The moment had come for the Chadsey family at last.
Taylor and Mary Nell stood back, hands on hips, lips pursed.
Taylor III and Jimmy looked at their parents, waiting.
“We’ve got a big decision to make,” their sister, Victoria, said.
Then they made it.
They’d take the 14-foot high Christmas tree on the right.
“It’s a big deal,” Jimmy Chadsey said.
A big deal, indeed, for the Chadseys and other folks who flocked to the first day of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County’s 57th annual Christmas Tree Lot Fundraiser on Friday.
About a dozen trees were sold within the first hour — all big ones — and will remain on sale through mid-December.
“People want big trees and come early so they can enjoy them,” said Carl Weeks, the Boys & Girls Clubs’ executive director. “It’s a tradition with a lot of people, who were kids when their families bought trees and now they’re adults buying them.
“It gets you in the spirit, that’s for sure.”
The Chadseys had that spirit, all right.
They were among the first families to arrive at the site tucked between the Westgate Shopping Center and Jessie P. Miller Elementary School. “We’ve got a big living room and the kids always want to get the biggest tree,” said Taylor Chadsey, who grew up in the Boys Club. “They’re afraid they’re going to miss one if they don’t get here early on opening day.”
That’s a lot of opening days.
“I’ve done this every year since I went to Jessie P. Miller,” said Jimmy Chadsey, now a University of Central Florida senior. “I can remember running around the trees, playing tag. It’s fun.”
Livy Stoyka and 4-year-old daughter Emma were also indulging themselves in the Christmas tree selection Friday morning.The dentist recalled bringing her newborn to the lot in a basinett.
Now Emma, who wore a Santa Claus T-shirt, is picking out the trees.
“We want this one, Mama, this one!” she cried out, tugging on the limb to a tree that dwarfed her.
“Basically, it’s whatever she likes — as long as it’s pretty symmetrical,” Stoyka said, chuckling.
The earlier the better, too.
“We like to put it up right after Thanksgiving so we can enjoy it for the entire month,” she said. “We love the smell of it throughout the house, the beauty of it right next to the fireplace, the magic of it for the children. It’s a holiday tradition.”
It’s become a tradition for Brad Scarbrough, too.
He came to the lot as a boy with his folks to buy a tree.
Now the King Middle School assistant principal volunteers at the site.
Scarbrough’s kids, Holden and Ciarra, were also on hand as dad helped folks select trees. “They look for one that’s full, not bald or got dead spots, and the trunk is straight,” he said. “After coming here 30 years, I’ve got a little bit of insight and try to share it.”
Apparently, it worked in another way, too.
Scarbrough met his wife when both were teachers volunteering at the Christmas tree lot 15 years ago.
Alas, Sharon Scarbrough, now Sugg Middle’s principal, was elsewhere on Black Friday.
“She’s shopping with her girlfriends,” her husband said.