ROCKIN’ AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE!

Encore: December 02, 2020

The lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a New York City and world-wide symbol of Christmas. Ahead of NBC’s annual broadcast of the tree lighting tomorrow night, we will be treated to a special history lesson from Al Roker.

Aired on November 29, 2016 and November 28, 2017 & December 3, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> THE LIGHTING OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER HAS BEEN A TRADITION THAT OFFICIALLY GOES AS FAR BACK AS 1933 AND UNOFFICIALLY EVEN BEFORE THAT.

THE ANNUAL NBC CHRISTMAS AND ROCKEFELLER CENTER SPECIAL, A SPECTACULAR EVENT THAT SIGNALS THE COMING OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON, WILL BE BROADCAST TOMORROW.

ONE OF THE HOSTS OF THE FESTIVITIES THIS YEAR WILL ONCE AGAIN BE 'TODAY' SHOW ANCHOR AND AMERICA'S WEATHERMAN, AL ROKER.

AND HE JOINS ME NOW.

AL, WELCOME.

THANK YOU.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

AL, TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THE TRADITION OF THE LIGHTING, WHEN AND WHY DID IT BEGIN.

YOU KNOW, IT WAS INTERESTING.

IT ACTUALLY STARTED BEFORE ROCKEFELLER CENTER WAS EVEN COMPLETED.

IT WAS DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION.

AND?

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS DECIDED TO PUT UP A SMALL CHRISTMAS TREE, JUST A TINY TREE.

AND IT HAPPENED A FEW YEARS AFTER THAT AS THEY WERE STILL WORKING ON ROCKEFELLER CENTER.

AND THEN IT JUST BECAME THIS --

IT CAUGHT THE IMAGINATION.

IT CAUGHT THE IMAGINATION AND BECAME A REGULAR TRADITION.

WE STARTED -- I GOT INVOLVED WITH IT BACK IN 1983 WHEN I FIRST STARTED AT --

WNBC.

WNBC HERE IN NEW YORK.

I WAS THERE WITH YOU.

YEAH.

AND IT WAS LITERALLY JUST THE LAST TWO OR FLEE MINUTES OF LIVE AT 5:00.

THEN IT BECAME KIND OF FIVE MINUTES.

AND THEY'D HAVE SOME ICE SKATERS.

IT KEPT EXPANDING.

BUT IT WAS STILL A LOCAL SPECIAL.

THEN NBC SAID WE'VE GOT THIS GREAT EVENT LITERALLY IN OUR BACK DOOR, OR AT OUR BACK DOOR.

WHY DON'T WE BROADCAST THIS?

LOCALLY HERE IN NEW YORK.

IT'S A TWO-HOUR EXTRAVAGANZA.

AND FOR SOME LOCAL STATIONS AROUND THE COUNTRY.

BUT FROM THE NETWORK STANDPOINT IT'S OUR EXTRAVAGANZA THAT REALLY USHERS IN THE HOLIDAY SEASON.

AND IT'S BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL EVENT.

I WAS READING UP ON THIS AND WAS SURPRISED TO SEE THAT THERE ARE TOURS ORGANIZED AROUND THE LIGHTING OF THE TREE.

COMPLETELY.

THE THING I ALWAYS LOVE, BECAUSE THEY SHUTTLE US BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN DIFFERENT STAGES.

WE PASS AN AREA WHERE A FEW LOCAL RADIO STATIONS ARE BROADCASTING THE LIGHTING OF THE TREE.

THAT MUST LOOK FANTASTIC ON RADIO.

THAT WOULD BE GREAT.

BUT THEN I FIND OUT THEY'RE ALSO SIMULCASTING IT ON THEIR WEBSITES.

BUT IT'S AMAZING.

PEOPLE -- IT IS A TOURIST DESTINATION.

SO HOW DO THEY GET THESE TREES AND HOW BIG DO THEY GO?

IT IS A YEAR-ROUND EFFORT.

BIGGEST ONE SINCE I'VE BEEN DOING IT I THINK IS ABOUT AN 85-FOOT NORWAY SPRUCE.

90.

IT WAS A 90-FOOT NORWAY SPRUCE.

THEY LOOK ALL AROUND THE TRI-STATE AREA.

USUALLY THEY'RE CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK OR NEW JERSEY.

AND USUALLY IT'S A TREE THAT IN TS FINAL STAGES OF LIFE, AND IT WOULD COST THE FAMILY THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO HAVE IT REMOVED.

THE FOLKS AT ROCKEFELLER CENTER DO THESE AERIAL TOURS.

THEN PEOPLE SEND IN SUGGESTIONS.

THEY -- PEOPLE THEMSELVES WHO HAVE THE TREES THEMSELVES SEND IN SUGGESTIONS.

AND THEY MAKE THOSE CHOICES.

THEY WINNOW IT DOWN.

AND THEN IT'S THIS WHOLE ENGINEERING FEAT OF --

I CAN'T IMAGINE.

PUTTING IT ON A FLATBED, TRUCKING IT -- SOMETIMES IT'S BEEN ACTUALLY FLOATED DOWN THE HUDSON RIVER.

THAT'S RIGHT.

SO IT'S REALLY -- AND THEN PUTTING IT UP.

THE TORSILARY CRANE COMPANY, THEY PUT IT UP.

AND IT'S AMAZING HOW FAST THEY GET THAT THING STANDING.

IT'S AMAZING.

AND THE LARGEST ONE I THINK I READ WAS 100 FOOT LONG.

AND I THINK THEY CAN'T MAKE IT ANY LONGER THAN THAT BECAUSE THEY CAN'T MANEUVER THE STREETS.

SO YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED SINCE 1983.

WHAT'S -- DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY MEMORABLE YEAR OR MEMORABLE MOMENT?

I REMEMBER ONE YEAR SCOTT HAMILTON WAS ON THE ICE.

THIS IS WHEN WE HAD ICE SKATERS ON THE ICE.

AND IT WAS RAINING CATS AND DOGS.

AND WE THOUGHT THERE'S NO WAY HE CAN GO ON.

HE CAN'T POSSIBLY PERFORM.

AND HE DID A TRIPLE SOMERSAULT IN THIS POURING RAIN.

THE WATER IS COMING OFF HIS SKATES.

AND WE WERE ALL LIKE THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE.

IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST MOMENTS EVER.

AND THEN PROBABLY FROM A SENTIMENTAL POINT OF VIEW, AN EMOTIONAL POINT OF VIEW, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS SOME TALK AFTER 9/11 WHETHER THEY WERE GOING TO DO IT OR NOT.

THET WOULD PUT THE TREE UP AND THEY WOULD LIGHT IT BUT WOULD THEY HAVE A CEREMONY.

AND THEY DID.

AND FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH HELPED US LIGHT THE TREE.

AND IT WAS REALLY AN EMOTIONAL TIME.

ANY SURPRISES -- I MEAN, IT'S A LIVE EVENT.

AND I KNOW HOW THOSE THINGS GO.

YEAH.

YOU KNOW, KNOCK ON WOOD OR METAL.

SO FAR THERE HAVE BEEN NO MAJOR SURPRISES.

WE'VE HAD SOME PERFORMERS BE LATE.

SOME PERFORMERS HAD -- SOME PERFORMERS HAD A LITTLE TOO MUCH HOLIDAY CHEER, IF YOU WILL.

BUT IT'S ALWAYS THIS WONDERFUL EVENT.

YOU KNOW, LATELY -- AND AGAIN, NOT TO BEAT THE CLIMATE CHANGE DRUM, BUT IT'S BEEN WARMER IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.

THE LAST FEW YEARS I'VE BASICALLY DONE IT IN A SPORTCOAT AND A SCARF.

SO IT'S BEEN -- SOME NIGHTS IT'S NOT FELT A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS.

BUT THAT TREE GETS LIT.

AND BOY, YOU ARE IN THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT.

WELL, WE NEVER GET TIRED OF WATCHING IT AND WATCHING YOU IN THIS EXTRAVAGANZA.

AL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

FELIZ NAVIDAD.

HAPPY KWANZAA.

AND FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US!

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