Fake Christmas tree in Rhode Island sparks controversy

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island -- It's officially the Christmas season at the Rhode Island State House.

But this year, WJAR-TV reports, a fake 18-foot tree is center stage in the rotunda.

The governor says real trees haven't lasted through the holidays, either drying up, dying, and in some cases, needed to be replaced.

"For whatever reason, we've gotten into trouble with the fire marshal in the past with the real tree and so many lights, so this year we just decided to play it safe," Governor Gina Raimondo said.

But not everyone is happy about it.

Tim Leyden, owner of Big John Leyden's Tree Farm in West Greenwich says he's donated trees to the state house in years' past and calls the fake tree a slap in the face to Rhode Island family farms.

"I was insulted," Leyden said. "The state house had always had a live, huge, beautiful tree where people gather around, and it's the smell, it's the aroma, the scent that tree gives off. An artificial tree just can't do it."

The tree lighting up the controversy costs $6,500.

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