80,000 Christmas lights on one single tree in Hanlontown, Iowa.

Every town in Iowa boasts about how many thousands of lights they have during the holidays – but Hanlontown, Iowa has perhaps the biggest collection of lights on one single tree.

YouTube video
A short 48-second video clip showing the POET tree lighting up against the sunset.

It’s referred to as the POET tree by many, as it was started, built, and is maintained by the employees of the POET Bioprocessing plant just north of the tree. After digging online, it appears that they started decorating the tree in either 2012 or 2013 and with around 14,000 lights. Over time, they added more lights and it appears that in the fall of 2020, they redid all of the lights, expanding to 80,000 total lights that extend to the outer reaches of the branches.

Looking up at the POET Tree in Hanlontown from its base.

You’ll find it just west of Hanlontown at the intersection of Highway 9 and Fir Ave. Here’s a link to the exact location on Google Maps.

The POET tree against the final minutes of sunset.

Is it as beautiful as the photos? Actually, I think it’s better in person. Yes, seriously. I can’t compliment the employees of POET biorefining enough, as the site is both simplistic and absolutely astonishing. It’s just one really large tree in an open field. The lights are only one color – white. There are no ornaments, no variety of colors. No advertisements, not even a sign. But it’s this simplicity that makes it SO POWERFUL. Personally, I believe you need to make the trip to Hanlontown to see it. My understanding is that it is only light between Thanksgiving and early January.

This aerial view only shows part of the open field available.

As soon as the tree turns on, cars will pull into the field. Some will park and watch from the comfort of their vehicle, while others will get out to experience it up close.

All photos and videos by Brian Abeling / Iowa Road Trip

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