CONCORD, Calif. — Oh Christmas tree, how puny are your branches.
That's the first reaction by many people to the lopsided brownish tree decorated by the city of Concord this year for the holiday.
"This thing looks like it's dead, and it's leaning over," Concord resident Bill Gram-Reefer said Wednesday. "It just doesn't evoke a Christmas tree to me."
Adds resident Pat Breen: "It's kind of sad, after all the nice trees that Concord has had."
Officials said budget woes forced them to forgo a freshly cut, full-bodied tree for one that was already growing in a city plaza.
"We had to cut $8 million out of our budget and had to lay people off, so we had to figure out a way to share the spirit of the season while still cutting expenses," explained Mayor Guy Bjerke.
He said the city would have ended up spending about $23,000 for a cut tree had they not opted to use the one growing in Todos Santos Plaza. The city chose the tree over other fuller trees in the plaza because of its location near an electrical outlet and away from the road.
While onlookers have described it as pathetic, scraggly and a sad reflection of the economy, it is getting a lot of attention and even finding supporters.
"It's unique! It's a unique tree, and no one else has anything like it," remarked resident Jo Ellen Keith.
It's also drawing comparisons to the puny tree that Peanuts' character Charlie Brown picks out in the classic animated TV special. City officials hope their tree reminds all who see it of the true spirit of the season, just as Charlie Brown's did for the Peanuts characters.
Concord resident Carol Mason has no problem with that message.
"It makes a statement, and I think it's good," she said. "It's good."