'Cadillac Of Christmas Trees' Travels A Long Road To Get Here

December 17, 1990|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Billie Kenney says in years past, she and her family have had some "Charlie Brown Christmas trees."

"If I am going to pay $30 for it, then I am going to go some place where they bag it for you, tie it up and drill the hole in the bottom," the Glen Burnie resident says.

So this year she is browsing through a lot that contains top-of-the-line Christmas trees.

"The Frazier Fur is the 'Cadillac of Christmas trees,' " says Rick Proffit, owner of the Old-Timer Christmas Tree Farm on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena. "The only place it will grow is at 4,000-foot elevations."

This is the second year Proffit and his business partner, Steve Miller, have traveled here from Laurel Springs, N.C., to sell their majestic trees.

Their 26,000-acre farm grows about 20,000 trees.

"To grow a 10-foot Frazier fur, it takes about 15 years," he says. "They need to be sheared off every year to get the bushiness."

A huge inflated snowman marks the spot of Proffit and Miller's lot, adjacent to the Exxon station at the intersection of Ritchie Highway and Jumper's Hole Road. It was crowded yesterday with customers all in search of the perfect tree.

"Most them look so nice," says Ed Ibex of North Linthicum. "We have been walking around here for 35 minutes now."

His companion, Traudi Larsen, had one requirement.

"It has to reach the ceiling," she says.

But for most people, Proffit says, size is not the most important factor.

"I have a lot of people coming in here who are just browsing and looking for a find, but mostly it's freshness," he says.

The Old Timer lot sells about half Frazier Furs and half White Pine. The White Pine will grow almost anywhere and is distinguished from the Fraziers by its longer needles and softer feel.

Customers can buy a 5- or 6-foot tree for about $30 to $40 or a 10-foot tree for $80 to $100.

"The White Pine is a real good tree for the price," Proffit says.

To keep trees fresh, Proffit says they should be watered regularly and kept away from heat.

"It will last six weeks if you do that," he says.

Despite the unusually warm weather, Proffit says business has been good.

"Last year there was snow all over the ground and it was real busy," he says. "It's been really hectic today and we had a really good weekend."

So far, Proffit says he has brought about five loads of trees here from his tree farm off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"I'll probably bring up one more load," he says.

Before Proffit sells his trees, he puts them through what is known as a "tree shaker machine."

The tree is placed on top of a vibrating platform and literally shaken until all the loose needles have fallen out.

Proffit drills a hole in the bottom of the trunk so a special stand with a "cotton picker needle" can be put in the hole for better balance. A plastic bowl around the needle is filled with water.

Although some customers say they are looking for the perfectly shaped tree, one man who would not give his name had a unique requirement.

"I want a good-looking woman standing next to it."

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