WASHINGTON PARK — The Washington Park Christmas tree was vandalized this weekend, the second time that’s happened in the tree’s short history.
For four years, the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce has collected donations from local businesses and organizations to to put up lights and decorations along 55th Street and provide entertainment for local families. This was the second year the group put up the tree at 55th Street and King Drive.
The decorations are put up so local families can celebrate the holidays in their own communities, rather than having to travel to see elaborate decorations.
“Why do families have to travel Downtown or the North Side or the suburbs to see Christmas lights?” said chamber CEO Donna Hampton-Smith. “Why can’t we have this in our own community?”
But someone vandalized a part of the display over the weekend — the second straight year someone has targeted the tree, Hampton-Smith said.
Last winter, the tree was mowed down days before Christmas. Authorities never figured out who was responsible, but organizers weren’t able to replace the tree. This time, someone ripped the banner wrapped around the tree’s base, damaging it and leaving it trampled on the ground.
Hampton-Smith was driving past the park last weekend when she noticed the tree had been disturbed. She wrapped up the damaged banner and took it home to repair it.
By Monday afternoon, the banner was returned to its rightful place, but Hampton-Smith worries the tree will be damaged again in a year that has already seen too much loss.
Hampton-Smith said the initiative complements the Light Up King Drive campaign organized by My Block, My Hood, My City. Propelled by donations, group members decorate homes and light poles along the road way to illuminate it like the Mag Mile.
“I thought about … what Jahmal Cole said about how kids from certain areas are more used to seeing lights from flashing police cars than Christmas lights, which is why we started doing this,” Hampton-Smith said.
Hampton-Smith hopes residents will keep a watchful eye on the tree this season. A tree-lighting ceremony is planned for 4:45-5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We want people to be aware so if that they pay attention and report any suspicious activity if they see something,” Hampton-Smith said.
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.