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ArlingtonOptimist Christmas-tree stand is a tradition 75 years in the making

Optimist Christmas-tree stand is a tradition 75 years in the making

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It’s been a tradition at the corner of North Glebe Road and Lee Highway (soon to be Langston Boulevard) for 75 years now. And once again, the Optimist Club of Arlington is set to roll out the red carpet for Christmas-tree purchasers.

A total of 2,500 trees, ranging in size from tabletop to 12-footers, will be available for purchase started at noon on Nov. 26. Last year’s offerings sold out by Dec. 11, and “I think this year is going to be the same,” predicted Sandy Bushue, the major-domo of the annual effort to disgorge fraser firs from 18-wheelers that transport them from a farm in Galax, Va.

The club’s tree-sales effort persevered over COVID in 2020, and its members have worked hard to contend with the twin terrors of 2021: inflation and supply-chain issues.

“The truck-driver shortage is a big deal,” Bushue said the morning of Nov. 22, as she waited for the first tractor-trailer truck to arrive from downstate. An addition shipment was slated on Nov. 23, with two more coming after the sale begins.


On hand to help with the unloading were volunteers from the Yorktown High School crew team, Arlington Babe Ruth, local rugby teams, Marks-Woods Construction Services and the Reinsch family of businesses, with a contingent from the Washington-Liberty High School crew team slated to render assistance Nov. 23.

“This is the most volunteers ever, by far,” said Dr. John “J.B.” Whitlow, a longtime Optimist Club member who plays a vital role in the tree sale.
Word of national tree shortages (more appropriately, shortages of trucks to transport them) is seeping through the nation’s consciousness, and is trickling down to impact the local area.

“A couple of lots aren’t happening this year,” Bushue said.

That could lead to a run on the offerings early this season. Friday “could be absolutely crazy,” Whitlow predicted.

(Once open, lot hours – until sold out – will be Mondays through Thursdays from 2 to 8 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

The Optimist tree sale began in 1946, not long after the club’s founding, and has occurred in the parking lot of a succession of banks holding court at the prime corner of Glebe Road and Lee Highway. Wells Fargo has continued the tradition of providing space to the organization.

“Thank God for Wells Fargo – they made it possible,” said former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary, a longtime Optimist member.

Even though there was a new branch manager unfamiliar with the tradition of sales in the parking lot, it all worked out in the end. “It was very nice,” O’Leary said of the collaborative effort.

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