Tree availability give locals a chance to move from one holiday to another

Tony Casey • Nov 29, 2013 at 9:20 PM

It would be fair to say that 10-year-old Ethan Taylor is one of the youngest, most successful Christmas Tree salesmen in Johnson City.

With his gift of gab, and the great cause behind his pitch, Taylor and his fellow salesmen are looking at another sellout at the Troop 237 Christmas Tree sale at Kiwanis Park on Market Street in Johnson City.

Taylor, a recent Webelo-level Scout, struts his skills to potential buyers as they approach the lot. He shared some of his sales tactics, saying he likes to open up with asking if they’re interested in buying a tree, and if so, how big of tree they might looking for. From there, Taylor can rifle off information about the tree and what makes them known as the freshest in Johnson City.

The Fraser firs they have available, Taylor will tell customers, come from Buladean, N.C., and were chopped in the last few days. To show the level of their freshness, Taylor will grab the branches, grip tightly and pull down to show that little to no bristles have fallen off.

The first day after Thanksgiving has always been the day when the Boy Scouts begin selling their trees. It’s the tradition of it all that gets Ethan Taylor’s father, Larry, so excited about what they’ve always been able to do in Johnson City.

“If it’s not the day after Thanksgiving,” Larry Taylor said. “I’m probably dead.”

He said the Scouts have held that plot since 1959, when the sales began, and that Troop 237 has been there since the 1990s.

When the neighboring Veterans’ Memorial was being planned in recent years, Larry Taylor said the committee made it a requirement that the Boy Scouts had a place to sell their trees.

Many of the customers who will come to pick out their tree have been doing so for many years. Larry Taylor said there’s a lawyer who came in Friday who has had generation upon generation buying their family’s trees from the lot.

When the Bryant family, consisting of Ashley and Justin and baby Ryleigh, came for, and left with, a tree, Larry Taylor said he’s seen Ashley come get a tree since she was a little girl. And, she verified that she had, and that she was impressed with Ethan Taylor’s selling skills. Ashley Bryant said she’d gladly get a tree and start the Christmas holiday weeks ago, but said Justin likes to keep the holidays separate and not overlap Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ethan and his father, a recently retired military man turned teacher who’s enjoying the chance to grow out a beard for the first time in a long time, are also joined by sister Mariah, 14, friend Matthew, 13, and his father, a fellow assistant Scoutmaster, George Adkins, in running the Christmas Tree lot. With a outdoor woodstove heating up cold extremities, and a camper on site, one wouldn’t have to leave the spot if it weren’t for the need of more trees.

The Taylors will look to sell about 250 trees, and go until just a few days before Christmas, but the money will make all the difference in the Scouts’ lives. It will provide camping and hiking equipment and camp fees for scouts. This fundraiser will help them get to their big trips, which include destinations like Minnesota.

The fundraisers don’t even waste the scraps that come off the trees. They turn those other branches into the cheapest and freshest wreaths in Johnson City, with an apparatus Larry Taylor made after learning the trade from someone at a North Carolina tree farm. He’s passed down the skill to his son and Matthew Adkins.

With the tradition, good cause and quality product about them, Scout 237 has no problem getting rid of the trees. Taylor said they sell themselves.

One tip Larry Taylor is happy to share is a remedy to remove stick pine pitch. He says a spray of WD40 will help clear up the mess and not damage the skin.

On Okalona Road is the Ole Barn pavilion, where trees are also moving at a rapid pace. Owner Wayne Ayers said Friday was their third day of selling trees and it has been crazy, and a shortened Christmas season has customers feverishly getting their trees.

Greg and Kelly Cusack, of Johnson City, were loading up a big one from Ole Barn, as is their tradition, and, after seeing its broad side in the back of their truck, said they hope they can get it through the front door. Once in, though, the Cusacks said they have the ceiling space in their older home for the nine-footer.

Another couple, Robert Barnes and Betty Lunsford, of Elizabethton, were sharing their first Christmas together and were appreciating the qualities of a live tree versus a plastic tree.

Lunsford said she likes the real trees for the feel, for the look, and especially for the smell.

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