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Rockefeller Center Christmas tree officially lighted

Christmas tree
The 100-foot Norway spruce was lit to the cheers of thousands of spectators at New York's Rockefeller Center on Wednesday evening  

Five miles of wire, thousands of bulbs

December 1, 1999
Web posted at: 12:44 PM EST (1744 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Spectators can now enjoy the towering Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a New York tradition. The 67th annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center went smoothly despite concern that AIDS activists would show up to protest the event.

The 100-year-old Norway spruce came from the home of Jim and Cathy Thomson of Killingworth, Connecticut. It weighs 10 tons and reaches a height of 100 feet. A total of 30,000 light bulbs strung on five miles of wire illuminate the tree.

The lighting ceremony Wednesday night coincided with World AIDS Day -- and came a day after at least 10 AIDS activists chained themselves to the tree. However, there were no disruptions.

Highlights of the lighting ceremony included performances by Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias and 'N Sync. Also, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton performed on the newly renovated skating rink in Rockefeller Center.

AIDS activists chain themselves to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center on Tuesday to protest the lighting ceremony coinciding with World AIDS Day  

Rosemary Clooney closed out the show, singing the Bing Crosby classic "White Christmas" just before the tree was lit at 8:56 p.m. EST.

After the live broadcast, NBC4 held a special ceremony in recognition of World AIDS Day.

On Tuesday, the AIDS activists who chained themselves to the tree said they were protesting the lighting because they felt it shouldn't be lit on such a significant day.

"We think it's an insult," said Doug Allen of the Radical AIDS Action Network, "and our purpose is to stop the lighting of the Christmas tree on World AIDS Day." Three people from the group were arrested.

A press release from NBC4 explained that in recognition of Worlds AIDS day NBC4 and the Gay Men's Health Crisis scheduled a special ceremony immediately following the live broadcast.

This event supported the "Night Without Light" observance in New York, honoring World AIDS Day.

Moment of silence

Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney sings "White Christmas" moments before the tree is lit  

During the ceremony, members from the "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" broadcast and Phil Donahue, representing GMHC, turned off the Christmas tree lights and asked the people gathered in Rockefeller Center to observe a one-minute moment of silence.

At the same time Jerry Speyer, President and CEO of Tishman Speyer Properties, a co-owner of Rockefeller Center and an owner of the Chrysler Building, turned off the switch of the Chrysler Building's external lights for one minute.

The Christmas tree ceremony first began in Rockefeller Center in 1931, when workmen placed the tree amid the muddy construction site that later became Rockefeller Center.

Visitors can see the lighted tree each day from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and all day on Christmas. The last day to view the tree is January 3, 2000.

Christmas at Rockefeller Center

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