NORRIDGEWOCK — Before he met his wife, Erin, Clinton resident Mark Bellaire had never had a live Christmas tree at his homes in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio. On Saturday, though, Bellaire and his wife took their 8-year-old son, Jacob, to trudge the snowy acres of Trees to Please, a Norridgewock Christmas tree farm, in search of the perfect tree to cut.

Mark said his wife insisted on a live tree when they were first married. Selecting and cutting a tree each holiday season has become a family tradition.

“She’s kind of the queen of Christmas,” he said of Erin, who grew up cutting live trees from the woods at her parents’ home.

“If there weren’t enough branches, my dad would drill a hole in the trunk, and we would stuff a branch in to fill the gap. … That’s a true Mainer right there,” Erin said.

The family travels the state, trying to buy a tree from a different farm each season. On Saturday the Bellaires settled on the first tree they inspected, a portly balsam fir.

Balsam firs don’t hold their needles quite as long Fraser firs do, said Trees to Please employee of seven years Jared Waraskevich, but they produce a stronger fragrance.

Waraskevich can expect to cut 30 to 40 trees each day the farm is open. According to owner Todd Murphy, the farm will sell several hundred trees each weekend in the run-up to Christmas.

“Even with the snow, it’s real good,” Murphy said of the customer flow this season. “Everybody is happy.”

Each time customers find a tree they want, they flag down an employee, who cuts it and uses a four-wheeler to haul it to the parking lot, where it is wrapped and lashed to the roof of a waiting vehicle.

Murphy, who bought the farm in 2002, said each balsam fir takes about seven years to grow to proper size. Fraser firs take even longer, about 10 to 12 years, before they’re ready for the living room, Murphy said.

Asked for her tips on selecting a tree, Erin Bellaire said her family has a lot of ornaments, so she looks for sturdy branches. She also makes sure the tree is full on all sides and that it’s the proper height for their home.

“As long as the angel isn’t mashed into the ceiling, we’re OK,” Mark Bellaire said.

Normally, the family inspects at least four or five trees before settling on one, Erin Bellaire said, adding that this year’s might be the easiest the family has ever selected.

Murphy’s advice is to get a tree from a choose-and-cut farm so the buyer knows it’s fresh.

According to PickYourOwnChristmasTree.org, the eight most common types of Christmas trees include firs, pines and spruces.

Balsam and Fraser rank the best for needle retention while Scotch pine and blue spruce rank the best for branch firmness. Douglas and balsam firs rank the best for fragrance.

With just three weekends remaining before Christmas, tree farms across the country are expected to be busy with sales on the rise as millennials, who tend to prefer live trees, enter the marketplace and start their own family traditions, according to The Associated Press.

The National Christmas Tree Association reported that as of 2012, Maine ranked ninth in the nation for the total number of trees cut, at 195,833.

Evan Belanger can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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