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Christmas in July: National Tree Competition Comes to Michigan

PHOTO: Michigan tree growers are hoping for host state luck this year, as the nation's top Christmas tree growers meet in Allegan to compete for the honor of providing this year's official White House Christmas tree. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.
PHOTO: Michigan tree growers are hoping for host state luck this year, as the nation's top Christmas tree growers meet in Allegan to compete for the honor of providing this year's official White House Christmas tree. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.
July 24, 2014

ALLEGAN, Mich. - It may be July, but it's still the most wonderful time of the year for the nation's top Christmas tree growers, who are bringing their finest specimens to Michigan to vie for the honor of providing this year's official White House Christmas tree.

Rick Dungey, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, says the selection is a rigorous contest, with five pages of specifications and three separate rounds of judging.

"They want the tree to go exactly to the top of the ceiling and that measurement is 18-and-a-half foot," says Dungey, "so they can't pick a 17-foot tree or even an 18-foot tree."

Because it is so early in the year, a White House representative will go to the winning tree farm later in the season to select the official tree that will be placed in the Blue Room. Michigan is the nation's third largest producer of Christmas trees, with more than 38,000 acres of Christmas tree farms.

Dungey says a high profile tree like the one for the White House isn't just ceremonial. It also helps spread the word about the environmental benefits of real Christmas trees. He feels younger consumers are leading the charge on that front.

"I think they know that agricultural products, particularly Christmas trees, can be sourced locally in most places around the country, and they always know it's better to use a natural product, a renewable resource that's easily recycled, over a PVC, non-biodegradable, plastic and metal thing that's going to end up in a landfill," he says.

Michigan growers have been selected to provide the official White House tree on several occasions, most recently in 1985. The judging will be done by a panel of growers, industry experts, and consumers at Peterson's Riverview Nursery in Allegan on Friday and Saturday.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI