White House Chooses an N.C. Christmas Tree

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White House Christmas Tree

Last year marked the 12th time since 1966 that a North Carolina-grown Christmas tree was chosen to be the official tree at the White House. The most recent honor went to Rusty and Beau Estes, owners of Peak Farms in Ashe County.

The accolade represented the second selection for Rusty Estes. The tree he grew with Jessie Davis also in Ashe County took the honor of being the White House Christmas tree in 2008.

A tree from North Carolina has been grown, harvested, delivered and decorated to be the centerpiece of the White House holiday season four times since 2005.

For Rusty Estes, it’s been a journey since he first started in the Christmas tree industry in 1979, beginning with only 200 trees in the ground and a retail lot in Lenoir. Beau Estes graduated from N.C. State University in 2002 and moved back to Ashe County in 2003 to begin his full-time career in Christmas trees.

“We haven’t done this on our own. We had a lot of help getting started with what to do, when to do, and how to do. We greatly appreciate everyone who has helped us along the way,” Rusty Estes says.

A string of two White House Christmas trees in a row coming from North Carolina started when Joe Freeman and his wife, Linda Jones, earned the right to have a tree from their farm go to Washington. The Fraser fir was grown at their operation, Mistletoe Meadows, also in Ashe County. The farm has been in business for 26 years, growing approximately 100,000 trees on 130 acres.

“Families making lifetime memories and celebrating their Christmas with a real tree are the heart of my business,” Freeman says.

In 2005, the White House Christmas tree came from Alleghany County’s Smokey Holler Tree Farm owned by Earl, Betsy, Buddy and Meg Deal. Earl Deal first began planting Christmas trees as a hobby in Blowing Rock in 1972 with his cousin and college roommate.

White House Christmas Tree

First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia watch the arrival of the official White House Christmas Tree at the North Portico of the White House.

Now, four decades later, the farm has grown into a thriving operation, specializing in Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, and both field grown and potted nursery stock.

When the tree from Smokey Holler Tree Farm was selected to go to the White House, Earl Deal said, “This whole experience has been extremely humbling for our family. We feel that we are not only representing our farm but also the entire Christmas tree industry and we are so grateful for this opportunity.”

Every other year, the National Christmas Tree Association holds a Christmas tree competition. Winners of this competition provide the Christmas tree for the White House. The North Carolina Fraser fir has won this competition more than any other species.

Christmas Tree History

Did you know that there hasn’t always been a Christmas tree in the White House? The first time a tree was brought in and decorated at the presidential mansion was in 1856 when Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, was in office. It did not become an established tradition until the 1880s.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony began in 1923. President Calvin Coolidge started what has become an annual holiday observance on the White House lawn by lighting the first National Christmas tree.

One of the country’s best known original tree growers was also a president. President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped popularize the concept of growing Christmas trees on a plantation by growing Christmas trees on his estate in Hyde Park, N.Y., throughout the 1930s.

North Carolina Trees Selected by the White House

Year Winner(s) County
1971 Kermit Johnson Avery
1973 Homer & Bruner Sides Alleghany
1982 Hal & Sarah Johnson Ashe
1984 Hal & Sarah Johnson Ashe
1990 R. Bruce & Michael Lacey Avery
1993 Wayne Ayers Mitchell
1995 Ron Hudler & Danny Dollar Ashe
1997 Sanford Fishel Ashe
2005 Earl, Betsy, & Buddy Deal Alleghany
2007 Joe Freeman Ashe
2008 Jessie Davis & Rusty Estes Ashe
2012 Jessie Davis & Rusty Estes Ashe

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