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A Quick Timeline of Atlanta's Most Cherished Holiday Traditions: A Tree and A Pig

The original Priscilla - Image via justgrits.wordpress.com

The holiday season in Atlanta means two things (well, three after you throw in traffic):  the lighting of Macy’s Great Tree, and Priscilla the Pink Pig.  These two yuletide institutions started out half a century ago before Lenox Square, where they’re currently located, was even out of the ground.  And they were both the brainchild of marketers working at the now defunct Rich’s chain of department stores.  Here’s a look at how the Great Tree and Priscilla came to be and how they’ve made it into the 21st century.

1948:  The head of advertising at Rich’s downtown Atlanta flagship store, Frank Pallotta, conceived of the Great Tree as an attraction to draw in suburban shoppers.  Initially located on the top of the store, the Great Tree was later relocated to a perch atop the “Crystal Bridge” that spanned Forsyth Street and connected the new and old store buildings.

1953:  To further entice holiday shoppers, a small monorail ride in the form of Priscilla the Pig was installed from the ceiling of the toy department.  The cabs were too small to allow adults to ride with the kids.

1955:  The Pink Pig was moved to the roof of Rich’s, where it made a loop around the Great Tree, offered skyline views, and then went through the toy department. It was one of those retro, somewhat-dangerous childhood experiences that would surely be outlawed in today’s lawsuit-happy world.

1964: A second pig, Percival, was added to the ride to increase capacity.

1991:  The downtown location of Rich’s closed, and the Pink Pig was moved to the Festival of Trees.  Also during this period, the Great Tree was moved to Underground Atlanta.

1995:  The now 40-year-old ride was too expensive to operate, so Priscilla was donated to the Atlanta History Center.

2000:  The Great Tree moved to its present location at the Lenox Square Macy’s.

2003:  Priscilla was resurrected at Lenox Square on top of the Rich’s-Macy’s parking deck.  The new incarnation kept the look of the original ride except for the tracks being on the ground instead of suspended.  Also, the cabs were made large enough for adults to fit comfortably inside.

2006:  The Rich’s name bites the dust as it’s dropped from the merged Macy’s moniker, but its holiday traditions live on comfortably in Buckhead.

The Great Tree originally sat atop the Crystal Bridge at the Rich's flagship store in downtown Atlanta.