The Man Who Picks Out the Rockefeller Center Tree

Ever wondered who finds the towering tree that stands in NYC’s Rockefeller Center every Christmas? Meet Eric Pauze...

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Posted in , Nov 19, 2020

Erik Pauze with 2019 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree; Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer

He was made for this. Erik Pauze, the tree scout for Rockefeller Center, loved trees as a kid and was a horticulture major in college. Fresh out of school he landed a job with the gardening team at the famous New York City plaza, climbing the ranks to head gar­dener. For more than a decade, Erik has driven through Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, scout­ing evergreens, making a list and checking it twice, like Santa on wheels.

What does he look for? Seventy-footers at least, with perfect symmetry, “green, lush and full,” he says. “Sometimes people don’t believe me when I say why I’ve come. That’s when I show them my business card.” The crew fertilizes the hopefuls and considers how they fare during bad weather. The branches must be strong enough to bear the weight of 50,000 lights and a 900-pound crystal star on top. Erik still gets goosebumps dur­ing the countdown to lighting. “It’s a great feeling,” he says. “And everybody’s happy.”

Erik isn’t just a tree guy; he’s a people person too. He keeps in touch with families who have donated their trees over the years and calls them when he’s in their area looking for another one.

With all his experience you’d think he’d be the one to pick out his tree at home. “The family votes on it,” he laughs. “They just want me to bring my pickup to get it to the house.”

Read more: Joy to the World: The Inspiring Journey of the 2019 Rockefeller Tree

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