Details about the Tree (perhaps more than you wanted to know)
This is the tree I've always wanted to do for Daniel. If there is a tree that truly screams "Daniel"... this would be it. I'm sure over the years we will donate other trees in his honor but perhaps none that so strongly remind us of Daniel. The idea of this tree emerged two years ago but I knew we wouldn't be able to do it the first year as we put that tree together in a matter of days and if we were going to do a "Lightning McQueen" tree, I wanted to do it well. Last year with us moving beginning of November to Oklahoma there was no way we could've pulled it off. I'm glad we waited till this year. When we realized that we were coming into Utah as frequently as we are, it became more and more of a reality that we could probably pull off doing the "Lightning McQueen" tree.
Back in July, I started researching over the internet for Christmas in July Sales. When I came across the 7.5" Ashley RED Christmas Tree at www.ChristmasMarket.com... I knew it was the one so I ordered it. I've been asked several times where you find a RED tree. The answer is: You can find almost anything on the internet. I knew if we were going to have a RED Christmas tree that we were going to have to decorate it right in order for it to sell.
Then I began to look for snowflakes that were made out of gears. I really didn't think I'd find anything that would work. To me, it seemed like a miracle when I happened to search "snowflake gears" at www.Etsy.com and found a shop called SplendidColors. I custom ordered laser cut Steam Punk styled snowflake gears and the Tree Topper piece from this shop. Thank you Kathryn Hedges for these beautiful pieces.
Upon showing my ideas to my family, my brother Jason piped in that he thought it would be pretty cool if some gears on the tree moved. He mentioned planetary gears. He'll be graduating in the spring with his Mechanical Engineering degree. I had no idea what planetary gears were but the search began. Again, I found something on Etsy that looked promising. I came across a shop entitled SteamyTech, owned by Lora Price, that made small 2.5" planetary gear kits that you could put together and display. They were not self-propelled moving gears so they would need to be modified. I ordered 8 of these and requested a custom order of larger 6" planetary gear kits. We didn't know what would work. The 2.5" kits proved to be too small to work with or see movement on so we ended up using them as stationary ornaments. Jason thought perhaps we could use ornament rotation motors that plug into the light strand. These typically hang vertically to spin an ornament but he thought if we attached these to the back of the gear in a horizontal fashion that perhaps we could get it to rotate the sun gear and the planetary gears would revolve around it. I thought sure... lets give it a try so we ordered some heavy duty ornament rotation motors (8x stronger than most) off of Amazon. After Jason and my dad Bry played around with the sample gear and motor, it was determined that the 6" planetary gear kits had potential to work so we ordered more.
The real work began when I got into Utah two months ago and started painting the planetary gear kits different cool metal color ranging from Silver to Gold. I modified the design of the gears by not using the typical propeller piece that keeps the gears together and instead making acrylic shields that would allow the movement of the gears to be seen better. That's about all we got done at that point and then headed back to OK for 3 weeks. Upon coming back into town 3 weeks ago the process continued. Over the last two weeks there have been many hours of modifying these gears to work. Trust me... there have been tears of frustration and almost giving up. I couldn't have done this without the support of my family, especially my mom Dee who aided by watching my babies who were quite sick. They just had to be so precisely placed, sanded, and smooth. They were close, but not quite when my brother Nate suggested using lacquer on the backside of the sun gear and planetary gears to make them smooth so they'd glide. This is what they needed to reduce friction. With a lot of determination and reworking, we finally got the Planetary Gears kits to work. I still think it is a miracle. We had a few extra ornament rotation motors so Dave thought we could use these on the back of four gearflakes to make them rotate. This added more movement to the tree. The moving gears really were worth the effort as they are the finishing touch on the tree.
Gifts Under the Tree
Although the tree itself only had a hidden Lightning McQueen and hidden Mater (along with a hidden ornament that said "Daniel" on it), the feel was definitely Disney Cars. Everything under the tree was definitely Disney Cars. Most were Cars toys, Micro Racers, and books like "Mater Saves Christmas". There were a few Disney Cars themed musical instruments like a drum set and guitar. The most awesome thing under the tree though was the Lightning McQueen Power Wheels Ride-on Car. Tyler tested it out in the front room after Uncle Jason put it together for quality assurance and it passed. Many of these items were purchased a few months ago and some can no longer be found.
My sister Emily helped me shop for quite a few of the ornaments. The snowflakes made out of metal and the starbursts were perfect additions. My mom Dee also helped out in this process and trimming the tree with deco mesh and ribbons. The night before Decoration Day mom and I worked on wiring and gluing hangers on ornaments so they'd be ready to place on the tree. I didn't sleep till after my dad Bry and I delivered the tree on Decoration Day on Monday at 7 a.m. I then headed back home to sleep for a few hours. At 12:30 p.m. I headed back over to meet my team of elves. My mom, sister-in-law Beth Fewkes and good friend Jen Atwood helped in the decorating and tedious wiring process as all ornaments must be wired down for transport to the purchaser after the Festival is over. We finished decorating around 5:30 p.m. but finished check off at 7 p.m.
Donated Rocky Mountain Raceway Tix
I'd like to thank good friend Anissa Call who was able to get 4 tickets to any 2014 Rocky Mountain Raceways event donated to go with the tree. It was a last minute phone call and she made it happen. Daniel so loved going out to the Raceway and watching the cars race. It was like being there in real life and watching a live Lightning McQueen race. They made sure he got VIP treatment out there. Thanks to Mike Eames, General Manager of Rocky Mountain Raceways, for donating the tickets to go with the tree. It was the icing on the cake :)
Tuesday night was Bidding Night. It is always an exciting night. There were so many people that were intrigued by the tree. We are thrilled that the couple that purchased the tree is in love with it. They are so excited that they get to take it home after the Festival. The Festival of Trees really is an amazing event!
Thanks to my Elves
I just want to take a moment to thank all those that helped make this possible. I have an amazingly supportive family. You each played an important role of making this become a reality. Thank you to my husband Dave who is always supportive of my many ideas. We are so blessed to have so many people that love and support us. We feel blessed that we were able to create a beautiful tribute to Daniel and give to a good cause such as Primary Children's Medical Center at the same time.