I grew up in West Palm Beach and going to the National Inquireer tree was a wonderful tradition. I now have kids that are 9 and 6 and I too would give anything to have them experience the magic of the National Inquirer Tree and the endless Christmas features.

    I had to move out of state for work but would come back in a heartbeat to experience it.

  27. In 1973-75, we lived just down the street from The National Enquirer. Many people in our apartment complex worked there. It was just a short walk to visit the tree. Terrific memories!

  28. My family took me to this every year since I was born until it ended. I really miss this, as a child I looked foward every year to going to see the big tree and all the displays. Now at 30 and starting a family of my own, I wish they would bring it back or somthing like it. This was somthing for everyone of any age could really enjoy and made christmas time even more special.

  29. no one cares.

  30. shawn52 Nov 28th 2011

    nice information and pictures of decorated Xmas trees .. thanks :-)

  31. Heide Dec 8th 2011

    I remember going every year as a kid. It was THE highlight of the season. I remember too, that it was the first place I ever got lost as a child and had to ask the cops for help. It wasn’t hard to get lost though, looking at all those beautiful lights. Your eyes were everywhere all at once and they certainly weren’t on your parents or where you were walking. :) I hate that it’s gone, but I had to move out of state in 89, so I guess we went the last year that they had it (in 88). It was so beautiful and always worth the trip!

  32. Kristine Dec 17th 2011

    So sad to know this no longer is available for families to see. What a treat it was taking all 13 of us and piling in whatever vehicle, the pick up most lilkely. Now a days we would be breaking the law for putting that many kids in the back of a pick up. :) What great memories and so much fun. Really made the holidays a special time of year.

  33. Maureen Dec 20th 2011

    I grew up in Lantana and we still miss having the tree come to town.

  34. Maureen Dec 20th 2011

    My brother used to work on the trees every year.

  35. I remember being Santa Clause on the night of tree lighting. The Volunteer Fire Guys would bring Santa via Fire Truck and he would sit at the base of the tree after the lights went on. My fond memories are of the the eyes of the Children when Santa said “Merry Christmas” in the language they spoke.

  36. I remember going every year as far back as my memory will go. (born in 78) It was amazing! Lantana was an awesome place. Walk to the beach and surf, eat at the Dune Deck and camp in the woods on the beach down past the Ritz. I miss that little town and the memories of how things used to be.

  37. Phil Royce Mar 5th 2012

    I live across from that tree on Broadway, my families sailboat ran aground on a sandbar and we came into Lantana and bought the house across from the tree. It was wonderful to have the tree in my front yard. I was 5-8 years. Love the site.

  38. Joshua Woltermann Feb 26th 2013

    I am a documentary filmmaker looking for footage of the National Enquirer Christmas tree. If anyone has home movie footage of the tree or knows anyone who might I would love to hear from you. Please email at webATsteeplechasefilms.com. Thanks!

  39. I was just thinking about the tree and antimated stuff that got put up ever year I all ways bug my Mom to take me to see it all when i knew it was up it was a big treat for me. I was born in1972 in Boynton Beach Florida and raised there till I was 6 but due to my nana living there till 1988 Florida was still a big part of my life . I have alot of good memories of Florida. We lived in the lantana and west palm area as well My Dad was a pro at Atlantis country club till we moved when I was 6 . I often look at all the pictures of me at the National Enquirer and it bring a smile to my face to remember that place Wish it still was going on


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