By Bob Bong
For the past 34 years, neighbors on Palos Avenue and Potawatomi Drive in Palos Heights have gathered in early December to decorate an unwanted tree and enjoy a potluck dinner.
“It started as a joke,” said Mike Lombard, one of the Palos Avenue contingent. “Our next-door neighbor had planted a tree in his backyard and because it was a sad specimen, we threw leftover lights and decorations on it. We nicknamed it the Charlie Brown tree.
“The next year, we decorated it on purpose. We did that until it got to be 30 feet high, about eight or nine years ago. It used to take a minute to decorate then it just got too big.”
A potluck dinner was soon added to the mix and a neighborhood tradition was born that has lasted to this day.
“There are seven of the original 16 neighbors left,” Lombard said. “But as new people move in, we invite them into the group.”
Nowadays, the group rotates who buys the ugliest tree they can find and puts it in their yard to decorate. “Whoever buys the tree hosts the potluck,” Lombard said.
Not everyone participated this year, thanks to the pandemic. “A few elected not to come because of COVID, but the party went on as scheduled,” Lombard said.
Teri Minneart, who stores the decorations in her basement, even had special masks made for the group that were adorned with characters from the Charlie Brown Christmas special.