In Elmira, it’s a sure sign of Christmas. Last Saturday members of the 1st Elmira Scout Group were joined by several volunteers as they unloaded two trucks full of Christmas trees and set them up around the band shell at Gore Park in preparation for the annual sale, a major fundraiser for the group.
The money raised will go towards the Cubs, Beavers, Scouts and Venturers that comprise 1st Elmira Scouting, as well as towards their new building fund. Prices for the trees range from $35 all the way up to $90.
“Pine and spruce are in less demand than they used to be, and they’re less expensive because they grow faster,” said Daryl Bridge, the chairman of the fundraiser. “But the soft, short-needled trees are typically more expensive. A balsam fir typically takes eight years to grow, and a Fraser takes 10 years.”
Bridge places the order for the trees every October from Kris Kringle Christmas Trees at Somerville Nurseries near Shelburne. A local company usually donates a truck and a driver to go and pick the trees up, but this year the nursery delivered them free of charge.
“That’s only happened twice in 20 years,” Bridge said with a laugh. “Normally we use Martin Pet Foods – they’re very generous.”
Bridge bases his order on the number of trees that were sold the previous year. Last year, they sold about 330 trees and had about 10 left over, so he placed the same order again this year.
Brian Soehner is the Scout group commissioner in Elmira, and he has been involved in the Christmas tree sales for about 30 years now, starting back when the Elmira Jaycees used to sell them. He said the operation has scaled back considerably over the years.
“They used to sell two truckloads – two 18 wheelers, 1,800 at a time.
“We’ve dropped down since then. That’s when you could buy a Christmas tree for $15. Not anymore,” he laughed.
So far sales have been going well, Soehner added. They sold 15 trees last Sunday, and two were spoken for before they even had the trucks unloaded.
Bridge said he had to raise the base price of the pine and spruce trees this year from $30 last year to help cover his extra costs associated with the new HST, which cut about $300 or $400 from their profits.
The lot is open Monday to Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., and on weekends from noon to 6 p.m., but if anyone is interested in picking up their tree outside of those hours, the Scouts are working under the honour system and anyone can come and pick up their tree and pay for it at Read’s Decorating on Arthur Street.
“I think we’re the only place left in North America where we will allow people to pick up the trees themselves when nobody is there,” Bridge laughed. “We still have a lot of trust in people.”