White House to pluck Christmas tree from Ashe County

Posted October 10, 2008 1:55 p.m. EDT

— For the third time in four years, a Frazer fir from North Carolina will grace the Blue Room of the White House during the Christmas season.

River Ridge Farms of Crumpler, owned and operated by Jessie Davis, Rusty Estes and Carol Pennington, was selected for the honor by winning the title of Grand Champion Grower at the National Christmas Tree Association contest held in Des Moines, Iowa, in August.

The Ashe County tree farm was chosen to represent North Carolina Christmas tree producers at their national convention by earning the top spot in a state Christmas tree contest.

“We are absolutely honored to send a tree to the White House,” Davis said in a statement. “To be able to do this for Ashe County, for North Carolina and for the United States is like winning the Super Bowl for a tree farmer.”

Staff from the White House will visit one of River Ridge Farms’ tree fields in Creston on Oct. 21 to select the tree.

Davis said he has already found some 22- to 23-foot trees in his fields – the White House requires a tree that is at least 18½ feet tall – that were planted in the mid-1980s, when Davis and his father-in-law, Joe Pennington, started the business.

Pennington died in 2003, and Estes then joined River Ridge Farms, which manages about 1 million trees on 500 to 600 acres in northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia

Davis said sending one of the farm’s early trees was a fitting tribute to his father-in-law, who he said would be proud of the selection.

Last year, Mistletoe Meadows in Laurel Springs, owned by Joe and Linda Freeman, sent a Frazer fir to the White House. The National Christmas Tree Association has selected a tree to send to the White House since 1966, and this year's will be the 11th tree from North Carolina.