After three quarters of a century in the same location, the Optimist Club of Arlington’s Christmas-tree sale has moved to a new venue for 2023.
And true to the club’s name, leaders of the sale are optimistic about its prospects.
“This probably will work out better – from a pure lot point of view, this is perfect,” said Sandy Bushue, the major-domo of the tree operation, as she surveyed the parking lot of the Arlington Knights of Columbus the morning of Nov. 22.
The Knights of Columbus offered the space after Wells Fargo Bank declined to permit the club to continue using part of its parking space at the corner of Langston Boulevard and North Glebe Road. Over the preceding 75 years, through the courtesy of various bank companies that had been located on the prime spot, Optimists had sold thousands of trees and raised millions of dollars to support youth programs.
After failing to convince Wells Fargo officials – including a plea all the way to the CEO – to continue the tradition for 2022, Optimists connected with the Knights of Columbus.
“They’ve been so fantastic,” Bushue said. “A godsend, literally.”
“It’s great to be where you’re wanted,” said Richard Knight, another of the Optimist leadership gearing up for the traditional sale.
The morning of Nov. 22 dawned sunny if chilly (34 degrees), but that weather forecast was perfect for those enlisted to unload trees from tractor-trailer trucks that deliver them. So long as there’s no precipitation, it can be a brisk process.
If there’s rain or snow? “They weigh twice as much when they’re wet,” Knight sighed.
The only hiccup? As the planned 8 a.m. arrival of the first 18-wheeler came and went, it had not yet arrived. Waiting patiently were members of the Yorktown High School crew team, who had been enlisted to support the grunt work of unloading.
(Washington-Liberty High School’s crew was slated to do a similar job the next day. Both teams are among those receiving financial support from the Arlington Optimists; the tree-unloading effort is part of a win-win partnership.)
Learning to go with the flow when it comes to tree arrivals is all in a day’s work for the Optimist team. A supply of 400 balsam firs was supposed to be on hand Nov. 21, but the shipment got held up owing to the massive winter storm that struck Canada and the northern part of the U.S. in preceding days. Whether it makes it in time for the first day of sales (Nov. 25) remained an open question.
Bushue found the Canadian supplier after it became clear the Galax tree farm would be unable to supply the full amount needed by the club. (Trees are in short supply nationally this year, which coupled with a driver shortage and diesel-fuel costs has pushed up prices and caused availability issues.)
“I just called around,” Bushue said, eventually connecting with the Canadian farm. Hoping for 700 balsam firs, she had to settle for 400, while Galax will supply 1,700 white pines and fraser firs.