Nunavik airmail: Helicopter delivers giant Christmas tree to northern community
‘You would've been seeing a grown man jumping up and down like a little boy, being all excited,’ says mayor
It's a really big tree — yet it looks like a tiny, pine-green dot in the sky.
This triangle descends upon the community of Kuujjuaq, Que., like a snowflake — swinging to and fro, slung between the landing skids of a helicopter.
Once it touches the ground, it towers over people at about 14 metres tall.
It was exactly five years ago when Kuujjuaq first got its special Christmas delivery.
Mayor Tunu Napartuk says he remembers the day clearly.
"I was there, and I remember exactly the moment and the feeling — the euphoria basically — of seeing from a distance a helicopter coming in, slinging a large tree," said Napartuk.
"If you were there with me, you would've been seeing a grown man jumping up and down like a little boy, being all excited."
Idea wasn't 'so far-fetched'
The idea came from a councillor from a newly formed council back in 2012.
Councillor George Berthe suggested the town get the biggest tree it could find and haul it over by air.
"It wasn't so far-fetched," said the mayor.
So the newly elected Napartuk sent a couple of local guys out of town to scout out the perfect tree.
"Kuujjuaq is one of the few [Nunavik] communities that has trees readily available in our back yard," said Napartuk.
"They found it right away. And a couple of days later, we asked the helicopter to go pick it up."
But why this particular mode of transportation?
"The only way to access it was to pick it up by helicopter. We don't have a big enough sled to pull by skidoo. Of course we don't have access to it by road, by truck, so the only option was to get it by helicopter," said Napartuk.
"It's not something you see everyday."
People 'just mesmerized'
Napartuk says the Christmas tree drop is becoming a tradition.
After the tree is plopped next to the town hall, it's decorated by city staff using proper equipment, and an angel is placed on top.
The town council chooses an individual who's made a contribution to the community, and that person has the honour of lighting the tree — and people are "just mesmerized by it," says Napartuk.
"It doesn't last long but the whole town does come in, and we're out there in minus twenty something [degrees] with the windchill and blowing snow, and we're singing Christmas carols."
Then everyone goes to the town hall and warm up to hot chocolate and one another's company.
That's why the mayor says all the hard work and planning is worthwhile.
"It just really brightens the mood of the community," he said.
"It's something we're really enjoying and we're very proud of."