JEFFERSON PARK — On their way home from picking up their own tree, Kelly Rose and her family made an important pit stop to view the 20-foot rotating Christmas tree in Jefferson Park that goes through the roof.
Rose, who lives in Norwood Park with her partner and seven children, saw posts about the rotating tree on Facebook and knew she had to experience it for herself. As big Christmas fans, her family tries to visit all the houses nearby that have been decorated for the holiday. This year, the Jefferson Park tree was on the top of their list.
“I love it. It rotates perfectly and that’s awesome,” Rose said Thursday night. “I can’t stop staring at it. We live down the street and we had to stop [by].”
While admiring the tall, bright green tree, the family got to meet the man behind the creation: Dan DePaepe, who has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years and loves Christmas just as much as Rose does.
DePaepe’s Christmas tree lights up the corner of North Meade Avenue and West Argyle Street, rotating steadily — with a full set of ornaments, presents and lights — from the first floor of his house and extending out onto the roof. The tree, which has been making the rounds on social media and in the news, has caught the attention of neighbors and nearby residents like Rose, who planned to tell her friends and family about it as soon as she got home.
With some “Christmas magic,” his biggest tree project was complete just before Thanksgiving. While DePaepe doesn’t want to divulge how he did it, he said the tree is an optical illusion and no, it doesn’t actually go through the roof.
“It’s similar to Christmas dust that the reindeers use,” DePaepe said of the optical illusion. “What do I get out of it? You get to make other people happy.”
Seeing the excitement from people in person and online is what makes the project worth it, he said. He said he’s received positive feedback from friends, family and strangers. One person even asked if the tree was a hologram.
He hopes folks feel a sense of magic when looking at the tree, which took him about two days to complete.
But DePaepe has been thinking about the tree endeavor for the last four years.
After seeing a Lincolnwood home that also has a yearly larger-than-life Christmas tree that goes through the roof, DePaepe was inspired, though it wasn’t until two years ago that he began to plan it out seriously.
“I had a rotator on my other trees and thought it would be kind of fun if I did it through the roof and made it rotate,” he said.
He started looking online for ways to create a rotating Christmas tree and didn’t find much, so he decided to invent his own. The self-described creative, who is a real estate agent by day, said working out the logistics of the rotation and the buildout were challenging. After trying unsuccessfully to pull it off in 2020, he got to work after Halloween this year and made it happen.
“I don’t know of anybody’s tree that [goes] through the roof and that rotates,” he said smiling. “If somebody finds it, kindly send me the link.”
Using a combination of old and new Christmas decorations, DePaepe said he spent roughly $1,000 on materials for the tree, and that’s including buying discounted items. But since it’s his favorite holiday, he said it was worth it.
“This is the only holiday I decorate for,” he said. “When I was 10, 11 or 12 years old, I was in charge of setting up the tree at my house so it was fun to do. I continued to do it … I have enough Christmas decorations to decorate the house three times.”
He is hopeful that his elaborate tree will inspire other neighbors to get creative for the holidays and perhaps collaborate with him in the future. If others want to give a giant rotating tree a whirl, he has some advice.
“If you are going to do one, start around Halloween because it takes time, unless you have an army — and that was when I had some stuff built.”
Even though Santa and his reindeers have yet to arrive, DePaepe is already thinking about next year’s decorations. He plans to install the rotating tree again if enough of the community comes to check it out this year.
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