A year-long project that brought worldwide attention to a 163-year-old burr oak tree in a cornfield south of Platteville came to an end Saturday.
An estimated 290 people came to the intersection of Grant County D and Airport Road to get their photo taken with That Tree, 365 days after photographer Mark Hirsch took a dare from photographer friends to take one photo of That Tree per day for a year.
“Everyone likes a pretty tree, and everybody likes Mark Hirsch,” said Margaret Ruf, Hirsch’s sister-in-law, who helped pass out model releases on Airport Road. “I think people got used to waiting for the next one to show up. To miss the ending is tough for a lot of people.”
The atmosphere was festive on a cloudy, cold late winter day. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled 4 p.m. photo shoot, people were still walking through the melting snow, mud and stalks of last year’s corn toward the tree. Teenagers threw snowballs at each other. Dogs ran around and through the assembled waiting to be photographed.
Several professional photographers took photos of a photographer taking photos. During the shoot, two airplanes flew over the tree.
On the last day of the project, That Tree was decorated with ornaments people sent to Hirsch to be included in the last day’s shoot.
A reception at the Smelser Town Hall after the shoot featured a song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Tree,” sung by Hirsch’s brother, Jon, accompanied by Hirsch’s son, Tristan, on guitar.
On That Tree’s Facebook page, Hirsch called the last photo “The reward of the day and conclusion of what has been an incredibly rewarding project. That Tree and I cannot thank you enough for making this such an amazing experience! I am truly thankful to all of you. You inspired and energized me!”
For the story of Hirsch’s year shooting That Tree, read The Platteville Journal next week.