HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — There’s something in Orange County that never loses its smile. And it’s been smiling for more than a decade thanks to a couple in Huntington Beach.
Before each major holiday, you will often find Edgar Palacol doing some work on a tree in his front yard. “The neighbors enjoy it. Gives me something to do,” he said.
He was adding some large ornaments to his tree when he laughed and said, “I don’t decorate anything else! Just the tree.” Palacol isn’t much into décor.
But adding Christmas decorations to the tree in his front yard was just the beginning. “I change it six times a year,” he said. Each change is tied to a holiday including: Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, and more. This year, the tree has a tie to the pandemic, a mask.
While the decorations change each holiday, Palacol said one thing stays the same. “I always have a smile on it, because it’s called the smiling tree,” he added.
Palacol is known as “the tree guy” in his neighborhood in Huntington Beach, but decorating the tree was actually someone else’s idea. Sherry Snyder, or, as some call her, “the tree gal." Sherry said she saw a striking resemblance between the tree and her fiancé, Edgar.
“I said, ‘the tree looks like your head, I think it needs a face on it.’ And he goes, ‘A face?’ I said, ‘yeah, like a smiling face, with eyes, nose, and a mouth.’”
Palacol took his fiancé’s idea and gave it a try. That was about 14 years ago and what’s now known as the smiling tree has been around ever since. Snyder said beyond just similar looks, Palacol has something else in common with this tree, “always positive, happy, and smiling," she added.
She said that’s just who Edgar is. Even the message he wrote on the tree’s mask, "2021 will be better", is meant to add a bit of positivity to a year he said we could all use it. “They can look at the tree and maybe for a second they can feel a little happier."
While you might not catch a smile on the tree during the day because of the mask, you may be able to see it if you stick around. “At night you’ll be able to see the smile under it,” he added.
The smile sticks around — from holiday to holiday — including the next one. “So after New Year’s this will be lit up for Valentine’s Day,” Palacol said.
Palacol is determined to keep his tradition going, even if he can’t climb a ladder to decorate. “If I can’t climb it, I’ll hire someone to climb it, and I’ll tell them the design”, he said.
The tree inspired a former neighbor and teacher to write a book based on it. It’s called The Smiling Tree by Julie Williams. Williams said she had been walking by the tree for years and it always made her smile and she thought it would be a great subject for a children’s book. So, she drew a couple things and put together a book! It’s available on Amazon.