When Anne and Toby Nappi built their home on Methodist Road in Westbrook 23 years ago, they thought a pair of balsam firs would make a nice addition to the end of their driveway.

But they had no idea how big – and quickly – the trees would grow.

Anne and Toby Nappi’s 40-foot Balsam Fir was selected as this year’s Monument Square holiday tree. The couple planted the tree when they built their home, where they have lived for 23 years. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“They were little baby trees and they grew,” said Toby Nappi, 70. “They grew faster than I thought.”

Today both trees are about 40 feet tall, and the size of one of them has caused some problems for the Nappis. The tree sticks out into the street, making it hard to see and dangerous for cars pulling in and out of the driveway.

The Nappis thought their problem tree could perform a holiday miracle if it could find its way to Portland’s Monument Square. They were a runner-up when they first submitted photos to the city two years ago in hopes the tree would be chosen for the city’s annual decoration.

Since then the tree has continued to grow, getting closer to the 50-foot mark and towering above the average power pole. This year the Nappis got lucky.


“I think it’s going to look nice because it is a full, perfect pretty tree,” Toby Nappi said after learning the tree had finally been selected.

If the tree hadn’t been picked, Nappi said he would probably have to remove it – work that can cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000, according to the home services website Angi. “I’ve been holding off because I thought maybe it could be put to good use,” Nappi said.

On Thursday, city forestry crews with the help of Shaw Brothers Construction and Keeley Crane Service will cut the tree, load it into a flatbed trailer and deliver it to Monument Square – work the Nappis are familiar with as the owners of their own transport company.

Work will start around 8 a.m. with the tree expected to arrive by 10 a.m.

The Portland Downtown organization usually helps the city with its search and sends out a notice to solicit submissions, according to the city. City arborist Jeff Tarling said the city typically gets 10 to 15 submissions a year.

For decades, Tarling said most were Colorado blue spruce – a popular landscaping choice in the 1960s and 70s – but over the past five years the majority have been balsam fir and Norway spruce.


“Be it climate change or weather patterns, we in the arborist field (are seeing) increased summer humidity negatively affect Colorado spruce disease-wise, as it is a tree that wants to grow in more sunny and dryer environs,” Tarling said. “Thus, less blue spruce are in good condition and fewer blue spruce trees (have been) planted the past couple of decades.”

The Nappis’ tree quickly rose to the top this year, Tarling said. The tree has outgrown its home, he said, and needed to be removed, so why not put it to good use?

“It would have been slated to be removed – thus it is a good thing we all will get a chance to enjoy this beautiful tree in Monument Square,” Tarling said.

The city said in a statement last week that the tree is 40 feet, though Toby Nappi said it may be closer to 50. He operates Nappi’s Transport, but said moving the tree himself would be difficult.

Keeping all the branches intact requires caution, and the flatbed that will be used Thursday has special brackets that will prevent the entire weight of the tree from resting on one side during transport, Nappi said. Westbrook and Portland police and Portland parking control will escort the tree to the square.

“It’s an act. You just can’t cut it down and drag it onto the truck because you’ll break all the branches,” Nappi said. “You have to gently pick it up with a crane.”


A tree lighting ceremony hosted by Portland Downtown is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. There was no formal countdown to the tree-lighting last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though Portland Downtown provided a “Tree Cam” on its website allowing visitors to virtually take in the tree and its surroundings.

That feature, which Portland Downtown Executive Director Cary Tyson said proved to be very popular during the pandemic, will continue this year. In addition, the group also will be hosting a U.S. Soccer World Cup watch party with an outdoor viewing in the square at 2 p.m.

The lighting ceremony will include free eggnog, face painting, music and ice carving demonstrations with the lights expected to go on as dusk falls around 4:30 p.m.

“It’s back and better than ever,” Tyson said. “We’re excited about it.”

Toby Nappi plans to attend the lighting ceremony with his granddaughters, ages 6 and 11, who will be visiting from Massachusetts for the Thanksgiving holiday. “I know they’ll get a big kick out of it,” he said.

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