The 2006 National Christmas tree that is placed in the Blue Room of the White House is an 18.5 foot Douglas fir from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA. On Wednesday, October 18, 2006, White House officials actually chose a 21 foot Douglas fir from the farm and said they would make any needed alteration after the tree was at the White House. While the White House officials were at the farm they also chose a 12 foot Douglas fir for the president’s private residence and an 8 food Douglas fir for the Oval Office. How we achieved this honor started back in the winter of 2005. Each year, at the Pennsylvania Farm Show held in Harrisburg, PA the Pennsylvania Christmas Tree Growers Association (PCTGA) holds a Christmas tree contest. This contest has eight categories made up of the different species of trees propagated in Pennsylvania. Prior to 2005 we had never entered any trees in to competitions but in 2005, 8 trees, one for each category, were taken to the farm show. The 150 acre tree farm from Lehighton, PA came away with 7 ribbons, 3 of which were firsts. Of the 8 categories, the 8 number one trees are placed out front and visitors of the farm show vote on which tree would be grand champion. The Douglas fir, which came from Crystal Spring Tree Farm, was awarded the honor of grand champion and the first step toward Washington, DC was attained.
The following winter, in 2006, we placed 8 more trees into the state competition and this time came away with 8 ribbons. Our grand champion win the previous year assured our spot in the biennial national tree contest, which is held in various states throughout the nation. It was just our luck that the meeting in 2006 was to be held in Portland, Oregon, which couldn’t get too much further from home.
Only farms that win their state competitions are eligible to enter trees into the national competitions. So, 4 trees from each state from 4 different farms can be entered, the grand champion and the reserve champion from the two previous state competitions. With a grand champion win in 2005 we had the decision to make whether we wanted to take our best tree on the farm completely across the country or not. After very little deliberation, we began planning just how we would get our entry all the way to the west coast in the middle of summer. Air freight and FedEx were far too expensive, refrigerated tractor trailers didn’t work out, so on Saturday, August 12 at 6AM Francis and Chris cut the best 8 foot Douglas fir on the farm, baled it loosely and placed it in Francis and Margaret’s motor home. The three of us started out on our 2800 mile trip with the air conditioner on full blast. We got some pretty funny looks when we would stop along the way because we were dressed like it was January not August.
We arrived in Portland on Tuesday evening, August 15. The four day trip took its toll on the three of us and we needed a good nights sleep to prepare for the following day’s competition. Wednesday was the day of the initial judging of the trees, which are grouped into 5 categories in the national competition. The categories are: Douglas fir, true firs, pines, spruces, and others. A panel of three judges would pick the number one tree in each category. We had about three hours on Wednesday morning to register and prepare our tree for the competition. At 11AM we had to vacate the judging area and the judges entered to do their work. The next six hours were very stressful. At 5PM at the trade show, which was the official start of the 2006 convention, we would find out which trees placed first in each category. We anxiously entered the trade show and found our tree out in front of the other Douglas fir pinned with a first place blue ribbon.
Now it was up to all of the members of the National Christmas Tree Growers Association present at the meeting to vote on which of the top trees would be deemed grand champion. This voting took place over the next 2 days along with other meeting business and at the banquet held on Friday night the grand champion was announced. Francis and Margaret couldn’t even eat their dinner that evening because their nerves were getting the best of them. Chris, who flew home Wednesday night, was anxiously waiting by the phone to hear the results. The phone call was a joyous one because at the end of the banquet Crystal Spring Tree Farm was named the grand champion for 2006.
The national grand champion is not only awarded with plaques and ribbons but also the honor of supplying The White House, in our nations capitol, with the national Christmas tree. Along with this honor, the Botek family will personally present the tree, actually three trees, to the First Lady. We will also have the opportunity to tour The White House and possibly meet with the president himself. There is no greater honor or achievement in our business than the opportunity we have been blessed with. For the past 42 years we have always taken great pride in the quality of our trees and we feel truly honored to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity.