News of Otsego County

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Daddy Al’s Christmas Adventure

Daddy Al’s Christmas Adventure

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Daddy Al” and Susan Dick pose in front of their West Oneonta spruce as it was lit up at Rockefeller Center.

When Sue Dick moved into the home here where she and “Daddy Al” raised their family, she often wondered about the Norway Spruce in the front yard.

“I always wanted to decorate that tree,” she said. “But it was always too big and I didn’t have the stuff to do it. But now I’ve finally seen it decorated, and it was beautiful.”

With performances by Kelly Clarkson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Dolly Parton and Earth, Wind & Fire, the Dick family’s 75-foot Norway Spruce was lit as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree during the 88th annual celebration on Wednesday, Dec 2.

“We knew that tree was beautiful,” said his daughter Paula. “It was a magical night.”

“This year, we just feel the tree is vital,” said Rob Speyer, president/CEO of Tishman Speyer, which owns Rockefeller Center. “The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree always represents the holiday season, but it has also stood tall as a symbol of hope, resilience, and New York’s enduring spirit, from the Great Depression to 9/11, Superstorm Sandy through today.”

Speaking during the lighting ceremony, he continued, “2020 has been a difficult year, but New Yorkers have persevered, and we are determined to come back better and stronger. We are particularly proud to continue the joyous tradition this year.”

As it happens, the huge spruce was the second from Oneonta: The first, from the Country Club Road yard of Graig and Angela Eichler, adorned Rockefeller Center in 2016.

Following the delivery of this tree to Rockefeller Center Saturday, Nov. 14, “Daddy Al” reported emails, letters, Christmas cards and gifts began to show up at his deli and grocery on Oneonta’s West End.

“I’ve been answering emails all day,” he said. “They come from England, Haiti, Miami, Geneseo. People say I’m inspiring, but I didn’t know that!”

One person sent even a hardcover book about the history of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. “They told me they thought I should have it,” he said. “Another person who donated a tree sent me a little book about the tree, and I read it to my grandkids.”

But he had a fair share of detractors too, some who called the tree – it may have arrived in Manhattan after a two-day journey looking a little worse for wear – “the embodiment of 2020” and “The Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”

“The New York Times called me up and asked if I could guarantee the tree would look good,” Al said. “I told them of course it would look good!”

But with the reveal a diminutive Saw-whet owl found among the branches after the 170-mile journey, softer hearts prevailed.

Rocky, as she became known, was rehabilitated and released by the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties. Her image adorned merchandise, memes, a painting by Cooperstown’s May Britt Joyce, a bobble-head and, most recently, the tail of a Frontier Airlines jet.

“We hear owls all the time,” said Al. “But I’ve never seen that one! I don’t know how she got in there.”

Before the tree lighting, the Dicks were taken to dinner and on a tour of the sights, including Top of the Rock and to see the famed Saks Fifth Avenue light display.

“I’d seen it on YouTube, but to see it in person was phenomenal,” said Susan.

And when word got around who they were, they had fans approaching them throughout the evening. “One woman came up to us and said that she had moved to Oneonta in 1982 and now lived in Rhode Island,” said Susan. “She asked if we knew some people that she remembered, and we did!”

The Oneonta tree was covered with more than 50,000 multi-colored, energy-efficient LED lights, and is on display through early January 2021, with COVID regulations, including social distancing, digital queuing, time limits and mask requirements, in place. The lit tree will also will be live-streamed each day from 8 a.m. – midnight.

“It was perfect,” said Al. “Just like we knew it would be.”

Gardeners from Rockefeller Center have already returned to West Oneonta for one round of landscaping and plan to return in the spring to build a new fence and plant apple trees.

And while they were there, they found a small sapling near the site of the former towering tree, likely one of the original pinecones taking root.

Rocky Honored With Frontier Airlines Tail

Rocky Honored With

Frontier Airlines Tail

Rocky, the Saw-whet owl found hiding out in “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, will be honored as the tail design of the Frontier Airlines new Airbus A320neo aircraft tail, Frontier Airlines announced last week. The airlines features animals on 100 of the company’s planes. “Each of our animal tails has a back story and Rocky’s is extra-special,” said  Tyri Squyres, VP of marketing for the airlines.  “She will be remembered for years to come and her story enjoyed by thousands of travelers who fly on ‘Rocky the Owl.’”
Tree Lighting ‘Perfect,’ Reports Daddy Al

Tree Lighting ‘Perfect,’

Reports ‘Daddy Al’ Dick

Oneonta’s second Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree stands lit, Wednesday, Dec. 2. This year’s tree was donated by “Daddy Al” Dick and his family. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer)


ONEONTA – “Daddy Al” Dick had complete confidence that when everyone saw his family’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, they would see just how gorgeous it could be.

“It was perfect,” he said. “Just like we knew it would be.”

With performances by Kelly Clarkson, the Goo Goo Dolls, Dolly Parton and Earth Wind & Fire, the 75-foot Norway Spruce – the second from Oneonta – was lit during the 88th annual celebration.  At 9:55 p.m., following the performances, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rob Speyer, Tishman Speyer CEO, hit the button to light up their 75-foot-tall Norway spruce as the 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

“We knew that tree was beautiful,” said his daughter Paula. “It was a magical night.”

Daddy Al’s Tree Lights Up Rockefeller Center

Daddy Al’s Tree

Brings Christmas To

Rockefeller Center

The family of “Daddy Al” Dick, third from left, were some of the few people allowed into Rockefeller Center to see their Christmas Tree light up the night Manhattan sky tonight during the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting, which was aired this evening on NBC. The event went virtual this year, and included performances by Dolly Parton, the Goo Goo Dolls, Gwen Stefani and others. With him, from left, is daughter Paula, wife Susan, granddaughter Autumn Edison and friends Shyann Bowman and Kevin Scheller.  The tree will remain on view – with COVID regulations, including mask requirements, digital queues and time limitations – until early January 2021, after which it will be milled for lumber and donated to Habitat for Humanity. Though this is the second Oneonta tree to grace the famed plaza, rumor has it that there could be a third such spruce eyed in the area to become the coveted Christmas centerpiece. (Photo Credit, Brady Littlefield/
Rocky Takes Flight

Rocky Takes Flight

Ravensbeard Wildlife Center released this footage of Rocky, the Saw-whet owl who was found huddled inside “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, taking flight back into nature less than one week after she was brought to the animal sanctuary to recover from her three-day journey. Though her location was closely guarded, it is believed she was released near the Saugerties-based sanctuary, in order to keep with her migration pattern.

Rockefeller Owl Inspires Commemorative Bobblehead

Rockefeller Owl Inspires

Commemorative Bobblehead

Rockefeller, in bobblehead form

ONEONTA – Rockefeller, the diminutive Saw-whet owl found inside “Daddy Al” Dick’s Rockefeller-bound Norway Spruce, has been immortalized as a limited-edition bobblehead figure from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame.

The figure, available for pre-order, will ship in Feb. 2021, and $5 will be donated to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center.

Though earlier reports stated that Rockefeller would be released in Oneonta over the weekend, a statement from the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center says that they are still deciding when and where to release him.

Bye, Bye! Big Tree Off To Rockefeller Center

Bye, Bye! Big Tree Off

To Rockefeller Center

As more than 50 people look on, “Daddy Al” and Susan Dick’s huge Norway Spruce is lowered onto the flatbed that will carry it to Rockefeller Center, where it will be the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations that begin in early December. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Adora Martinolich, left, and sister Xavier, Al and Susan Dick’s granddaughters, give a final hug to a tree that’s part of their lives.

WEST ONEONTA – It was a reveal four years in the making.

“When I was here in 2016, I came around the corner and there was this beautiful tree,” said Erik Pauze, Rockefeller Center’s head gardener. “But it wasn’t quite ready yet. So for four years, I’ve been coming up twice a year to water and feed it.”

And finally, the 75-foot Norway Spruce, on the property of Paula Dick, daughter of “Daddy Al” and Susan, will make its nationwide debut Wednesday, Dec. 2, as the 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

“Pauze’s daughter goes to SUNY Delhi, so whenever he comes up here, he drives around and looks at trees,” said Daddy Al, who is donating the tree on behalf of his grocery store. “When he first looked at it, it was only 71-feet tall, and they have to be a minimum of 75, so he came up every year.”

“We knew they would come for it at some point,” said Paula. “But it didn’t seem real until just last week!”

Pauze and his team arrived in the early morning on Thursday, Nov. 12. “It’s got a big, beautiful shape,” he said. “It stands up straight and strong enough to hold all the lights and the star.”

Once the chainsaw was revved up, it took woodsmen and landscapers from Rockefeller Center and Lynn Warren Lawn Maintenance & Landscaping, Newburgh, less than three minutes to cut down the 75-year-old spruce, which was then lifted high above the crowd and laid on a flatbed truck.

“You don’t realize how big it is until you see it high above you,” said Paula.

From there, state troopers, Otsego County and Delaware county sheriffs’ deputies, and other departments along the route escorted the tree to Rockefeller Center, 22 acres that stretch between 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues, where it was installed on Saturday morning.

It will be lit on Dec. 2 in a ceremony to be broadcast on NBC, and will remain lit through New Year’s Eve, one of the city’s few holiday traditions still ongoing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall has been cancelled, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will be closed to crowds, broadcast instead on TV the morning of Nov. 26.

“I hope everyone takes a moment to put everything else aside and look at it,” said Paula. “A lot of people need some cheer right now.”

And for Al, the tree itself might make some local Christmases a little merrier. “It’s been an economic boon to the area,” he said. “They hired local companies to come out here today, the Latte Lounge, Seward Sand & Gravel, even local Porta Pottys. The security teams were here 24 hours, and they stayed in local hotels. That’s important.”

Of course, he said with a smile, they also bought plenty of subs at Daddy Al’s General Store on Chestnut Street.

In 2016, Angie and Graig Eichler, Country Club Road, donated their 96-foot Norway Spruce, making it the second largest tree in Rockefeller Center history.

They worked with their neighbor, Heidi Hofbauer-Buzzy of Alpine Awards & Engraving, to make an ornament in honor of the occasion. According to Graig, they have commissioned and sent one to the families of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree every year since their own tree went up.

“It’s a little tradition we started after ours went up,” said Angie. “We get their address and send them an ornament, and they almost always call us or send a little note back. It’s nice to connect in that way!”

Angie was at the latest cutting with new ornaments for the Dick family, as well as for anyone who wants to bring a little Oneonta-Rockefeller flare to their own Christmas tree. The ornaments are also available for sale at Alpine Engraving.

The Dick family plans to go down to the city to see their tree all lit up. “This is the kind of thing you tell your grandchildren,” said Paula.

And as the tree was loaded onto the flatbed truck, a rumor began circulating through the gathered crowd that this may not be the last tree Oneonta sends to the big city.

“That’s top secret,” said Pauze.

Oneonta Owl Hitches A Ride On Rockefeller-Bound Tree

Oneonta Owl Hitches Ride

On Rockefeller-Bound Tree

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

“Rockefeller,” the Sw-whet owl, hitched a ride to NYC in Oneonta’s Christmas tree.

ONEONTA – A Saw-whet owl who nested in “Daddy Al” Dick’s 75-foot Norway Spruce was rescued when workers tasked with transporting the tree to Rockefeller Center found the hitchhiker while putting up the tree in New York City.

According to a Facebook post, the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties received a phone call that the owl had been rescued from the tree after it arrived in Manhattan.

“I received a phone call from someone who asked if we take in owls for rehabilitation,” the post read. “I replied, ‘yes we do,’ there was silence for a moment and she said ‘OK, I’ll call back when my husband
comes home, he’s got the baby owl in a box tucked in for the long ride.’”

State Police: Expect ‘Traffic Delays’ Near Site Of Enormous Pine


Expect ‘Traffic Delays’

Near Enormous Pine

Rockefeller Center Awaits Local Fir

All trussed up, the tree on the property of “Daddy Al” Dick is almost prepped for the long journey to New York City, where it will become the centerpiece of the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

WEST ONEONTA –  As crews finish wrapping the 75-foot tall pine tree on “Daddy Al” Dick’s property here, state police have issued an alert of traffic delays and lane closures over the next tomorrow through Thursday on Route 23 here as the tree is cut down and prepared for the journey to Rockefeller Center, where it will become the most famous Christmas tree in the world.

According to Trooper Aga Dembinska, the area in the 3800 block of Route 23, north of Route 8 “may be experiencing higher than normal volume this week.”

Eichler’s Tree Cut Down, En Route To Rockefeller Center




The crowd ooh and ahh'd as the Eichler's 94 foot tall spruce was cut and loaded onto a flatbed truck in front of their Country Club Road home this morning (Ian Austin/
The crowd ooh and ahh’d as the Eichler’s 94 foot tall spruce was cut and loaded onto a flatbed truck in front of their Country Club Road home this morning (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Graig and Angie Eichler’s 94-foot-tall Norway spruce is down and Rockefeller-bound.

“It’s such a great day,” said Angie Eichler.  “A lot of people came out, and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Nearly 200 people gathered this morning on the lawn of VF Supply Co., Browne Street and Country Club Road, to watch the tree come down.  At 8 a.m., the chainsaw revved up, and by 8:30, the tree was high in the air above the crowd before being slowly lowered onto a truck.

The truck will deliver the tree to the plaza in the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 12.

On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, County Backs Pipeline; Local Spruce NYC Bound

On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, County

Backs Pipeline; Local Spruce NYC Bound

Otsego County Reps. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, left, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, drafted letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to get behind the Constitution Pipeline.  (Jim Kevlin/
Otsego County Reps. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, left, and Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, drafted letter to Governor Cuomo urging him to get behind the Constitution Pipeline.  (Jim Kevlin/

WAMC-logo_1 (1)

In Thursday’s weekly radio report on WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), reported on the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ vote urging Governor Cuomo to get behind the Constitution Pipeline.  Also, on excitement about an Oneonta spruce being chosen for the Rockefeller Center ice rink this year.



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