People You Should Know: Randy Fletcher-- the man behind the magic
“I mean, my life story is a lot,” he said.
Randy Fletcher spreads light wherever he goes. He brightens the holidays, one tree at a time.
He’s been doing so since 1995 with a tradition he began at his home: magic trees.
“I started out doing it purely for the love of seeing what a tree looks like with all of its branches lit up,” he said.
In the fall, as trees begin to lose their leaves, Fletcher spends hours wrapping multi-color lights around each individual bare branch. The trees can be found scattered around Columbia and the outskirts of town. This year, there are 10 displays lit in different parts of mid-Missouri.
“The Magic Tree is housed here in Cherry Hill,” Fletcher said.
The iconic holiday array shines in the center of the neighborhood, illuminating the shops with its soft glow. It is the official Magic Tree.
“It is a Christmas tree, but it is more than a Christmas tree,” he said.
Fletcher explained that his trees are meant for everyone. The Magic Tree ultimately serves as a nonverbal expression of love, he said.
“If you’re not celebrating Christmas, if you’re a Muslim, Buddhist or atheist or whatever it’s still there for you to enjoy."
For more than two decades, his intentions have always been to amplify love through the beauty of magic trees. That’s the magic of the trees, that they can make everyone feel something.
“Beauty is the signature of love,” he said. “Anywhere you see beauty, you also see love.”
And Fletcher has always seen the beauty in trees. He explained that during an anxious time in his young life, he has a memory with a great white pine tree in the blowing fog and mist that struck him with awe.
“It changed my life,” he said.
The tree calmed him. And decades later, he still draws inspiration from it.
“I mean, my life story is a lot,” he said.
But he has always had a fondness of trees. Fletcher was born in Boston and moved frequently around the United States. His parents were ministers, each with their own church, and his father always encouraged him to be able to recognize the variety of trees.
“I had a liberal religious upbringing,” he said, which contributed to his interest in studying religion and philosophy at the University of Kansas.
It was in Kansas where he met his wife, and where he started his business, Brighter Days. They eventually started their family in Columbia.
“We put down roots,” he said.
Re-establishing his window and painting service, they also started a family. And not too long after, the Magic Tree.
“My son used to help me,” Fletcher said. “But they grow up. He’s currently at Princeton for graduate school.”
For the holidays, they all come together.
“We do what everyone else does,” he said.
Christmas happens at his house with his three grandchildren and three children. The families enjoy time together, with a magic tree in the front yard. In his family there are full-time artists. His son, daughter-in-law and cousin make a living off their work. Fletcher believes that his tree-lighting doesn’t compare.
“When I compare myself to them this is like painting by numbers,” he joked. “I’m following the lines of the tree, I’m just coloring them.”
Yet he treats each tree every year like it is a blank canvas, planning how to best fill it.
“I put a lot of thought into what colors I put where to try to achieve a unique and pleasant color contrast,” he said. “And I try to make it unique every year.”
Fletcher said that he was always fascinated with colors. When he was a child he remembers his favorite Little Golden Book about three kittens who painted the world. Now a painter himself, he sees that the book meant much more than just a hint toward his career path.
“I was destined to be someone who worked with color.”
So the 60-year-old begins at the end of every October, collecting lights, climbing ladders and wrapping branches in the cold.
“I’ll do it as long as I’m able” he said. And this year tested that.
The Crossing Church asked him to do its Magic Tree, but, with ten other trees to accomplish, he couldn’t make the commitment.
“I consulted with them and gave them all the advice I could,” he said. “I gave them permission to call it a magic tree.”
Fletcher said it’s because it serves his original intention, to amplify love. He said he believes that people will continue the legacy of the magic tree.
“Maybe not in the exact form or the extent that I do them,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone else that does it the way I do it but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be other people.”
After wrapping 48,000 lights and spending 76 hours on The Magic Tree in Cherry Hill, Fletcher said his ultimate goal is to make sure people have something new to look at this year.
“My greatest fear is that this year’s tree won’t be as good as last year’s,” he said.
It’s his fear every year. But every year, he commits. Every year his wife brings him dinner as he meticulously wraps bare branches in the cold late nights. Every year he watches people light up with joy at the sight of the magic trees.
“It’s all the work of Will Treelighter,” he joked.
The pseudonym stems from his middle name, to give the venture more mystique. He doesn’t do the work for the recognition.
“I want people to know me as I’m just a regular person doing something that he loves to do,” he said. “Someone who has discovered something that a lot of other people seem to appreciate and I feel real lucky to have discovered that.”
Will Treelighter Legend
When the town is asleep and darkness falls over the streets, Will Treelighter finds beautiful bare trees. He begins his tedious work.
In the late hours of the night he’s wrapping and winding, wrapping and winding, wrapping and winding making sure even the littlest branch is illuminated with bright colorful lights.
He spends hours enhancing something beautiful, and he’s done so for over two decades. He continues his work, in hopes of igniting joy and imagination to bask in the soft glow of the Magic Tree.