Day after Thanksgiving: prime time for Christmas tree sales in Manatee County

jajones1@bradenton.comNovember 30, 2013 

MANATEE -- It was a scene repeated over and over again Friday at local Christmas tree lots.

Shoppers carefully inspected the fragrant trees for shape, size and fullness.

Then comes the moment of decision. Sometimes it comes quickly, sometimes not.

But it's a familiar ritual.

"We've found it," a smiling woman says, clasping her hands with delight, and calling out to an attendant.

There were lots of those moments on Friday at the Boys & Girls Club Christmas tree lot in the 3900 block of Manatee Avenue West.

"The day after Thanksgiving is always our biggest day," said Beth Work, the club's vice president of operations.

"When these trees arrived Wednesday from North Carolina, they still had snow on them," she said.

The winter storms that disrupted the nation raised concerns about timely delivery to Bradenton. No worries, they arrived only a few hours late.

Lynn Horne was buying two of the Fraser firs for Anna Maria Oyster Bar.

"We always buy them here," he said, because the proceeds go to support the Boys & Girls Club.

The club serves about 7,000 children annually. Each $1,000 raised in tree sales pays for a child's participation in Boys & Girls Club activities for a year, Work said. The club has been raising money for its operations with Christmas tree sales for 59 years.

Lynn relished the spirit of the season.

"It smells so good here. We started the Christmas music before we left home," he said.

The smell of the season also will be sweet at the home of Bob and Barbara Milhoan. Last year, their son, Brian, spent Christmas in Afghanistan with a "Charlie Brown" tree.

This year, Brian will be home with them in Bradenton with a real Christmas tree.

Harold Meyer of Bradenton was also shopping for a tree on Friday, and was returning to the Boys & Girls Club lot because he supports the cause. "They have a big choice of trees, too," said Faith Meyer, 13.

There also was a large selection of trees at a lot in the 7200 block of Lockwood Ridge Road, where business was brisk Friday afternoon.

Matt Whitfield, who has staffed the lot for six years, said he sees everything from customers who buy their trees the day after Thanksgiving to those who wait until Christmas Eve.

"They come in rushes throughout the day," Whitfield said.

Danny and Shelly Brown of Bradenton said they had been buying their trees at the Lockwood Ridge Road location for five years. Friday, they bought two, one for home and one for the office.

"We like the way that they have them all standing up and opened," Danny Brown said.

Bodie Valdez came to look for a tree with his girlfriend, her daughter, and her three grandchildren.

With all those people, trying to decide on one tree, some disagreement might have been expected. But a decision came quickly, and the group was all smiles.

"We're a pretty democratic society," Valdez said of the family and its ability to compromise.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter: @jajones1. Tiffany Tompkins-Condie also contributed this story.

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