The case of the missing Hyde Park Community Christmas Tree has finally come to a close . . .
Lamar Park — a greenspace at the intersection of Waugh and Hyde Park — sat empty Sunday, as surprised area residents prepared for the Montrose neighborhood's annual tree-trimming event without a tree.
Donated by Niko Niko's owner Dimitri Fetokakis, a 10-foot tree was delivered to a nearby site on Saturday, only to be carried away less that 24 hours later without a single eyewitness or trace of evidence. Houston police arrived on the scene to process an official report, but made no guarantees that the tree would be recovered.
"I told Hyde Park civic association I was happy to provide a replacement," Fetokakis told CultureMap. "The Village Flowery, who sold the first tree, heard the story and offered a new one for half price." The restaurant owner, who grew up in the neighborhood, has provided the community tree in memory of his father for the past decade.
"This was a crazy situation," said Niko Niko's owner Dimitri Fetokakis, "but a nice little Christmas story in the end."
By Sunday evening, word about the Grinch-esque scenario spread to local television news. Macy Bodenhamer, vice president of the Hyde Park United Civic Association, posted words on hope about the coverage on the community Facebook page: "Maybe someone will see it and find the holiday spirit to return it to our community!"
And, in fact, someone did see the news story.
On Monday night, civic association president George Sroka received an email from a man who claimed to have the tree. The mysterious gentleman agreed to return the tree, but pleaded for strict anonymity.
"The person said he'd seen the local news reports and quickly realized the tree belonged to the neighborhood," Bodenhamer explained. "He saw the tree sitting in Lamar Park and thought it was abandoned. He said he brought the tree home to 'rescue it' and 'keep it safe.' "
Bodenhamer and Sroka picked up the missing evergreen at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, getting some additional help from the Niko Niko's landscape crew. The tree has now been secured into the ground with steel rebar as a precaution against strong winds or any other possible neighborhood misunderstandings.
"The guy did the right thing and brought the tree back," Fetokakis said. "This was a crazy situation, but a nice little Christmas story in the end."
Hyde Park residents have yet to plan an official tree-trimming, but it could happen as early as Thursday afternoon.