A slow day for Christmas trees

Published 8:29 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

The wind was brisk on Friday afternoon, but sales were not — at least not for members of the Knights of Columbus, who were selling Christmas trees in the parking lot of Fire Mountain restaurant.

Located in the same shopping center as the Wal-Mart on N. Main Street, the lot was full of cars on Friday. But the vast majority of visitors were shopping inside the discount retailer or at one of the other stores nearby.

By 1 p.m., an hour after opening the tree lot, the Knights had sold only two trees, and they were waiting for another potential customer who had left, promising to return with his truck.

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“They weren’t interested in trees,” Pete Cogswell said of the parking lot full of cars that greeted folks visiting the Wal-Mart Friday morning.

Cogswell is a member and past Grand Knight for Suffolk Council No. 7363 of the Knights of Columbus, which took over the traditional charity Christmas tree sale from the Suffolk Jaycees a couple of years ago.

Mike Bibbo, a former Jaycee who also is a past Grand Knight in Suffolk, has been involved with the Christmas tree sale locally for about 16 years. As the tree lot chairman for the Knights, he is in charge of organizing the sale, ordering the trees and making sure everything runs smoothly.

With his long experience, he sees a lot of familiar faces on the tree lot from one year to the next, Bibbo said.

“We’ve got customers who have been buying trees from us (or the Jaycees) for 20 or 25 years, now,” he said.

Nobody seemed too worried about the slow sales day on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were sure to be much busier, said Cogswell, who is volunteering for the tree sale for his second year. And judging from the past, next weekend should be extremely busy.

Still, his advice to those who intend to buy a cut tree is to do so sooner rather than later. A tree bought today from the Knights’ lot, he said, should stay fresh all the way through Christmas, as long as it’s put in water within a few hours of hauling it away from the lot.

The men working the lot will bale the tree in plastic to help it travel well, and then they’ll cut about two inches from the bottom of the trunk to make it ready for water. Even if buyers don’t intend to put their trees in their homes right away, the Knights advise buyers to put them in water immediately. Doing so will help them stay fresh and retain their needles for longer.

“Sitting on the lot, the only water it gets is from the rain,” he added.

The Knights have about 350 trees on their lot this year, and all of the profits from their sales stays in the community in the form of donations to various charitable causes.

In the past, said Bibbo, the tree lot chairman, the group has supported relief efforts after tornados and other disasters, it has helped sponsor Special Olympics participation, it has funded and supplied food pantries and it has helped support area residents with mental and other handicaps.

The Christmas tree sale is one of the biggest of the group’s fundraisers, which also include a golf tournament and several fish fry events, Cogswell said.