Larry LaLonde: An Rv, a dream and a few hundred christmas trees

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The tradition of buying the Christmas tree is nearly as strong as the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree. Year after year, many families turn to the same corner stand or tree farm to grab their yuletide tree and kick off their holiday season.

If your tree-buying tradition begins and ends at the corner of S.C. 46 and U.S. 278, chances are it includes a friendly smile and holiday wishes from Larry LaLonde and his wife, Nancy, who’ve been selling North Carolina fraser firs there for 11 years. We caught up with Larry to talk about one of the merriest seasonal jobs in town.

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Photo by Russell Midori

Q. What started this holiday tradition for you?

A. The stand is run by Poppell’s Produce out of Jesup, Ga.; they do pumpkins in the fall, too. My cousin was working for them and one year he just wanted to do the pumpkins and he asked if I wanted to do the Christmas trees. My wife and I have been doing it ever since.

Q.  Do you live in the area?

A. We’re from upper Michigan. We live in our motor home and come down and do the pumpkins and Christmas trees for three months, and then we go down to Florida for the rest of the winter. Then about May we head back up for the summer.

Q.  How many do you sell in a season?

A. We probably sell 500 to 600 trees a year.

Q. When does the tree-buying season really start?

A. We have people coming by before Thanksgiving; they like to have their tree up when their relatives come down for Thanksgiving.

Q. And are there many stragglers who wait until Christmas Eve to decorate a tree?

A. Oh yeah. We had one lady who came on Christmas Day and bought a tree. She wasn’t going to have one, and then at the last minute she wanted to have a tree.

Q. What’s the trick to keeping your tree fresh all season?

A. Before you put it in the stand you have to trim an inch off the bottom so it will suck up the water. And you’ve got to keep water in your stand. We water ’em every night; I hose ’em down before we close up so they don’t dry up.

Q.  What about adding sugar to the water in the stand?

A. I’ve heard of that but I don’t know if it does anything. My father-in-law put beer in his tree stand once. It lasted a long time, six or seven months. He kept puttin’ it in there and it just stayed fresh.

Q.  Really? What kind of beer?

A. Well we’re from Michigan, so I think it was Busch beer.

Q. So you live in your motor home right there at the tree stand during the season. Does that mean there’s no room for a tree of your own?

A. Not really. My wife missed it the first couple years, so we had an artificial one. Oh I shouldn’t say that, an artificial tree!

Q. I think it’s understandable.

A. Well I guess so. We have a Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus too.