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Thursday, December 7, 2000

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
Hans Klein, at the entrance to his Paauhau Plantation
Home Bed and Breakfast, with his 120-foot decorated
Norfolk pine Christmas tree behind him.

120-foot isle
Norfolk tops
Big Apple’s tree

But NYC's media
remain skeptical

By Rod Thompson
Big Island Correspondent

HONOKAA, Hawaii -- Hans Klein, a Hamakua Coast bed and breakfast owner, takes a little pride in knowing his live, 120-foot-high Norfolk pine Christmas tree is 40 feet taller than the tree standing in New York's Rockefeller Center.

He also took a little thrashing as wind whipped the tree's tip in his face while he hung lights on it last week.

Klein put up with the arboreal abuse to give back to the community of Paauhau, on the edge of Honokaa, which has accepted him as one of their own.

The community was a bit standoffish three years ago when the fellow with the German accent -- Klein comes from the Black Forest in southern Germany -- bought the Paauhau Plantation Home Bed and Breakfast.

That changed, and Klein figures the millennial Christmas tree is a good way to say thank you.

Getting to the top of a 120-foot Norfolk pine isn't easy. Klein rented a 125-foot boom truck from Hilo, but since the boom had to lean at an angle, it didn't reach the top. A 15-foot extension finally put him face to face with the tree's crown.

There he placed a transparent ball covered with plastic water cups with lights inside. From there to the ground, he hung 10 strands of lights, each composed of three connected segments.

Total lights: 4,500. Total cost: $2,000.

On Nov. 29, when the 80-foot tree in Rockefeller Center was lit, Klein called news media in New York and told them he had lit his own 120-foot tree.

The New Yorkers couldn't believe he had a 120-foot palm tree.

Not a palm tree, he answered. A pine tree.

A pine tree in Hawaii was even harder for the New Yorkers to believe.

They told him they'd have to think a bit before giving him some news coverage.

E-mail to City Desk

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