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Annual tree lighting in Orillia, Ont., sparks disappointment and criticism

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The response to Orillia's annual Christmas tree lighting has been anything but festive and jolly.

The countdown began as residents crowded around the tree on Friday evening outside the Orillia Opera House.

Five, four, three, two, one!

Then, silence and a few chuckles as the seemingly confused crowd took in the lit-up tree trunk.

"I think we have a defective tree," someone says in a video shared by Caitie McDonald.

The holiday tradition that sees hundreds of residents watch the lighting of a tree at the City's opera house has been going on for the better part of four decades, each year with the same tree.

But as with anything, age has finally caught up to the tree, making the branches droopy and nowhere near sturdy enough for Christmas lights, turning the Sunshine City's annual event into the talk of the town - and perhaps, not for the reasons the City would have liked.

Instead of finding a new tree, organizers for the lighting decided to decorate the tree trunk exclusively, making for a rather underwhelming experience for the many in attendance.

"Some of the comments have been humourous," said City Councillor Ralph Cipolla, who said he has been fielding questions non-stop since the tree lighting last weekend. "But it's for the kids; the kids love the Christmas tree, and this doesn't represent that."

Videos and photos have been making the rounds on social media, highlighting how the tree (trunk) was decorated.

Several headlines have questioned whether Orillia's tree lighting is the worst of all time.

Cipolla said he felt the City owes its residents an opportunity to make up for the lighting and is requesting City Council to bring in another tree.

"If you look at other cities, Barrie, Toronto, they have huge, big Christmas trees," he added. "I think there's no reason why we can't have one the same."

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