MONMOUTH — The tree was just right, by Alivia Caron’s estimation. Not too fat but not too thin, either, and just full enough to carry all the decorations that 10-year-old Alivia could hardly wait to hang. Indeed, the only thing the tree was missing was a display of gifts underneath.

“It’s going right next to our couch,” she said.

The Carons, of Lewiston, which includes Alivia’s 6-year-old brother, Michael, and their parents, Jim and Karen Caron, were one of dozens of families that braved the cold and lightly falling snow to pick out this year’s Christmas tree at Fredrickson’s Tree Farm, at 118 Prescott Road. With Christmas just a few weeks away, the farm is kicking into high gear, said owner Thomas Auger.

“It’s been a good day,” he said. “Today’s the first real big day.”

Cars lined Prescott Road as four-wheelers hauling trailers toted the trees from the acres of fields to a hut, where Auger took shelter and collected money. Outside the hut, employees lifted the incoming trees onto a shaker, which shed the trees of loose needles, and then to the baler, which wrapped the trees tightly in twine for the trips to their seasonal digs.

“We come here every year,” said Megan Carlton, of Monmouth, who made the trip with her husband, Michael Carlton, and their children, Annabelle, 4, and 3-year-old Lilly. “It’s close, but they also have a great selection of trees.”

When she was growing up, Carlton’s family would delay getting a Christmas tree until after her brother’s birthday on Dec. 10, so that the birthday was not overlooked in the dash to celebrate the season. Freed from the constraint now that she has her own family, the Carltons get a tree a bit earlier.

“We usually look for a weekend when we have free time,” she said.

There are fewer such weekends now that the girls are growing older, she said.

She said her daughter was originally not sold on the idea of traipsing through the woods to find a tree.

“I had to convince Annabelle we didn’t want to do it at the gas station,” Megan Carlton said. “Now she understands why.”

Karen Caron’s childhood is devoid of such memories. When she was young, her family always had an artificial tree. The Carons have made it a point to create a tradition of cutting their trees.

“Its an experience for my kids to come out and cut it down and freeze,” Karen Caron said, laughing.

She and her husband started coming to the farm nearly 20 years ago.

“When my husband and I first started dating, we got our first Christmas tree from here,” Karen Caron said.

That was before Auger bought the farm from the Fredrickson family. He toyed with the idea of changing the name, but “Tom’s Christmas Trees” lacked the years of tradition many families have associated with Fredrickson’s since it opened in 1976.

The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, but Auger, who lives just down the road, opens up by appointment during the week.

“The customers can pretty much cut trees seven days a week,” he said.

It’s a year-round process to plant, trim and care for 12,000 trees, he said. He buys trees when they are about 5 years old and roughly 18 inches in length, including the roots. It takes about another nine years for the trees to reach 6 feet in height. Auger has two full-time employees and hires another four to help out at this time of year.

“I have a great crew,” he said.

Ironically, Auger says the commercialism and hurry of the holidays always left a sour taste in his mouth until he purchased the Christmas tree farm. Seeing families come together, and the delight in children’s eyes, makes this now one of his favorite times of year.

“It’s festive,” he said. “Its changed the way I feel.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642
ccrosby@centralmaine.com