Latest News from the National Christmas Tree Association

Silent Night Evergreens Named NCTA’s 2017 Grand Champion Christmas Tree Grower –

A Balsam Fir Christmas Tree grown by David and Jim Chapman of Silent Night Evergreens, located in Endeavor, Wisconsin, was awarded the 2017 Grand Champion at the National Christmas Tree Association’s (NCTA) 2017 National Christmas Tree Contest. As growers of the Grand Champion tree, the Chapman’s have earned the honor of presenting the official 2017 White House Christmas Tree this season. Since 1966, NCTA members have presented the official Christmas Tree for display in the White House Blue Room.

Ed Hedlund of Hedlund Christmas Trees, in Elma, Washington, was named Reserve Champion of the contest. Traditionally, the Reserve Champion grower has provided a Christmas Tree for the residence of the Vice President.

Because, the contest is held every other year, both the 2017 and 2018 champions are awarded. The 2018 Grand Champion winner is Larry Smith of Mountain Top Fraser Fir located in Newland, NC and the 2018 Reserve Champion is Russell and Beau Estes of Peak Farms, located in Jefferson, NC. These winners will have the opportunity to present the 2018 White House and Vice President’s residence trees.

The contest was held in Green Bay, Wisconsin in conjunction with the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association meeting and attracted 21 contestants from across the country; each competing grower having previously won a state contest to qualify. Trees can fall into five different species categories and are first scored by a panel of judges.

Judges are experienced growers and former contest winners representing different geographic regions of the United States. The top two winners in the species categories are then subjected to a popular vote by convention attendees by secret ballot to determine the Grand and Reserve Champions.

The Chapman’s are in familiar territory, having been awarded Grand Champion status in 1998 and 2003, and presenting trees to President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, respectively. They have also won numerous Christmas tree contests in their home state of Wisconsin.

White House staff members typically travel to the Grand Champion’s farm in the fall to select the tree that will grace the Blue Room. That tree will need to be approximately 18 ½ feet tall, much larger than the 6- to 8-foot trees entered in the contest. The chosen tree is typically harvested and presented to the White House shortly after Thanksgiving.

Winners of the National Wreath Contest, also held at the Green Bay event were:
Undecorated Category: Gary Hague, Hague’s Christmas Trees, Hatfield, PA
Decorated Category: Kathy Shore, Kathy Shore Nursery, Sparta, NC

Jim and David Chapman with their Balsam fir


Larry Smith stands with his Fraser fir


Grand Champion undecorated wreath by Gary Hague


Grand Champion decorated wreath by Kathy Shore


NCTA Honors Industry Leaders –

Three industry leaders were recognized by the National Christmas Tree Association for their leadership and commitment to the Christmas tree industry on August 18 during the banquet of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association.
Cline Church of Cline Church Nurseries, Fleetwood, NC was recognized with the Presidential Iron Horse Award for his dedicated service to the National Christmas Tree Association. Fellow North Carolina grower, Harry Yates, presented the award.

NCTA President, Tom Dull noted, “Cline Church is the epitome of what every Christmas tree professional should strive to be. He is a tireless supporter of the industry with his time, his finances and his willingness to share his knowledge. Cline took very seriously his leadership role in the NCTA and was a role model for those of us coming behind him. It’s people like Cline Church for whom the Presidential Iron Horse Award was developed.”

Also honored, was Steve Drake of SCD Group, (former owner of Drake and Company) as the recipient of the Outstanding Service Award. Drake managed the NCTA for many years and was recognized for his vision and leadership with the organization.

“Steve Drake has been a good friend to NCTA” Commented Blake Rafeld, NCTA Past President. “During his tenure as Executive Director, he was steadfast in shining a light on the issues that mattered most and lit the path for the Board of Directors to serve our members. This Outstanding Service award is well deserved. Thank you, Steve Drake for your leadership of and contributions to the National Christmas Tree Association.”

The final award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to Dr. Mel Koelling, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University. Koelling’s career has been focused on, among other things, guiding Christmas tree growers on improving production quality and quantity. As a Christmas tree producer and farm owner, Koelling practices what he preaches and has earned the respect of growers across the country.

According to NCTA President-Elect, Paul Schroeder, “Mel Koelling is one of those guys who lives, eats and sleeps Christmas trees. His lifetime Achievement Award was given because almost everyone in this Christmas tree industry, from coast to coast, has benefited from some of Koelling’s research and studies. And, Koelling has been extremely generous with his time to distribute the valuable information he has acquired to all facets of the industry. Growers across the spectrum owe Mel Koelling a debt of gratitude.”

Cline Church of Cline Church Nurseries


Steve Drake of SCD Group


Dr. Mel Koelling, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University


Trees for Troops 2017 –

National Christmas Tree Association members are the backbone of the Trees for Troops program. We would like to send a huge THANK YOU to all of you who donate trees! If you are able to support Trees for Troops for 2017 either by donating trees at a pickup point or participating in Trees for Troops Weekend with a FedEx trailer, we would love to get your commitment form by September 15th.
Have questions? Email Ann O’Connor at or call the Christmas Spirit Foundation office at (800) 965-1653.
Looking for other ways to get involved in Trees for Troops? Please consider joining many other tree industry members by putting a donation bucket at your farm or business. Contact Ann to receive a Trees for Troops bucket sticker and other resources to help you promote Trees for Troops in your community. We really appreciate your donations from customers!


Thank you Wisconsin! –

A BIG thank you to the staff and members of the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association for generously welcoming a number of NCTA member and events at their summer meeting. NCTA was able to host a board meeting, the National Christmas Tree and Wreath Contest and present three important awards at the Wisconsin event. NCTA would like to recognize Paul Schroeder, North Countree Christmas and Cheryl Nicholson, WCTPA Executive Director for all of their work and energy!