Rock Center's Tree Lighting Spectacular

December 3, 2001, 12:00 AM EST

The highlight of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center was, of course, the tree: A 71-year-old Norwegian spruce from New Jersey, covered with 30,000 lights. (Photo by Joe Vericker/PhotoBureau Inc.)

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Rockefeller Center Wednesday, 11.28.01, 7 PM to 9 PM
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One of New York's favorite holiday traditions came to life for the 69th year at Rockefeller Center's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Hosted by the Today show's Ann Curry and Al Roker, a slate of big-name musical performers and a host of celebrity attendees (mostly--surprise--NBC stars) brought some star power to the two-hour event, which included an hour-long nationwide broadcast on primetime NBC.

Production of the event was overseen by Tom Remiszewski, the vice president of creative services and programming at local affiliate WNBC. The event's executive producers, WNBC program director Adele Rifkin and Steve Mayer of Trans World International (the event production company of sports and entertainment marketing giant IMG), were in charge of the massive undertaking, which included overseeing the slate of performers in different performance spaces throughout Rockefeller center, coordinating celebrity interviews and insuring the security of first lady Laura Bush and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who were on hand to flip the switch on the tree's lights. (Bush was reportedly ensconced in a bulletproof box that was covered with draping by the Drape Kings during the event.)

Besides serving as a holiday TV spectacle, the show was also a great marketing event for real estate company Tishman Speyer, the owner of the Rockefeller Center complex. While the public partied above, Tishman Speyer and NBC/WNBC were throwing their own corporate events (with decor by Botanica) in the Sea Grill and Rock Center Cafe venues operated by Restaurant Associates that surround the rink.

Outside vendors involved in the production included GSD Productions, who provided the lighting (including the gorgeous dancing snowflake lighting that was shone on the ice rink) for the event. Wireless First provided the in-ear monitors and some microphones for the performers. Promix provided the rest of the audio equipment and production for the live performances, and instruments from Studio Instrument Rentals were used for the live musical performances.

The event featured some pre-recorded performances (although they looked live if you watched on TV), including a routine by ice skaters Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, and musical performances by Tony Bennett, Vanessa Williams and the Radio City Rockettes. At the live event, the taped pieces were shown on giant Sportslink video screens from Daktronics for the live audiences and edited into the televised show by NBC producers. DSG Productions mounted the screens on top of the retail portions of the buildings, and parked two additional mobile units on 48th Street and 50th Street for better street-level views of the performances.

Approximately 100,000 people packed into the heavily policed Rockefeller Plaza to witness the event. Destiny's Child, Marc Anthony, John Mellencamp, the Harlem Boys Choir, singer/NYPD officer Daniel Rodriguez and Jessica Simpson gave rousing live performances for the crowd, and short interviews by Curry and Roker of cast members from Ed, ER, Third Watch and Law & Order filled the time between acts. The tree, a 71-year-old Norwegian spruce plucked from the backyard of a New Jersey family (with their permission, of course) was covered with 30,000 red, white and blue lights. We hear that President Bush wanted to attend, but was ultimately unable to because security would have been an additional burden to the already-crowded event. After nervously fumbling with her coat pockets on camera, the first lady gave a short, warm speech, and the switch on the glorious tree was flipped at exactly 8:56 PM, thereby ending the show.

--Suzanne Ito

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