By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Wanted — dead or alive — the iconic evergreen to brighten up the holidays.
It’s that time of the year again, when the first thing on many minds is getting the Christmas tree purchase out of the way before they’re all gone. Vendors are now providing a variety of tree choices for the holiday season in Hilo.
New this year are “elf trees,” live 3-foot noble fir trees in their own containers suitable for table tops.
“They’re special this year,” said Lance Niimi, who coordinates the annual Hilo Y’s Men and Women Service Club tree sale in the parking lot of Ben Franklin Crafts. The “elfs” are $60.
There are also the standard-cut noble and grand firs at prices ranging from $55 up to $130 for a 9- to 10-foot grand fir.
“The prices are about comparable to last year,” Niimi said.
The club ordered 380 trees, up from 250 last year, anticipating a slightly higher demand. The Y’s tree sale will be open for business at 9 a.m. Friday, and Niimi plans on being open until Dec. 7, or until the trees are gone. “I’m hoping we sell out sooner,” he said.
“The biggest thing is that the proceeds benefit the Island of Hawaii YMCA,” Niimi said, specifically the Y’s programs for at-risk youth and families in need.
Men and women from the Big Island Substance Abuse Council volunteer to help with setup and sales, and Niimi said Wayne Kamitaki of Ben Franklin Crafts deserves special thanks for donating a portion of the store’s parking lot, electricity and water to conduct the sale. Oscar Panem of Floral Construction, Brian Hatayama of Islandwide Canopies, and Hirayama Bros. Electric also contributed significantly to the effort, Niimi said.
Lesley Hill has been selling trees at Paradise Plants and Home Garden Center for 25 years, some to the same families who’ve been coming for years.
“I’ve watched a whole generation grow up buying Christmas trees,” she said.
Hill has noble firs, grand firs, fragrant Douglas firs, Fraser and silver firs available. Sales will begin around noon on Friday, and Hill said she ordered about the same number of trees as last year.
“All are grown on a sustainable family farm in Washington state,” Hill said. “The feedback on them is incredible. People love how well they hold up.”
Prices range from $25 on up.
“We specialize in bigger, special trees,” Hill said, and she also has holiday garlands and wreaths from the same Washington state farm. In addition, live, locally grown Norfolk pine and Leyland cypress trees are sold in pots, ranging from less than a foot up to five feet, for those who prefer a tree that can be planted in the yard when the holidays are over.
Selling the trees each year is “a lot of work but it’s become a tradition, a community service,” Hill said. “We’d hear about it if we didn’t have them.”
For those who may be allergic to the holiday tree, The Home Depot has hypoallergenic Nordmann fir trees for sale at $49.98 for a 5- to 6-foot tree. The Home Depot also has noble firs that sell from $21.95 for 3- to 5-foot trees, to $79.98 for 7- to 8-foot trees. Douglas firs come in the 6- to 7-foot range for $36.98. The Home Depot’s doors open at 5 a.m. on Friday.
Chris Behle, front-end supervisor for KTA Super Stores, has been in charge of the tree sales for 10 years at the Puainako Street store. Behle ordered about the same number as last year and prices are about the same as last year, too, he said.
KTA has three varieties of fir trees — noble, grand and Douglas — ranging in size from 5 to 10 feet. Sales began at noon on Wednesday and the store usually sells out well before Christmas. Two crews will be on duty this year to meet the high demand for flocking — the application of artificial snow to the trees, Behle said. “I believe we’re the only ones doing flocking on the island.”
Walmart in Hilo has noble firs ranging from 5-6 feet for $28.96, to 7 and 8-foot trees for $54.96. Walmart also has Douglas fir trees, 6 to 7 feet tall for $29.88. Walmart will open at 5 a.m. today and remain open 24 hours a day through the holiday season.
“The whole idea, I think, for all of the vendors on the island is that there’s a tree for everyone that wants it,” Behle said.
Email Hunter Bishop at email@example.com.