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NJ spruce lights up as Rockefeller Center tree

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Tthe 80th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a Norway Spruce, donated by Joseph Balku, of Flanders, N.J., is raised in New York City earlier this month. The tree will be lit today.

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NEW YORK — An 80-foot Norway spruce that made it through Superstorm Sandy is getting a chance to shine when it's scheduled to be lit as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The tree, which will be lit Wednesday night, comes from the Mount Olive, N.J., home of Joe Balku. Balku lost power and other trees during the storm at his residence about an hour outside of Manhattan.

The tree was taken from his home in November. It had been there for years, measuring about 22 feet tall in 1973 when Balku bought the house. It's now 50 feet in diameter and weighs 10 tons.

Once in Rockefeller Center, it was covered with more than 30,000 lights and topped by a Swarokvski star.

Those lights are scheduled to be turned on just before 9 p.m. Wednesday in the 80th annual celebration. Prior to that, the tree-lighting event is expected to include performances from Rod Stewart, Cee Lo Green, Scotty McCreery, Il Volo, Chris Mann, Victoria Justice, Brooke White, Mariah Carey, Trace Adkins and Tony Bennett, along with appearances by Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.

The tradition of a Christmas tree in that location started in 1931, when workers building Rockefeller Center put up the first one. No tree was put up the following year, and in 1933, the first tree-lighting ceremony took place.

People will be able to view the tree until Jan. 7. After its stint in the spotlight, it will be turned in lumber for Habitat for Humanity.

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