Representatives of the Bush Administration will come this morning to oversee cutting of the 20-foot tall, 24-year-old tree at Mistletoe Meadows farm in Laurel Springs, owned by Joe and Linda Freeman. The tree was chosen in October from the last two original Frasers planted on the farm. The White House staff members chose the one Joe predicted, and it even included an abandoned bird’s nest, which is said to be a sign of luck. The tree is valued around $1,500, Joe said, but the opportunity to present the Official White House Christmas Tree is priceless.
When asked if he was sad to be seeing it go, Joe said, “You know, I’ve never been sad about cutting a Christmas tree, but I am a little sad about this one. It’s a special tree.” He said he and Linda had thought about having the other of the 20-foot trees in their own home, but they think now that they may just leave it where it is to continue gracing the rolling hills of this beautiful tree farm.
Weighing about 2,000 pounds, the giant Fraser fir will be baled, cut and placed in the back of a decorated, refrigerated truck for its trip north. The truck will pass through Jefferson and stop at the Ashe County Courthouse for a community send-off beginning at 2 p.m. A special reception will take place in the courthouse rotunda with comments from political representatives and U.S. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
The tree will be delivered to Washington, D.C. where on Monday, Nov. 26 the Freeman’s will officially present the tree to First Lady Laura Bush for decorative display in the White House Blue Room.
The Freeman’s and Mistletoe Meadows earned this honor by winning Grand Champion at the National Christmas Tree contest in Portland, Oregon in 2006. This is the 10th time a North Carolina Fraser fir has been selected for the White House’s Blue Room, more than any other state.
It takes about two and a half days to decorate the White House for Christmas, and about a day of that to decorate the Blue Room tree. There are about 92 volunteers and about 95 permanent staff members working on the annual project from the National Park Service (which oversees the grounds) and the White House staff.
“We’re all excited,” said Linda Freeman about the Ashe County tree going to Washington. “Our street is excited, our county is excited. The whole state is excited.”
Joe Freeman is one of the youngest growers to provide the Official White House Tree, although his career in the tree industry has spanned more than 30 years. Being the 2007 National Grand Champion and personally presenting the First Lady with a North Carolina Fraser fir as the Official White House Christmas Tree is the highest honor a grower can achieve.
“To represent North Carolina and the entire Christmas tree industry is such an honor,” said Joe Freeman. “I still can’t quite believe it. Only one tree out of the 30 million plus sold across America ends up being the Official White House Christmas Tree. The opportunity to meet Mrs. Bush in person and present her with a North Carolina Fraser fir from the Blue Ridge Mountains is indeed a privilege. I also want to get the message out to consumers that real Christmas trees are an environmentally smart choice since they are a renewable and recyclable product. Although I keep repeating this, it is truly a big honor for my small farm and I’m grateful for the opportunity to make the trip to the White House.”