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.
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.
A full-page ad in The Palm Beach Post from 1973
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.
Palm Beach Post staff file photos