Harbor Springs loves its traditions particularly those associated with holidays. In 2015, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a community Christmas tree placed in town, a tradition started by local contractor George B. Hartung. As a young man, Hartung cut and hauled a Christmas tree into downtown Harbor Springs for the townsfolk to enjoy.
Of the first community Christmas tree gathering, the Petoskey Evening News reported in their December 27, 1915 issue that two thousand people were in attendance at the event held on Christmas Eve in Zorn Park. “Ideal weather conditions combined with 100 percent pure Christmas enthusiasm made Harbor Springs’ first municipal Christmas tree a grand success and an event long to be remembered.”
Hartung’s grandchildren remembered him fondly. “It was his idea that Harbor Springs needed a city tree and he had the equipment,” said granddaughter Mary Booth. “He was just a lumberjack at heart.” George Coveyou remembers his grandfather as a very honest and good man. “It was a great experience to grow up and spend time with him.”
The Evening News wrote further about that first gathering in 1915. “The address of welcome was followed by several well selected musical numbers by the children from the public school, and then came Santa Claus with 2,400 sacks of candy and nuts which were distributed by this genial old friend to the good children of this community. Much credit is due the band for their efforts in making the entertainment complete. The idea of a municipal Christmas tree seems to be a good one. Our citizens joined in the movement regardless of religion or politics and stood united, with one aim in view; namely, the dispensing of Christmas cheer among the people, both young and old of the community.”
At left, George Hartung holding his grandson George Coveyou with his wife Ida May holding granddaughter Mary Booth at the 1941 Fourth of July Parade.