Rural Missouri Magazine

The Magic Tree
Columbia, Mo.

by Jason Jenkins

It’s just a run-of-the-mill crab apple tree in Randy and Bette Fletcher’s front yard, nothing special or spectacular about it. So ordinary is the tree that most of the year, there’s no real reason for anyone to visit it.

But from Thanksgiving to Epiphany, thousands of travelers do in fact journey to see this tree in south Columbia. Here, they marvel at what is no longer a common crab apple but instead has become the “Magic Tree.”

For the past 15 years, Randy has transformed a tree with strands of mini lights wrapped around every branch. What began on a whim with 30 strands of lights in 1995 is now up to nearly 1,000 strands — more than 75,000 lights — all on one 28-foot-tall tree.

“It’s like a hybrid feeling of excitement and peace that produces joy,” says Randy, a painting contractor known as “Will Treelighter” by Magic Tree fans. “The colored lights excite you, but there seems to be a stillness and a calmness about it, too. The mass of light just overwhelms your senses.”

To make his creation possible, the Boone Electric Cooperative member installed eight 20-amp electrical circuits dedicated specifically to the Magic Tree. It costs about $10 to light up the tree each night. Though he doesn’t solicit them, Randy accepts donations, which he uses to offset costs. Portions also are given to local and international charities.
“My hope is that in seeing the Magic Tree, people’s hearts will be lifted and their minds inspired,” he says.

Beginning Nov. 26 and continuing until Jan. 6, 2010, Randy will illuminate the Magic Tree nightly from 5 to 11 p.m. To reach the tree from Interstate 70, take Providence Road (Exit 126) south about 5.5 miles to Old Plank Road; turn right. Follow Old Plank for less than a mile to West Hickam Drive; turn right. For more details, visit


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