10 Country: Sandra's Creative Christmas Tree - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Sandra's Creative Christmas Tree

 December 23, 2004

 Ashburn--  Most Christmas trees look the same-big at the bottom, tapered to a pointed top, unless you see a rather creative that looks odd and out of place. It dominates the inside of a La Hacienda, restaurant where its creator works, and people come to have their pictures made beside it.

A successful person, regardless of how they make a living, needs to know how to do almost anything. "Been cook for about ten years," says Sandra Palacios, who owns the restaurant, and is its chief cook and Christmas tree maker.

"Everybody got a regular Christmas tree. I wanted to make something different," says Sandra. She did. A different, nicely different, Christmas tree that dominates her restaurant where she spent literally a few minutes a day, after lunch and before opening for dinner, to make it.

"Worked for a month-and-a-half on it," says Sandra as she chops bell pepper. She wanted her tree to have a distinctive look. "It will look like a snow tree," says Sandra In a small town that hadn't seen snow in years, maybe decades.

It really looked odd for a Christmas tree. It has hundreds of colorful lights, and it looked as if a snow storm hit just that tree and nothing else. The tree is so unusual looking that some people thought it was a cactus. "Yes, "says Sandra with a laugh.

She wanted a Christmas tree that reminded her of her native Mexico and created one. "So, they can see something different in the United States," says Sandra. Who would have thought of using a Christmas tree for international cultural education?

Her customers notice her creation. "I think it's very unique and when you figure out how it is made it is really amazing how they made that tree," says Lee Wideman who frequently eats at the restaurant. How did Sandra make the tree? She was very creative using white water pipe, and aerosol foam and a whole lot of time. It took six hours to get the big tree inside the restaurant.

Then, she added lights. "It took six hours to put the lights," says Sandra. The tree became a regional attraction with people coming from miles around to see the unusual tree and marvel at how she made it look like a winter wonderland. A pleasant change for a pleasant time of year.

Some people want Sandra to leave the tree and decorate it for holidays like Valentines, but she plans to take it down a few days after Christmas a store it until next year.

El Hacienda is located at 247 East Monroe Avenue in Ashburn.