Lakeshore lights up with the classic Christmas tree

Dailey Jogan '24, Page Editor

NOT A CHRISTMAS PINE Lighting up Lakeshore for many years, this tree is a staple of the Grosse Pointe street. (Dailey Jogan ’24)

Wrapped branch to branch, one tree stands out against the rest in the Grosse Pointe community. This unmissable tree on Lakeshore in Grosse Pointe Farms displays the beauty of intricate detail in Christman lights. After responding to a “help wanted” ad in a magazine, Michael Rolka, groundskeeper since 1979, has taken charge of the tree among other responsibilities.

“I was a landscaper,” Rolka said. “I did landscape design, and I was more interested in doing the work than just the design work. So with the Cracchiolo’s, I was able to do the landscaping and gardening.”

As the estate manager, Rolka takes the lead on the greenhouses as well as lighting the iconic tree. The original inspiration was taken from a tree seen in New York. The family intentionally chose the perfect tree on their lawn, as it can be seen from each room in their house.

“It’s a Gingko tree and it just happened to be the favorite tree of the family,” Rolka said. “Mrs. Cracchiolo suggested to me something similar to what she saw in Central Park as a present to her husband that year.”

Not only does the location of the tree on the property display it in full, but it also causes some friendly rivalry on the street. Residents of the community often cite the difference of the classy versus crazy Christmas lights on display on Lakeshore. Ella Johnson ’24 enjoys the classic lights, but the crazy ones tend to catch her eye more.

“For me, I like the crazy Christmas lights because my family is kind of crazy around Christmas time,” Johnson said. “So that always kind of vibes with me more because I have a crazy family.”
Granddaughter of the estate owners, Elaina Cracchiolo, shares a different perspective on the impact the classy Christmas lights can have.

“Personally, I like the classy Christmas (decorations) because I feel like it’s more suitable for everyone,” Cracchiolo said. “The house that has all the lights is a little bit too much and it’s more for little kids. But the class you want to show is simple and it looks really pretty.”

No matter what lights catch people’s eyes, the amount of work that goes into making houses beautiful can not be understated. Rolka works with a team of hired college students and professionals to care for the grounds each year, with the tree being a big project of the winter season.

“A crew of five people had three Tie Rangers where they were in a bucket,” Rolka said. “You can get high up into the tree with those, and it took that crew five days to get all the lights on.”
As the tradition has grown, so has the tree. The tree started the process of being lit each year 25 years ago when there were only 7,000 lights on the tree.

“There’s probably eight different connections (in the lights) and now they’re LED lights,” Rolka said. “We just redid the tree this year, and this year we put up 110,000 lights.”

To prevent potential harm to the tree and keep up with it as it grows, the lights have to be replaced on a consistent cycle of years.

“We’re able to keep the lights on for about four years in a row,” Rolka said. “The wires start to girdle the branches and it starts pulling the wiring out of the light sockets.

The tradition of lighting the tree each year brings joy to so many people throughout the community in the holiday season.

“It’s kind of become a tradition here in Grosse Pointe where people look forward to seeing that (tree) each year,” Rolka said. “They send pictures to the Cracchiolos and thank them for doing it.”