But have you ever thought about how that grand evergreen gets to that spot? As I learned recently, the process is much more involved than driving to a tree lot and slapping a spruce in the back of a pickup.
The journey actually begins months, and sometimes years, before the holiday season as The Greenbrier Director of Grounds Curtis Webb scours the landscape for the perfect tree.
“It’s all riding and looking,” said Webb. “All year long, wherever I’m going, I’m looking. I basically see them, knock on the door and if nobody is home, I leave a business card with a note with what I’m asking about.”
Sometimes convincing the owner is easier than others. Webb said it has taken gift certificates, donated work, donations to different causes and plenty of talking over the years to convince owners to part with trees.
Other times, owners are just happy to have the trees removed. The Greenbrier grounds crew always takes the time to clean and repair the area where the tree stood, and it often saves property owners time and money to have The Greenbrier team get rid of a tree that would eventually have to be removed, anyway.
“I look at the shape first,” said Webb of the process of scouting the appropriate tree. “Sometimes they will lean, but we can use our stand and guy-wires to straighten them up.”
The tree for this year’s holiday festivities came from the property of a former employee of The Greenbrier. Bruce Dolin worked at America’s Resort for 32 years before his retirement, and the tree that caught Webb’s eye stood on his property off of Route 92, just a few miles from The Greenbrier.
“I’ve seen it often,” said Webb. “This is probably the third or fourth year in a row I’ve stopped and asked, and I’ve always been told no.”
The scenario was the same this time around, until Dolin called Webb on his way back to town and told him he had changed his mind. The tree, he said, was starting to lean, and it made more since for The Greenbrier crew to take it out of the ground than for Dolin to pay someone else to do the job.
On the morning of Nov. 14, The Greenbrier’s head arborist, John Lewis, and another member of the grounds crew, Eli Loudermilk, left the grounds shop around 7:30 a.m., and headed to Dolin’s property to retrieve the tree.
First, the tree had to be prepared. Lewis worked on pulling out a grape vine that had grown through the branches and around the trunk of the tree, while Loudermilk went to work on cutting off the lower limbs that wouldn’t be needed.
When all was prepared, Lewis shimmied up the tree like a black bear — a job he’s been performing for years — to install a lifting strap. With the strap in place, the two waited for the rest of the team to arrive to complete the process.
Meanwhile, other members of the grounds crew went to work in the front entrance, preparing the site for the tree’s arrival. Three feet of soil covering the stand cover had to be removed and the cover opened. Then, guy-wires and turnbuckles were attached to anchors at the site. Eventually, they would be used to stabilize and straighten the tree in the stand.
At about 9:30 a.m., help arrived at Dolin’s property. L.D. Hanna & Son Excavating came with red Mack truck to haul the tree back to The Greenbrier, and Beckley Crane & Construction provided the crane to lift the tree from the site and onto the truck.
When both vehicles were in place, Lewis climbed back up his tree to attach the crane’s hook to the lifting strap.
With the hook secured and Lewis out of the tree, Loudermilk grabbed his trusty chainsaw once again and began sawing through the trunk. When the trunk was sawed all the way through, the crane lifted the 64-foot Norway spruce, which had been planted as a foot-high sapling in 1973, over a trailer that sat between the tree and the truck, and onto the truck.
The tree was secured to the bed, and the truck took off through town bound for The Greenbrier, while the grounds crew cleaned up the mess left behind.
The job, though, was only half complete.
The next step was to lift the tree back off the truck and put it in its spot in the front circle. That job was again assigned to Beckley Crane & Construction, and as grounds crew gestured directions, the crane lifted the tree high into the air before slowly lowering it toward the stand.
Lewis and Loudermilk were again waiting at the base of the tree to put it perfectly into place, and the 4,800-pound tree was soon upright and standing majestically against the backdrop of The Greenbrier.
Webb and his team then connected the guy-wires and maneuvered the tree perfectly into place, before turning the job over to The Greenbrier’s electricians to decorate the spruce for the holidays. Using a bucket truck, the electricians covered the tree with 8,460 lights, and the job was complete.
The tree at the front isn’t the only one decorated for Christmas at The Greenbrier. There’s also a 46-foot, 4,000-pound Spruce at the North Entrance that is adorned with 6,850 lights. That tree came from the property of Larry Wade in White Sulphur Springs.
Guests and visitors can see the trees in person — as well as the thousands of lights throughout the property and the incredible decorations inside — anytime before first week of January, when the trees will be removed.
One of the best opportunities will come on Saturday, Dec. 1, when the trees are illuminated as part of the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The community is invited to come out to the Front Lawn beginning at 6 p.m., for a ceremony that includes classic carols led by The Greenbrier Springhouse Entertainers and complimentary hot chocolate and cookies. Santa will arrive by sleigh near the conclusion of the event, and after greeting the children he will give the command to “Light up The Greenbrier,” and the thousands of lights at both entrances will shine brightly — including the tree that once stood on Dolin’s property in the shadow of America’s Resort.
For more information on any of The Greenbrier’s holiday activities, visit Greenbrier.com/60days.