Trees Lose Their Winter Sweaters

Lucy Wagner and Maya Durham

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In past years, Iowa City citizens could stroll downtown and see trees snuggled into cozy sweaters. This year, however, knitters around Iowa will not be participating in the annual Tree Huggers Project, an eight-month program in which colorful “sweaters” are knit onto trees.

Betsy Potter, the Iowa City downtown district Operations Director, cited a lack of staffing capabilities and the project’s time requirement as reasons for the closure of this Iowa City tradition.

“We had a great few years with the project, but this year we wanted to offer up our services to other projects,” Potter said. “It’s a time consuming project.”

The Tree Huggers Project was created in 2011 to attract families downtown. The program was a result of a collaboration between the Iowa City downtown district and Home Ec, a local craft supply shop. The sweaters elicited a positive response throughout the community.

“[The typical response of the community was a] really great response!” Potter said. “So many knitters were involved; people from all around the state and even outside of the state participated. There was a good response of participants and on social media,” she said. “People seemed to really enjoy them.”

The lack of tree sweaters this year has elicited shock in many Iowa City citizens.

“I had no idea they weren’t happening this year!” Shannon Stamp ‘17 said. “That’s upsetting because they were a great addition to the downtown.”

Despite the largely positive response from the community, the Tree Huggers Project has caused some controversy in the past, as some have suggested that supplies would be better used in helping those in need.

“I guess [the controversy] is pretty valid,” Cole Nicholson ‘17, an avid knitter for the homeless shelter, said. “I see that making sweaters for people in need is a better cause than putting sweaters on trees, but the sweaters on trees look cool,” he said. “Hopefully whoever made the sweaters for the trees is making them [this year] for people in need.”