An Oconto County tree will be gracing the Wisconsin Capitol this Christmas and competing for a spot at the White House next year. A balsam fir tree grown at Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto was chosen Grand Champion Christmas Tree, topping 19 other entries at the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association (WCTPA) Convention last weekend.
“I was thrilled. I didn’t really expect to win,” said owner Dave Vander Velden. “The competition is so great. You’re up against the best and you don’t expect to win.”
This is the second year Vander Velden chose a tree for the contest and the first year his entry won. Trees were judged by association members attending the convention, and Vander Velden said it was an honor to be selected by his peers. The association is comprised of about 200 members.
Tree growers could compete with a tree in each of five classes: Balsam fir, Fraser fir, other fir, pine, and spruce.
Many farmers are growing non-native species, and the contest included some of them. The spruce class included Serbian spruce, Meyer spruce and Black Hills spruce; Concolor, Corkbark, and Canaan were represented in the fir class.
Vander Velden and his wife, Mary, who is a co-owner of the farm, will provide a 10-foot tree for the Governor’s conference room at the Wisconsin Capitol this December and will present it during the Rotunda Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
They will select another tree to compete in the National Tree Contest at the convention in August 2011 in Sandusky, Ohio. Each state association can send two growers to compete. The winner of the national competition provides the 18-foot tree that is displayed in the Blue Room of the White House.