Madison's brightest holiday smile is missing a tooth.
Overnight Wednesday someone cut down one — almost directly in the middle — of the 238 trees that are lighted along the Shorewood Hills side of University Avenue. The glittering row of 8-foot trees have been a Madison holiday attraction since 1993, the idea of the late Jack Kammer, a dentist who had an office nearby.
"We are very sad," said Liz Cooper of the Shorewood Hills Foundation, which musters volunteers and spends about $8,000 annually to maintain the attraction's trees and more than 135,000 lights.
Between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, most of the tree was cut and removed, said Cooper. With the larger trunks gone, all that remained Friday resembled a misshapen shrub.
A Shorewood Hills village police officer noted the absence, which is pretty obvious as it leaves a gap in the perfect row of arborvitae between the railroad tracks and University Avenue. The tree is about 8 feet tall and has green LED lights, Cooper said.
"I don't know why anyone would really want it as a Christmas tree. It's not even the right shape," said Cooper, who suspects it was a prank. The tree's lights were unplugged, the tree cut and removed.
The trees were planted by Kammer in 1983, and lights added 10 years later at his expense. After his death, the foundation took over installation and maintenance. Electric cords are buried, and each tree has eight strands of lights carefully spaced.
"We have a blank space where there was a tree, and it's going to cost quite a bit to plant a new one," speculated Cooper. Donations to cover that can be sent to the Shorewood Hills Foundation Holiday Lights, M&I Bank, 401 N. Segoe Road, Madison, WI 53705.
Shorewood Hills police were not available for comment.