While evergreens are an icon of Christmas tradition, the one that stands beside the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse has a story — and a name— all its own.
“Ms. Mona” is a tall Norway Spruce that was specially selected to take center stage for the city’s Tree Lighting event held annually on Thanksgiving Day.
Typically, someone from the County is responsible for finding the Courthouse tree. But this year, Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Project Coordinator Tina Pangle decided to make a trip to North Carolina to personally select the perfect tree for the annual Tree Lighting event.
She worked with Sugar Mountain Nursery, a company that buys and resells over-sized Christmas trees grown directly on local properties.
In her search for the perfect tree, Pangle visited many homes in Sugar Mountain, N.C., a ski destination town with a population of giant evergreens. Pangle finally found the ideal tree, growing beside a tiny house belonging to an elderly widow.
“The tree that we were looking at was just a beautiful tree, “ Pangle said of her find.
Mona Clark, the tree’s original owner, shared with its story with Pangle. She said that as newlyweds, she and her husband had planted the tree on their property, and they would decorate the tree together every Christmas until it grew too tall.
“I’m not exactly sure how many years ago [that was] but she’s in her 80’s, and her husband had just passed away when I met her,” Pangle said.
“Now the tree is 30 feet tall,” Pangle said of the tall evergreen that towers some of the buildings in the downtown Lawrenceville square.
Alicia Symons who is the Recreation Program Leader at the Courthouse joined Pangle in search for the tree, and the two enjoyed meeting Clark so much that they decided to name their purchase after its original owner.
“Ms. Mona” will be the star of the show at the Christmas Tree Lighting event that starts at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 22. The event will begin with Santa arriving on a Bicentennial Diversity float, and if all goes as planned, Santa will light The Great Tree around 6:30.
The Tree will be decorated in special white lights in recognition of Gwinnett’s Bicentennial year coming to a close.
“We’re going to have to send [Clark] pictures of it decorated, and maybe see if she can come and see it,” Pangle said.
Although Clark has several trees on her property, she decided to plant another evergreen in place of the old one.
“It’s like a whole new phase of her life in memory of her husband, which I thought was the sweetest thing,” Pangle said. ”It is a beautiful tree; it’s full and I feel like it comes with a lot of love.
This was not the first time Pangle and others from Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation named their tree. They choose a different name every year — last year’s tree was named “Anthony” for example. But according to Pangle, the Christmas tree for 2019 will also be named “Mona”.
“Ms. Mona’s tree was perfect,” Pangle said. ”We liked her tree so much [and] we loved the other tree [on the property, so] we went ahead and put a down payment on that one for next year. So we’ll have two Ms. Mona Trees — this year and next.”
The Christmas Tree Lighting is a free event to the public and will be held at The Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, located at 185 E Crogan St, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.