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Fake Christmas tree in RI State House lights up controversy

PROVIDENCE, RI – It’s officially the Christmas season at the Rhode Island State House. But this year, a fake 18-foot tree is center stage in the Rotunda.

“It just looks nicer. And also, I don’t like the mess of the real one,” said Raj Mammen.

The governor said real trees haven’t lasted through the holidays at the State House. He said real trees either dry up, die and in some cases, need to be replaced.

“For whatever reason, we’ve gotten into trouble with the Fire Marshal in the past with the real tree and so many lights, so this year we just decided to play it safe,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo.

But not everyone is happy about it.

“I was insulted,” said Tim Leyden, owner of Big John Leyden’s Tree Farm.

Leyden called the face tree a slap in the face to Rhode Island family farms.

“The State House had always had a live, huge, beautiful tree where people gather around. And it’s the smell, it’s the aroma, the scent that tree give off. An artificial tree just can’t do it,” Leyden said.

“It’s very correct. That’s why it’s artificial,” Oleg Romaniouk said.

“Absolutely not. I will not be second fiddle to a fake tree in the State House. The real tree belongs in the State House, as the focal point, as the tradition, it’s been there for years and it needs to come back in 2020,” Leyden said.

The tree cost about $6,500.