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The sight of trees ignites Christmas fever

MANATEE — For many nonprofit groups, Christmas tree sales are a major part of annual budget goals and The Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County is no exception.

The clubs hope to raise $35,000 by Dec. 20 to run programs at five different locations, said Carl Weeks, executive director.

Typically, the day after Thanksgiving sees the blossoming of tree lots all over Manatee and Sarasota as sales begin.

This burst of green also has the effect of putting many people in full Christmas fever.

While The Boys & Girls Clubs are not the only purveyors of trees with a worthy cause, the organization certainly can lay claim to having one of the longest unbroken strings of yearly sales.

When Weeks arrived at his stand at the southeast corner of Westgate Shopping Center, along Manatee Avenue West near Jessie P. Miller Elementary School, at 8:30 a.m. Friday to begin the tree sale season, it marked the 55th straight year that The Boys & Girls Clubs has sold trees, Weeks said.

Speaking of people who get Christmas fever as soon as the tree stands open, Jennifer Williams, of Parrish, considers herself a classic case.

As usual, the Williams family was waiting by the gate for Weeks to open his stand.

“I’m a Christmas maniac,” Williams said, with a huge grin.

Years ago, Gerald and Hazel Groome and their three daughters, Tracy, Jennifer and Rebecca, would all drive to The Boys & Girls Clubs tree lot to buy their live Fraser fir right after Thanksgiving.

The tradition stayed intact until the last daughter left home. That’s when Gerald and Hazel bought a — gasp! — plastic tree.

Jennifer Groome, who graduated from Community Christian School in Oneco in 1992, was quick to urge Mark Williams, a 1993 Bradenton Christian School graduate, that the tradition her parents started should be continued in their soon-to-be family.

The minute the Thanksgiving dishes are washed and put away, the storage bin with all the Christmas tree ornaments gets taken out in preparation for the big tree-buying event the next day.

“Mom and dad decided they wanted to support The Boys and Girls Club,” said Jennifer Williams. “The trees here are very fresh and they seem to last a long time. This is where I came as a child, so we want to support the organization, too.”

Trees range in price from $25 for a 3- to 4-footer, all the way up to $230 for a 12- to 13-footer, Weeks said.

The stand will operate noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday through Dec. 20, Weeks said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.