Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Picking the perfect tree for the holidays in Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Dec 13, 2012, 13:21

photo by Caitlin Davis Joe Moore, Chairman of the Christmas Tree lot and Herman Henderson, president of the Hopewell Optimist Club, see the lot for the trees as part of Christmas tradition.

In the Hopewell Optimist Club’s Tree Lot stand Fraser Firs, Balsam Firs, White Pines and Blue Spruces, all waiting to be taken home and decorated for the holiday season. Among the trees stroll Herman Henderson, president of the Hopewell Optimist Club, and Joe Moore, Chairman of the Christmas Tree Lot, inspecting each evergreen to ensure they are suitable to have presents waiting under them on Christmas morning.

As Henderson and Moore walked the lot on Tuesday afternoon, they explained that each tree on the lot is of premium quality. Moore said a lot research goes into selecting the trees in the lot.

“We’ve actually been on the farms and did a lot of research,” Moore said. “Especially on our Fraser Firs.”

The trees in the Optimist Club lot in Hopewell come from all the country. Some come even further. Moore said 478 trees came from a farm in North Carolina, 50 came from a farm in Prospect, VA and the rest from Nova Scotia in Canada.

“We actually walk the farm and look at the trees,” Henderson said. “Not necessarily do we see every tree we get prior to that, but we see the trees that we’re looking for.”

Moore said they also meet with the tree growers two to three times a year to see how the trees are growing and whether or not they are receiving adequate amounts of water.

“Some of these trees have seen snow this year in the mountains for North Carolina,” Moore said.

Even though the holiday season is not yet past, Moore is already looking ahead to next season, and making sure the lot stays full then.

“We have already been in contact with some farms for next year in Pennsylvania,” Moore said. “We are having trouble getting Douglas Firs, but I think we found a grower in upper Pennsylvania that will accommodate us. But before we make a decision we will go visit the farm and see what they’ve got.”

Just as the trees have made a long journey to Hopewell, so have some of visitors to the Christmas tree lot.

Both Moore and Henderson said they have customers from Charlottesville and even North Carolina who come to the lot to pick the perfect Christmas tree.

“It’s family oriented,” Henderson said. “They bought their tree here with their mom or dad as kids. For some, it is probably the third generation now. They come back here though to get their tree. It’s sort of a tradition.”

The lot, located at the circle on 15th Ave., has grown since it began in the late 1950s in an alley way between 14th and 15th Ave.

After changing locations a few times, the current location became permanent in 1990.

The aisles and aisles of trees on the lot, which both Moore and Henderson said they enjoy watching the children run up and down, have trees ranging in price from $25 to $130.

All the proceeds from the lot go back into the community, especially its youth

“Everything the Optimists do, we put back into the youth of the area,” Henderson said.

Henderson noted the Optimist Club sponsors scholarships for graduating seniors and holds all the athletic banquets for the sports programs and various youth oriented clubs. This is why Henderson said customers come back year after year.

“They know the funding goes back into the kid’s projects,” Henderson said.

As Henderson looked around at the trees remaining in the lot, he said the perfect tree is often the pinnacle of the holiday season for many families, and often represents years of holiday memories.

“A lot of people look for the White Pine,” Henderson said. “That’s what they grew up with. And then you look over here at a Fraser Fir and that’s what we had in our house.”

Moore said that when it comes to tree, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. He said, many families will spend hours trying to find that tree that will hold those special ornaments and twinkling lights.

“They will walk up and down these aisles for literally hours and look and then all of a sudden that tree will reach out and grab them and they say ‘that is the tree I want,’” Moore said.

Though each family may have their different definition of a perfect tree, both Henderson and Moore said there are some elements that should be in the minds of the Christmas tree shopper.

Needle life, which can be judged by how many needles flake off the tree while checking the branches, is one factor to consider, along with the dryness of the tree, Moore said. Henderson said that each tree on the lot is a fresh tree, with many being cut the day before they are shipped.

When the family has selected a tree to be taken home, a portion of the trunk is cut, extending the freshness of the tree.

“You just cut the trunk so it can soak up water,” Henderson said. “If it is already hardened up and dried, it’s not going to pull water up into it.”

Moore said all the trees on the lot are considered premium trees, which, he explained, means they do not have a hole larger than a basketball in between the branches.

Whether it be a 12ft Fraser Fir or a small White Pine, the lot has a lot of options to offer the community. Both Moore and Henderson, who have a combined total of almost 50 years experience selling trees, said whatever tree is picked, memories are created on the lot on 15th Ave.

“Every kid that comes runs up and down the aisles,” Moore said, noting each one gets a candy cane. “They just have to do it. They just get so excited. It’s funny because some of the people that have kids of their own still look for that candy cane because they got it when they were a kid.”

For those interested in purchasing a tree from the Hopewell Optimist Club, the hours are Sunday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wreaths and crosses made fresh can also be purchased on site, along with “Stand Straight” tree stands.

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