West Virginia Christmas Tree Wins Spot In White House Blue Room
This year, the Christmas tree in the White House’s Blue Room is from West Virginia.
The tree is from a farm in Shepherdstown, Jefferson County, called Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees. They won this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest, earning them the right to display one of their Fraser firs in this historic room.
“Fraser firs are basically the Cadillac of Christmas trees,” said Anne Taylor who runs the Shepherdstown location and is married to co-owner Dan Taylor. “They're my favorites. They hold ornaments great. They look really nice decorated. They have some open spaces for larger ornaments.”
Taylor said it takes a lot of time and love to grow strong, healthy Christmas trees, and they plant thousands of new trees every spring.
“It takes about two weeks to get everything in the ground,” Taylor said. “Preparing the fields for planting, it's about a two week procedure … We've never taken a spring break, because that's when the trees come … They grow about a foot a year.”
Dan Taylor and Bryan Holler own and operate Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees. They have three locations: Shepherdstown is their main site, one is in Washington, D.C. and the other is in Chevy Chase, Maryland. All together, they own 80 acres.
Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees may have earned the coveted Blue Room spot this year, but the company has been supplying Christmas trees to help line the White House halls since 2009.
The farm’s history also goes a bit farther back than that.
Dan and Bryan took over the operation from Eric and Gloria Sunback who ran the farm for decades, starting in the 1960s. Formerly called Sunback Trees, the Sunback’s sold many Christmas trees to big names in Washington, D.C. including George H. W. Bush. The Sunback’s hired Dan and Bryan in 1985 and taught them everything they know, from landscaping to genetics. By 2007, Dan and Bryan took over the entire operation from the Sunbacks and renamed it Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees.
According to their website, the Sunbacks still own about 30 acres where they continue to work on tree-related genetics.
This year was the first time Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees won the White House Blue Room contest. Taylor said she, her husband Dan, and their daughter delivered the tree to the White House and met with First Lady Melania Trump.
“We had 15 minutes with her approximately, which was really nice,” Taylor said. “She was very elegant. Very down to earth. More so than you would think.”
But for Taylor, she said the highlight of every year is getting to see all the families who come out and buy their Christmas tree. This year was particularly significant because of the pandemic.
“This is an outside activity where you can be socially distanced from people in the field,” Taylor said. “Families came in groups of four or five and spent the whole afternoon out here. We had one group of people, they must not have seen each other for months, because they came, and they parked out here, and they got their trees, and then they tailgated and had a picnic. The kids played. It's an experience for people. They love it.”
Dan and Bryan Christmas Trees sold between 4,000 and 6,000 trees this year, between retail and wholesale.
Their main site in Shepherdstown sold out of trees two weeks after opening for the season.
Featured song in the audio postcard is “O Tannenbaum” by Vince Guaraldi from A Charlie Brown Christmas.